Girl in a Coma
By Ryan B. Martinez
Over the phone Nina Diaz, lead singer of San Antonio trio Girl in a Coma, has a sweet, demure voice that belies a great sense of sarcasm.
Come to think of it, that duality also describes her singing voice, which can soothe like a nurse or wallop like a giant mutant nurse swinging a huge potato sack filled with, like, five wheelchairs.
Or something. Anyway, it’s a great instrument, and one of the first questions I ask her is where she learned to sing.
“My mama,” she says. “Actually, when I was learning to find my voice, I was listening to a lot of Morrissey, Jeff Buckley and Björk. I used to be in choir when I was younger, too, but for the most part I’m self-taught.”
Girl in a Coma – rounded out by Nina’s sister, Phanie, and bassist Jenn Alva – will teach El Pasoans a thing or two this Friday, when they play at Club 101 in support of “Both Before I’m Gone,” their debut album newly released on Blackheart Records, Joan Jett’s record label.
Their six years leading up to the LP were fairly eventful. The girls have toured aggressively, recorded demos, garnered deserved critical comparisons to Morrissey and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and have been spotlighted in a documentary for a Latino TV station. It was during that last bit that they met Joan Jett, who asked the girls to sign to her label on the spot.
“I was excited as soon as I saw her walk in,” Diaz says. “I thought, ‘Oh wow. Joan Jett. Is she gonna listen to us?’ She told us to just pretend she’s one of our roadies.”
What followed was studio time at the Music Lab in Austin, laying down tracks. After that, it was off to New York, where the girls, Joan Jett and recording wizards worked on mastering the disc.
The result is impressive – a diverse collection of slow and fast songs showcasing Diaz’s voice as it interplays with alternating musical moments of guitar chunkiness and ’80s ethereality. Some songs (“Consider”) are six years old; others (“Say,” “Clumsy Sky” and “Road to Home”) were written months before recording.
“It feels pretty perfect,” Diaz says of the end result. “Everything happens for a reason, and this long gap of not really recording an album yet, just demos, was, for me, a way to organize the stuff that really describes us versus the stuff that was just kind of thrown out there. I think it was meant to be.”
Now Girl in a Coma is back on the road, embarking on a tour of more than 40 dates ending with a stint on Warped Tour. The girls have been to El Paso several times before, including a visit to Club 101 last fall with local openers Low Luster League and Ralpheene.
“Everyone there is so sweet,” she says. “One of our friends from El Paso said El Paso has a bunch of procrastinators, but the fact that they made it out for our show was great.”
Diaz says she loves touring, comparing it to therapy. I ask her whom she finds in the crowds as the band travels to different cities.
“The majority of our fans happen to be part of the gay community,” she says, adding she doesn’t know why. “It’s really endless, though. There’s also been older adults, say 50 years old, who come, down to people bringing their little kids.”
I ask her where she’d like her music career to take her.
“I just love playing,” she says. “I want to be able to live a comfortable life and be able to afford a nice little place and a vehicle and some food and a bed.”
And all on the strength of her music, right?