Girl In A Coma Unleashes Vocal Fury

8.26.2009

By Courtney Nichols

Do you have a favorite venue that you play or a favorite city?
Jenn Alva: We love Bottom of The Hill in San Francisco. We just played there in July. It was fantastic. There were a lot of people and it surprised us. It was just a great show. A lot of energy. We love playing here. We need to come back again and again.
Phanie Diaz: The West Coast overall is my favorite area.

Why?
Phanie Diaz: The Latin community.
Jenn Alva: I love being here and seeing everyone’s fashion and clothes.

I read that you are visual artists as well. Since Homo-A-Go is such a mixed media event, do you think that as a musician you also have to be versed in another art realm? Can you only be one kind of artist nowadays?
Jenn Alva: We don’t think like that. We do what we have to do, Internet-wise. We do videos and blog stuff but for the most part me and the girls are in that nineties mentality of the band. Things kind of filtrated and we are enjoying it. Phanie actually makes short films.

What about?
Phanie Diaz: They are comedy horrors. The last one I did is about three girls in a band and they pick up a hitchhiker and the hitchhiker kills them. It’s pretty funny.
Jenn Alva: We all dabble in a lot of things. Nina is great with the Internet.
Nina Diaz: Thanks guys!

Do you think the Internet has been crucial in establishing your fan base or is it more word-of-mouth and your extreme touring?
Nina Diaz: Of course when one person is at your show they go and tell five people but the Internet is great too.
Jenn Alva: We are aware of it. We are grateful that we can contact a venue via the Internet or if we did a last minute show we can promote it through MySpace. There some negatives involved also, like music being free everywhere. The other day I was sitting down and listening to music (don’t get me wrong, I’ve downloaded some music) and I was like, isn’t it weird how it’s just free? People are just constantly stealing and stealing and stealing. I think there should be an agreement where the artist says yes they can have this song but not the whole album. I can’t believe it’s free like that and nobody is really doing anything about it. The economy is all messed up anyway, the music industry is completely screwed up, it’s kind of mind-blowing to sit down and really think about it, why isn’t anybody really doing anything about it?

I know. This is your job. You pay for everything else that is labor intensive, so why not music?
Jenn Alva: Right. We were working with Joan Jett and we were recording and she was like, “Oh yeah, I’m making files and records now.” It sounds so nerdy. She also talks about paying 99 cents for a song. Your blood, sweat and tears for 99 cents or free. It’s pretty weird. There needs to be an agreement. We give out a few songs. I think it should be up to the artist basically. I can’t believe the artists have no say. Even DVDs in the movie industry.

How do you compose a song? Who does what?
Nina Diaz: I play my instrument, I don’t know. I do the main part of it and the girls do the lyrics to their liking.

What are your backgrounds musically?
Phanie Diaz: Our grandfather was a musician and he used to play for us a lot. I met Jenn in middle school and she wanted to start a band so we started a band together and then we stopped and we always went back and then we tried to find a singer.
Nina Diaz: I started playing guitar at 12 years old and Phanie showed me power chords and I wrote my first song and showed it out to them. I knew they were trying out singers and I just wanted to show them the song to see if I was doing anything good and they said, “Do you want to be the singer?” And I said yes.

What’s it like to be related in a band?
Phanie Diaz: I think overall it’s very interesting because we get very angry and we know we are not going anywhere. We love each other.
Nina Diaz: You know after a tour you want to go home to your mom and your sister is there. We’re stuck together.
Jenn Alva: The great thing about being in this band is that the way is started with Nina being so young we went through these different phases with the relationship. It went from teaching her things and making sure she was safe, basically like parenting kind of, and then to her doing anything she wants and upsetting her parents. To the point now, which is really great, that that is kind of erased and we are all on the same level. We all live together so that’s kind of weird. We can’t hate each other too much if we go on a two-month tour and then come home together.
Nina Diaz: We even go out together too!

A lot of people classify your music as punk, would you?
Jenn Alva: There’s a new genre every day. Like post-punk-rush-country-rockabilly. We call ourselves alternative because that is a big part of our band. We are who we are.
Nina Diaz: Just deal with it!
Jenn Alva: I wouldn’t put on in the punk category. I think we are a really good band, I really do. We are also good role models.
Nina Diaz: I don’t curse.
Jenn Alva: Me and Phanie are lesbians so all of the sudden we are a lesbian band. No! I don’t see what that has to do with music at all. Forget about that.

Do you think there is pressure even from the lesbian community on how bands look?
Jenn Alva: I think people because of the way they are brought up feel much better putting a person or a band into a category right away. It makes people feel better. Like I just met this girl who was really snobby so I am going to put her in the snobby category. You label right away, it’s just the way you are raised. I’ve done it a couple times too. It’s dumb and it’s not really thinking right.

Is your fan base mostly the lesbian community?
Jenn Alva: It’s very broad. There is the lesbian community; there are a lot of younger kids who know the story of Nina.

Who do you listen to that is contemporary? I know you are highly influenced by The Smiths, but who do you like that is more contemporary?
Jenn Alva: Magneta Lane. We are trying so hard to work with them. But it might not be as soon as we think because their album doesn’t come out until January. It sounds really self-centered but it’s fun..we go on Pandora Radio and see similar artists.

Funny! I never thought of bands doing it for themselves.
Jenn Alva: When we get that question we don’t know how to answer because all we are listening to it fifties and same old stuff we always listen to. The new Metric album is amazing. You will not skip a single song.

So as an artist do you think it is important to state your sexuality?
Jenn Alva: We talk about it and we don’t.
Phanie Diaz: We don’t go around saying we’re gay.
Jenn Alva: We try not to be cut-and-dry because we go through different phases all the time. The more anti you are the more you are like the person you are against. We try to be open about it. If we talk about a song that has nothing to do with our sexuality we don’t say anything about it.

Do artists have to have a message?
Nina Diaz: It’s more important to be real in whatever you’re doing. If you aiming for a certain thing and someone doesn’t get it you don’t want to be like, “Oh no! It’s about this!” But if they have their own thing, that’s all that really matters.

Check out Girl In A Coma's "Wish You Were Here" photo tour diary here.

-- COURTNEY NICHOLS

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