Coma chameleons

Posted on 04 Jun 2009 at 4:04pm
By Rich Lopez Contributing Writer

What do you call a Texas-bred Latina lesbian punk girl-band with a radio-ready pop sound? We call it Girl in a Coma


LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL: Girl in a Coma drummer Phanie Diaz and her bandmates are excited about their sophomore album — and their gig this week at Dallas’ House of Blues. PHOTO COURTESY SALVADOR OCHOA

There was a time not long ago when all-girl rock bands were all over the airwaves. (And by "rock," we don’t mean Spice Girls.)

A decade earlier, the music world officially realized chicks can rock: The Bangles and The Go-Go’s have practically become the template for any all-female band that has the balls to play an instrument and belt out the vocals. Girls with guitars: check. A hot vocalist with actual chops: check. And don’t forget the girls who jammed with the boys a la Heart, Pat Benatar and Joan Jett.

Especially Joan Jett. Because if it were not for Ms. Jett, we might not have Girl in a Coma.

"We were doing a Latin TV show [SiTV's 'Jammin''] on up-and-coming bands. We ended up going to New York. We were supposed to be surprised by meeting Joan Jett but we all knew she was going to be there," G in a C drummer Phanie Diaz confesses.

The rest is practically herstory, if not a fairy tale. Joan Jett caught their gig that night and turned around to sign the San Antonio trio onto her Blackhearts record label that evening. They became the flagship artist for the label and in 2007, Girl in a Coma debuted to acclaim with "Both Before I’m Gone." A heck of a debut with four singles, a 2007 Independent Music Award for best punk song for "Clumsy Sky" and their video for "The Cell" making Logo Channel’s "Click List."

Not to mention touring with the likes of Tegan and Sara, Morrissey and the True Colors tour. No doubt, Joan Jett has a good eye. Or rather, ear.

As their sophomore album, "Trio B.C.," dropped this week, Diaz talked via muffled cell phone about their latest offering.

 "Today’s the big day. I’m excited. We’re all excited," she beams.

This album has a much more polished sound than their first, and a high-end production team including U2 and Gwen Stefani producer Greg Collins — which means Girl in a Coma looks to blow up on the music scene and become this generation’s premiere girl band. It could happen. Sorry Danity Kane.

"Trio B.C." has a stronger, more sophisticated voice, albeit written on the run.
"The first album came from seven years being together, based on what we were going through. Our new approach is to write while on the road. We use Garage Band, we play in hotel rooms. That’s how we wrote it," Diaz says.

The album’s potential singles reflect their range to haunt and rock. "El Monte" is a drifty love tune where singer-guitarist Nina Diaz (Phanie’s sister) shines with beautifully desperate affection ("I want to wash all of your clothes and make you feel warm when you’re cold") while "Static Mind" is radio-ready with its flat out rock reminiscent of early Green Day.

And are these songs to a female lover? Diaz answers poignantly, "When we put music together, there is no gender. Nina doesn’t explain because she’s the primary lyrical writer. She wants everyone to make up their own mind. Nina only knows what it means to her."

Hopefully though, the essence of the band will not be too labeled and marginalized in the music world. The Latina lesbian (OK, two-thirds lesbian) Texan punk rock band provides quite the demographic options. Diaz does not seem too worried.

"We don’t really see having labels on us as a bad thing. [We are] Latino females, [we have] queer members. It’s only helping us reach more groups in bringing them together. In our shows, we see all kinds of people — gay, Hispanic, feminist but that is everyone just together," she says.

And the idea of exploding on the scene? "We are where we come from. We’re not gonna change anything about who we are. We just embrace it all."
Clearly they are not putting listeners in a coma. But just for fun, we had to ask what music sends Phanie into a fugue state.

Weirdly, she categorizes comas into good and bad. "Right now, emo screamo music puts me in a bad way, but in a good way, nothing beats Billie Holiday. That is bliss with her on, a glass of wine and sitting outside. Now that’s a good coma."

Girl in a Coma plays with Miss Derringer and Here Holy Spain at Pontiac Garage at House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. June 7. Doors at 7 p.m. $5–$14. Houseofblues.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 5, 2009.

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