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Web Posted: 05/31/2009 12:00 CDT
Punk band 'growing a lot more'
By Jennifer R. Lloyd- 210SA
Indie punk phenoms Girl in a Coma pay homage to band members' family and cultural legacy on their sophomore album, "Trio B.C.," while adding new layers to their sound.

The San Antonio band garnered positive attention with its 2007 debut album, "Both Before I'm Gone," on Joan Jett's Blackheart Records. It hit No. 23 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart, and the single "Clumsy Sky" won an Independent Music Award for best punk song.

For their second release (in stores Tuesday), sisters Nina (singer/guitarist) and Phanie Diaz (drummer) and Jenn Alva (bassist) found new influences in '90s music by bands such as the Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Garbage, Sponge and Radiohead. They also dove deeper into their Latina heritage, taking inspiration from the Diazes' grandfather's Tejano band and including their first song in Spanish, "Ven Cerca."

The album encompasses a variety of styles, from the high-energy "Baby Boy" (Alva's favorite) to the slow, emotive song "Trail" (Phanie's favorite) to the "El Monte," which reminds Nina of something Sandy would sing in the musical "Grease."

"We've got this punk rock vibe and, of course, we're influenced by many punk bands," Alva said. "But the thing with us and Nina's lyrics, it's kind of an unintentional art form."

Nina wrote many of the songs on "Trio B.C." in the span of a couple of months while the band was on tour.

"On this new album, we're definitely growing a lot more," said Nina, who added that the band has gained confidence in playing their instruments.

While the band worked with Gabe Gonzales of Sleepercar to produce both records, there are a few noteworthy production credits on this album, as well, including Greg Collins (U2, No Doubt), Joan Jett and her longtime producer Kenny Laguna. Jett even ended up playing guitar and singing background vocals for the fast-paced, "Joanie in the City."

In recent months, not all news about the band has been positive, nor has it all been music-related. Just days after playing at the South by Southwest Music Conference in March, Nina Diaz and Alva were arrested on felony assault charges after an altercation with police at a bar in Houston.

The charges don't seem to have dampened the band's commitment to music.

"I think if anything, we're closer, definitely," Phanie said. "We've always, since we started, had each other's backs and we still do. . . . This is what we love to do and it will always come first."

Even those outside the band have seen their commitment pave the way toward musical development.

Filmmaker Jim Mendiola, co-owner of the Three Chord Media production company in Los Angeles, was first drawn to the band because of Nina's moving voice and because of the band's cultural aesthetic. Mendiola, a San Antonio native, crafted the documentary that helped Girl in a Coma connect with Joan Jett and her label. He has since directed several Girl in a Coma music videos.

When he first heard the women play, the band members were "very organically Latina," Mendiola said, even though they were more into the punk scene than Latino music.

"I've been literally following them since the day I met them, so I have hours and hours and hours (of footage)," said Mendiola, who will direct two more of the band's videos next week. "Nina has grown a lot musically, and their work is becoming much more complex. I think they still perceive themselves as a punk band, but I think they've become a lot more interesting than that."

Nina said the band members felt compelled to include a song in Spanish on the new album — a cover of Los Spitfires' "Ven Cerca" — to acknowledge their culture.

"It's something that we can't fight. It's in us. We're Latinas," Nina said. "It's breathing down our necks, like, 'This is you. Learn the language. Learn to speak it. Learn to understand it. This is your culture.' So this is just kind of a first foot into the water, till we dive in."

The band members decided to reference their personal history by naming the album after the Diazes' grandfather's Tejano band, Trio B.C., which played during the 1950s.

"When I grew up, he would sit down and used to drink by the stereo and whip out his acoustic and he would just sing and play," Phanie said. "He taught us how to play. It's in our blood from him."

She said her grandfather used to talk about having fun with friends while playing music in Runge.

"That's exactly how we are," Phanie said. "When we started, it was all about having fun together and loving something and showing people what you love. Now we're privileged enough to do it for a living."