SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS

Return to Girl In A Coma

 

IN CONCERT : What's in a name, and a band sound - Girl in a Coma returns to Santa Barbara on the heels of an impressive new album, 'Trio B.C.,' on Joan Jett's Blackheart label
By Josef Woodard, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT


Just for the record, the Texan, punk-colored rock band Girl in a Coma means no disrespect to friends or family of actual girls in actual comas, or to those girls themselves. It's an art-about-art thing.

In fact, the edgy but hooky, all-female trio's sardonically ironic name was taken from a song by The Smiths. The Smiths' frontman, Morrissey, after all, flexed his dark humor in concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl several years ago, when the militant vegetarian called for the head of Julia "beef bourguignon" Childs.

In a recent interview, drummer Phanie Diaz recalls the origin of the odd name. "We were all heavily into The Smiths when we started this band," she says. "We wanted to name ourselves after one of his songs. (Bassist) Jenn (Alva) said 'Girl in a Coma,' and we liked it. We still love The Smiths, but we're not trying to be them. Who can?" Better yet, this band has become an entity all its own.

On Tuesday night at Muddy Waters, the increasingly active indie rock hub down on Haley, the band returns for a local show, this time on the heels of an impressive new album, "Trio B.C.," their second on Joan Jett's Blackheart label.

GIAC, as the less-offensive acronym reads, started in San Antonio, Tex., the hometown of sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz, on vocals/guitar and drums, respectively, and their friend, Alva. Early on into the trio's run, they got some distinct breaks and props, including an invitation from none other than the mighty Morrissey, who invited them to open up for him on tour in 2007. Other coveted opening slots followed, for such acts as Frank Black, Social Distortion, The Pogues and Tegan and Sara.

As much as the trio's discography and Internet hits and trips have helped build a buzz about what they have to offer — not to mention winning the Best Punk Song award at the Independent Music Awards for "Clumsy Sky" in 2007 — this band believes in the art of the live show. As Diaz says, "it's important to us as a band to get to the people and give them a live experience. As much effort that went into making the record should go into the show."
That drive to play live is a good thing, professionally, she points out. "Music is weird now. The only way for a band to thrive is to tour."

On "Trio B.C.," you can hear the diversity of musical interests feeding into the band's unique style blender, from punk to C&W and even '60s "girl group" elements. "We had no plan when making this record," comments Diaz. "Whatever comes to us as writers and if we all agree on a song, that is what we release. I guess that's why you can hear the different influences going on.

"Each of us has different influences, from punk and riot girl to rockabilly and country. We know what we like, and we bring it into the music. We basically want to be able to play any style and not be that punk band or that pop band."

Asked about seminal influences, she cites a few: "Nirvana, The Smiths, Bowie, Babes in Toyland, Jeff Buckley, Patsy Cline. . . . so many."

It may be telling that the band's record company boss is the pioneering female rocker Joan Jett. "She is very much a role model," Diaz says. "As long as she's been in the business she's still very humble, true to herself and down to earth. It's great to see that she never lets anything get to her and still has so much passion for what she does."

In GIAC, likewise, she says, "we hope to still be doing this 20 years from now."
At this point in the band's adventure, Diaz asserts "I think we are happy and finding a balance in what we do as a band. We don't know what makes a band highly successful and we don't

know what makes a band fail. All we know is that we love to play and write and so we play for people and make music.

"We don't try to sound or look like this and that. We don't want to be the next 'whoever is hot at the time.' We just want to play music and be able to do it for a living. That is success — whether we play to a crowd of 2 or 2,000, as long as we're playing."

While a wider embrace of critical attention and fan base action is in the process of becoming a reality, the musicians are mostly attuned to a more grassroots-y modus operandi of the street level life of the indie rock band, "making albums, touring and playing for people. No matter what happens or what we venture into, as long as that's happening, then I think we're doing OK."