Talking with Girl in a Coma

 
 


Photo credit: Sarah Quiara

Girl in a Coma just want to be understood. The San Antonio-based trio have been
around long enough (eight years as a band) to have learned "what to do and
what not to do," as bassist Jenn Alva said.

But there are a few things they need people to understand.

First, they may be named after a famous song by 1980’s indie rock band The
Smiths, but they don’t sound anything like them.

"After a while, it gets old," said drummer Phanie Diaz. "We’re
fans of Morrissey, but we formed a band — and maybe we brought it on ourselves
— but we will never be [The Smiths], and we’re not trying to. It’s like they
don’t even listen to the album. ‘Oh they’re like the Smiths.’"

It didn’t help, of course, that The Smiths’ former frontman, Morrissey, came to
see Girl in a Coma play at the Viper Room in Los Angeles in 2007 and afterward, invited
them to open for him on a large tour.

"He really liked the music," Jenn said, acknowledging that there are
probably skeptics who think he chose the group based on their name. But like
having Joan Jett handpick them to be one of her label’s flagship artists, it
was a validation that only gave Girl in a Coma more reason to keep going.


Photo credit: Michael Rubenstein

In 2007, the trio released Both Before
I’m Gone
, a romantic, dark album that is clearly rock but with influences
from several other genres, including rockabilly, cabaret and Pasty Cline-esque
country.

Fronted by Phanie’s sister, Nina, Girl in a Coma released
a handful of singles, including "Say," a quick-paced, catchy
track, and "Road to Home," a song with a slow and light intro that
picks up the tempo in time to engage listeners in hand claps. The video for the
latter included drag icon Amanda LePore, and also included a cameo from their
mentor, Joan Jett.

Phanie said having Joan appreciate their music is a big boost, but it can also
perpetuate some boring interview questions and assumptions.

"I mean, it’s not a big deal, but you kind of get tired," Jenn said.
"It’s like, we’re always down for interviews, but it gets really tiring to
answer a million times. Like we were in Austin
and there was this girl, poor girl, she built it up, saying, ‘I have been dying
to ask you guys this!’ and we’re like, ‘Yeah? What is it?’ and she says, ‘How
did you get your name?’"

"I think we made something up once," Phanie said, "It involved
something like that I was a stripper."

Since the release of Both Before I’m
Gone,
Girl in a Coma has toured extensively on their own, as well as with
Morrissey, with another 1980’s band called The Cult and on the True Colors
Tour. They are currently switching from the opening slot on the Tegan and Sara
fall tour to opening for Bitch and the Exciting Conclusion. They’ve played a
whirlwind of venues, from rooms the size of garages to auditoriums holding
thousands of people.

"At first it was kind of intimidating to go from playing little shows to
huge venues," Phanie said.

"I like that, though," Nina said of playing venues where she is on
the same floor as the attendees. "I like playing those small kinds of
shows."

Their exposure to all types of venues is most likely why the band has one of
the most diverse fan bases possible: from punk lesbians to Goth teenagers to
40-something Hispanic men, the average Girl in a Coma concert is a melting pot
of music fans.

"I think the reason we’ve gotten to where we are is people telling each
other about us, word of mouth," Jenn said.

Girl in a Coma’s queer fan base is no doubt attracted to the
fact that Jenn is an out lesbian. Touring with gay-favorite Morrissey, and acts
like Tegan and Sara and Bitch, can only mean more gay women will be finding
themselves falling for Girl in a Coma.

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