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Girl In A Coma wakes up for Halloween
By Larry Nichols
PGN Staff Writer
© 2007 Philadelphia Gay News

With a name like Girl In a Coma, one would think that the band would have a dark cloud following them. Yet it has been the exact opposite for this group, which always seems to be at the right place at the right time.

The San Antonio, Texas, trio formed innocently enough when best friends Phanie Diaz (drummer) and Jenn Alva (bass) bonded over their mutual outsider status and admiration for bands like Nirvana, Babes in Toyland and (if you haven’t guessed it) The Smiths. At first they had trouble finding other members for their band until the right singer/guitarist found them in the form of Phanie’s younger sister, Nina, who was eight years their junior and only 12 at the time. Nina’s voice and songwriting skill was so beyond her years that the trio soon started criss-crossing Texas in a van, performing and generating a serious buzz.

Alva, who is openly lesbian, said that being in a band with best friends and sisters made the grueling grind of touring a little easier.

“There’s a lot more tolerance just because they’re sisters,” she said. “I’m kind of like a sister too. I’ve known them for 15 years now. We’ll fight just like any other band and the difference is we’ll laugh five minutes later or apologize. It’s more like a family act almost. That’s the upper hand that we have compared to other bands. There are no egos. We’re just all goofballs.”

The group’s constant gigging brought the group to the attention of a Los Angeles-based TV producer looking to film a documentary about up-and-coming Latino bands. It was during the filming for that documentary in 2006 that Girl In a Coma performed a show in New York City, where they met one of their idols, Joan Jett.

Jett was so impressed with Girl in a Coma that she offered them a record deal with her label, Blackheart Records, on the spot.

The band jumped at the deal; Alva said Blackheart is a perfect fit for them.

“Being on a label in general with a real CD has just helped us out so much,” she said. “The record label is awesome. They’re real laidback and they support their acts. They’ve only got four acts including Joan. So they give us a little more time. It’s not like there’s a whole bunch of artists on the roster.”

Girl In a Coma then went to work on their incredibly lush but ferocious-sounding debut album, “Both Before I’m Gone,” which exists somewhere between the likes of Sonic Youth and The Cure, making it easy to forget that the singer is now only 19 and the band hails from the big red state of Texas.

“People joke around and stuff like ‘Oh, you’re from Texas.’ Whatever,” Alva said. “I think south Texas is completely different. It’s more of a Latin community. It’s very Mexican-American. It’s a different vibe. It’s not like the traditional ‘yee-haw’ and cowboys. We try to explain that because we’re so proud of it. It’s different and we love sharing information with people about San Antonio. It’s got a good little music scene going on.”

Since the release of the album, the band has maintained a hectic schedule performing at festivals and opening for bigger acts as well as their own club dates.

“Opening for The Pogues in Chicago was amazing,” Alva mentioned as one of the tour highlights. “I can’t top that just yet but that was great. It was 2,500 people and a big stage with lights. We had a lot of fun doing that. Warped Tour was great. It was a lot of work too. The first two days we didn’t really get the hang of it. The last day we were on it, we got the hang of waking up at 7:30, helping put up the stage, promoting, putting out flyers. It’s nice. It’s a place for kids who can’t come out to regular shows.”