By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
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With a new album and a slew of tour dates, San Antonio’s Girl In a Coma venture out, gazing toward their past. The trio of Tejanas—sisters Nina Diaz (guitar/vocals) and Phanie Diaz (drums), plus longtime family friend Jenn Alva (bass)—have netted a string of impressive accomplishments in the past couple of years.
The band, buoyed by Nina’s high-powered vocals, released their first album, Both Before I’m Gone, in 2007 on Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records and have toured overseas with their hero Morrissey (note the Smiths reference in their band name). Remembering that it was Nina and Phanie’s grandfather Cleofas Olivares who gave them their musical passion, Girl In a Coma decided that their latest should be titled in his honor.
“Trio B.C. is the name of our grandfather’s band that he had back in the ’50s in a small town called Runge, Texas,” Phanie says. “We decided to name the album after his band because he was actually our first exposure to musicians. He would play songs on guitar for me and Nina and sing to us. Before he passed, he was losing his memory, and a lot of the recollections he had left were of him being in his band.”
Never forgetting the importance of familia, the band set out to record a follow-up to their debut that would have made their grandfather proud. Feeling little pressure despite the specter of the “sophomore jinx,” the only thing different this time around was time itself.
“We knew we needed to come out with a new record soon,” Phanie says, “and it was different for us all to have to write it faster, but Nina is constantly writing, and we are constantly practicing. If we feel a song, we will record and release it. We not only write for our fans, but we also write for ourselves.”
The polished result displays the band’s myriad influences, from country to punk, sometimes within the same song. Nina’s guitar work ranges from licks signaling a showdown at high noon to bone-crunching riffs. As the rhythm section, Phanie and Jenn lock down the pulsating vibes, adding the necessary textures to complete a generational syncretism melding the best of ’50s and ’90s rock.
Girl In a Coma sound content with their effort in the studio, and they’re on the road this summer touring the nation, finding that their fan base is equally onboard. “We see the audience definitely embracing our new stuff,” Phanie says. “They are even already singing along, which is amazing.”
The 13 tracks on Trio B.C. illustrate a growing musical maturity, something the band also feel taking place onstage. “We are just a lot more confident in what we do,” Phanie says. “We love what we do, and we try to show it, and if you like it, great, and if you don’t, it’s okay. We are going to keep doing what we know and love.”
Fan support and backing are especially important this summer. This past March, Phanie’s band mates were arrested after an alleged altercation with off-duty police working security at a Houston bar. The incident left the band with mounting legal fees. “It definitely made us start over, money-wise,” Phanie says. “Even though we are still dealing with it . . . it doesn’t stop us. We still have a record to promote and shows to play, and that’s what we are going to do.
“We will eventually tell our story when it is over,” Phanie says.
Before then, they’ll be making a stop at Alex’s Bar, a much friendlier venue for them. “We love it there, plain and simple. It’s been like a second home,” Phanie says. Alex’s even gets a thank you in Trio B.C.’s liner notes.
Wherever future successes take Girl In a Coma, the drummer says that Alex’s and the band are on parallel missions.
“It has the old vibe, if this makes sense, of when people actually supported venues and bought CDs and independent record shops were thriving,” she says. “It has the spirit of rock & roll. We need to bring that back!”