Girl in A Coma Open for Sia
By Christy Sheppard | Richmond.com
Published: May 5, 2010
Girl in A Coma has had more than its fair share of big breaks, and they deserve every one of them.
While competing in an unsigned band competition in 2006 they were spotted by Joan Jett, who immediately loved the San Antonio, TX band and signed them on the spot to her label, Blackheart Records.
Since then, they've opened for Morrissey (the band's name comes from The Smiths song "Girlfriend in A Coma") and the likes of Tegan and Sara, Social Distortion and Cindy Lauper's "True Colors" Tour.
Lead singer Nina Diaz, whose vocals have been likened to that of Patsy Cline and Bjork, is backed by her sister, Phanie Diaz (drums) and life-long friend Jenn Alva (bass).
The Mexican-American trio got started when best friends Phanie and Jenn decided they wanted to start a band of their own. They shared a mutual love for bands like The Smiths, Nirvana and Joy Division.
"A friend loaned me Louder Than Bombs [a compilation album by The Smiths] and I shared it with Jenn. That was the one CD we couldn't stop listening to," says Phanie.
Phanie and Jenn were influenced greatly by that album and by music their group of friends was listening to at the time.
"We've [Jenn and Phanie] just always wanted to play music and were in all kinds of bands when we were teenagers," Phanie explains. "We were looking for a singer and Nina [who was 12 years old at the time] played us a song and she sounded so great."
Nina, Phanie's younger sister by eight years, was a natural.
These days, Nina writes the songs - lyrics and guitar parts - and then passes it along to the rest of the girls for critiquing.
"It's usually perfect but sometimes we'll talk about re-arrangements and eventually Jenn will add her bass and I'll come in with drums."
Phanie cites Dave Grohl as her greatest influence on the drums and claims it was Jenn who actually gave her the impetus to learn to play them.
"We couldn't find a drummer so I was like, 'Yeah, I'll do it,'" says Phanie. "We're the kind of band that's always progressing. We don't really have any formal training."
The girls' influences go back a lot farther than the early 90s and even the 80s.
Phanie and Nina's grandfather was a drummer and so was her real father, whom the girls have never met. All three of the girls grew up with music in their households. Artists like Patsy Cline, The Beatles and Ritchie Valens were on heavy rotation during their formative years.
The girls appreciate the course their career as a band has taken thus far.
"We've had this little ladder of great opportunities presented to us. We've been really fortunate ... opening up for Morrissey and Tegan and Sara ... getting signed. We hope that things continue to go that route for us."
In honor of the girls' influences the band released a trio of singles on vinyl in April of this year called Adventures in Coverland. Over seven songs they capably cover Selena, The Beatles, Joy Division, David Bowie, Ritchie Valens, Patsy Cline and The Velvet Underground.
"It's just a collection of random songs we wanted to cover. Originally we had a really long list of songs but ultimately it was up to Nina to sort out what she wanted to rearrange and what she thought we could all pull off," says Phanie.
The girls hope by covering some of these older artists they can help introduce them to a much younger audience.
Prior to the Adventures release, the girls put out their second album, Trio B.C.. The name was inspired by Phanie and Nina's grandfather, whose 1950's band went by that name.
Adventures in Coverland and Trio B.C. are quite similar in their randomness and the girls like it that way.
"With Coverland we've got Selena and then there's The Beatles. On Trio, we've got rockabilly and then we've got Sonic Youth inspired songs. It's just random."
The girls make their first appearance in Richmond this Friday opening up for Sia at the National.
"We played the Michigan Womyn's Festival last year ... they had us do the sound-check at 8 a.m. and everyone was nearby camping and we basically woke her [Sia] up. She approached us and was like, "You woke me up but I loved it" and we've kept in touch ever since. She invited us to do some dates with her. It's been really beneficial for us, our music isn't completely similar, but her audience has been really accepting of us."
She's right. At first listen, their two styles may not seem compatible.
"Keep an open mind and look us up," says Phanie. "If you're really into Sia because of her beautiful voice, you could be into us because Nina definitely has a great voice, too."
The girls will be playing songs mostly from Trio B.C. but they'll be rotating in one cover each night, as well.
Girl in A Coma, a group of kick-ass, hugely talented and tattoo-covered females, is definitely worth the listen. They've been compared to almost all of their idols, and they deserve those comparisons.
Phanie encourages young girls to get out there and start their own all-girl bands.
"More all-girl bands please!" urges Phanie. "It's a good time to start up because the music industry is so weird anyway ... we [women] need to just come out from underneath some of these all-girl groups. DIY is easy now, you've got programs to record yourself and social networking is so accessible. We encourage females to 'Get goin with that.'"
Hey, they are from Texas, after all.