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  • Interview: Girl In A Coma

    Thu, 14 Feb 2008 13:06:27

    Interview: Girl In A Coma - Wide awake and ready to rock

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    If you're looking for validation of a band's promise, then being signed by Joan Jett after one meeting and opening for Morrissey should probably cover it. That's exactly how the three Texas ladies of Girl In A Coma got their auspicious start in the music business. Sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz came together with their friend Jenn Alva, while still in High School, to form the outfit and blazed a path to success through steady touring, powerful songwriting and a touch of television magic.

    Drawing comparisons to Moz himself, waves of fuzzed-out guitars lay the backdrop for their brand of punk-tinged power pop. We sat down with Alva to discuss their early years, and the big breaks that helped set them up for what's sure to be a very long career.

    I'm really digging Both Before I'm Gone. It's an awesome debut. You guys should be totally proud.

    Thank you. Yeah, we love it.

    I'm sure. I've been reading so much about you. How did you, Nina and Phanie get to be friends back in the day?

    Well, Phanie and I, we went to middle school together, and we were just talking about Nirvana, and we wanted to start a band. So, we just kept in touch through the summer, and ever since then. It's been about 14 years that we've been best friends, and of course Nina is her little sister. So, I saw Nina kind of grow up, and that's kind of cool, and now she's our lead singer, so that's funny.

    It's funny because sometimes little brothers or sisters try and tag along, and you push them off at first. Were you guys ever trying to ditch her in the early days?

    Yeah, because Phanie and I, every Friday, we would go to the thrift store. One time Nina wanted to go, I think she was like seven or eight, so we took her, but we told her, "It's a walk, it's far." "No I want to go," [she said]. So we went, and then we were walking back and she wasn't keeping up, and we were just like, "Man." And I was getting after Phanie too, because she was leaving her way behind, like blocks behind. And I was like, "Dude, wait for your sister," and we were all pissed and she was crying, and she needed to go use the restroom, and we told her to go in the yard. We were just being mean [laughs].

    The way you should be at that age, it's good for her, whatever doesn't kill her makes her stronger. So you were blasting Nirvana on these Friday night, pre-thrift store trips. Were there any other bands that you guys were totally into back then?

    Uh, yeah, I mean, we were into the mainstream. I mean, there were a few underground bands like Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear, but at the time MTV was so addictive when it came to videos—when they used to play videos. We were into The Smashing Pumpkins and, you know, Hole as well. Phanie was buying all the imports, and we were just jamming out to them mainly.

    Do you think that maybe some kids are missing out on catching some of those bands because MTV, like you said, doesn't play videos anymore?

    Right, absolutely. It's funny, because I was just thinking about it the other day. Videos had such a big impact, even if you didn't like that genre of music. We were jamming out to Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Merry Jane?"

    Oh, everybody was.

    Yeah, so that was the video. And I was thinking about it, I was like, "Do you think if there was no video, that we would even know all the lyrics?" It's fun, it's a good song, you know what I mean? It's just one of those things; videos just had such a big impact. It was not just music, like talent with just music, it was like, oh there's another art there. Like, this video's amazing, or so abstract, or whatever. Videos were great. I mean, we do videos now, but it's not the same as it was.

    You have to hunt them down on YouTube, and there's a zillion of them, and it's tough for them to become big cultural movements, like you said. When you guys were hanging out back in the day, when did you first decide to pick up some intsturments and start banging it out?

    Well, Phanie already had a guitar when I met her, so she was already taking lessons and stuff. I lied to her, and said that I could play bass, and I had a bass. She was like, "Cool." So when it came time to get together, I was like, "Oh I don’t have one." So she and I pitched in and got a bass guitar, and she showed me how to play, and she also showed Nina how to play.

    Did the other kids in your school know that you guys were in a band?

    Yeah, we did some stupid article for the school paper, but we exaggerated and said, "Oh yeah, we wrote like 20 songs and we'll be turning out for the school talent show, and we're trying to play a party." It was really silly; it was all a lie. We hadn't written any songs yet. Phanie was mad that I even went that far, because I was in journalism I got an opportunity to write an article about it.

    That's the first step to becoming an artist, learning to hustle. Sometimes that means stretching the truth.

    Fake it till you make it.

    Exactly! Nina was younger than you guys, were you really surprised the first time she got on the mic and let loose, because there's just a real maturity to her voice and to her delivery.

    Absolutely. She was doing covers, and we were like, "Oh that's cute, she's got a pretty good voice." But I think it really happened when she stopped us and said, "Hey, before you guys leave check out this song," and we were on the porch at her house, and she plays it, and she sings it so magnificently, because it's not anybody else's song, it's hers. We heard it and were like, "Is that your song you wrote?" And she's like, "yeah," and Phanie and I looked at each other like, oh my God, because Phanie and I were, at the time, looking for a drummer. We were trying to start a band again, and we were like, "Wow, you gotta be our lead singer." We didn't care about her age. Her song was just magnificent, it was great. After that, the age was only a problem when it came to playing at clubs, we didn't care anymore. She's pretty mature too, Phanie and I would always fight, and she would calm us down. She was, at times, more mature than we were.

    Well you guys forged her in the fires by making her walk by herself blocks behind you, so she had to grow up fast. Was Girl in a Coma the first name you guys agreed on? Were you rocking The Smiths and decided that was what it was going to be, or did you go through some others first?

    Um, well we knew that we wanted to pay homage to The Smiths or Morrissey, just because we were fanatics at the time. So the first one we came up with was Ordinary Girls, but that was kind of boring for us. Then I just said, "What about Girls in a Coma, like, we're not completely biting it." That's what we were thinking, even though it's a pretty big bite [laughs]. So, we all agreed, and for a while we were Girls in a Coma. Then maybe two years into it, we changed it to Girl in a Comaa, because we were getting e-mails that said, "That's not really proper English and blah blah blah." Even though it really could be, because they could be sharing one coma, but we just changed it.

    [Laughs] When you were first starting out, you built this huge fan base just through touring around Texas, and all through the Midwest. Were you guys out there by yourselves when you were first doing this, or were you chaperoned?

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