The members of San Antonio-based rock band Girl in a Coma have had somewhat of a charmed life. After forming in the early-2000s the band recorded a demo tape in 2004, got picked up by Joan Jett’s record label, Blackheart Records, in 2006, and toured with one of their idols—and the namesake of their band—Morrissey in 2008 (the band’s name is a reference to the song “Girlfriend in a Coma,” by The Smiths, the band Morrissey fronted in the 80s). Meanwhile, they’ve recorded four full-length albums and are now on tour to promote their latest release, Exits and All the Rest, which launched earlier this month. They'll play this Thursday at Radio Radio.
Consisting of sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz, on vox/guitar and drums, respectively, and Jenn Alva on bass, GIAC are most often referred to as punk band, however, their sound tends to range a bit wider on the musical map. The Smiths (obviously) are big influence. In fact, the first single off of Exits, titled “Smart,” bears a striking '80s emo feel; Nina Diaz’s voice takes on a removed, sentimental timbre over a simple, echoing guitar line and fast eighth notes on the bass. And then there are wilder songs like “Hope,” deep in the album, which have a driving, hard rock sound with buzzing guitar-work and clashing cymbals, with Nina Diaz doing a sort of Yoko Ono-esque wail.
Barely two weeks into their album tour, NUVO caught up with drummer and co-founder Phanie Diaz to chat about the tour, the new album, their influences, and touring with Morrissey.
So how’s the tour going so far?
So far so good. We’re on tour with The Coathangers and the shows have been great. The best shows so far have been in New York. We got to see Joan [Jett] when we played at Webster Hall. Then we also played in Brooklyn at the Knitting Factory.
How was the process of recording Exits different from the previous three albums?
Well, this one we did in analog and we did it much more live. Jenn, Nina, and myself were playing live together in one room, to kind of get the foundation of the music together. So that was a first time for us. And the recording on tape was different. We kind of wanted to get a more raw sound with this record, more stripped-down. It was fun to do it that way.
Was this material that you’d been playing live over a period of time and then just decided to record at some point?
[Nina] had been writing while we were on the road, and we’d been on the road a lot for our two previous albums. So she was getting these songs together and then when we’d get home and she’d give us the demos of what she’d done, and then Jenn and I would write our parts, and then we’d come together as a band. It’s been like that since we’ve started. [Nina] writes the main lyrics and the guitar parts and the melody, for her voice, and then after that she’ll give us the music and we’ll take it from there.
Who are your primary influences?
I grew up listening to a lot of girl music and punk rock. Jenn and I grew listening to the same stuff together. We liked Morrissey, The Pixies, Rush, Superdrag, a lot of those bands. Nina’s my younger sister so she was listening to a lot of the stuff we were. She got into Jeff Buckley and Mike Patton on her own. So it’s kind of a big blend of a lot of music.
Tell me about touring with Morrissey.
In 2008, we were with him for a couple of months. We did the East Coast with him then we went over to England. It was surreal. It was a great tour. We got exposed to a lot of his fans and he was really great to us.
How did that come about?
We had known Boz Boorer [Morrissey’s guitarist and music director] for a while. He had done a demo for us when we first started, so that’s how our music got into Morrissey’s hands. [Morrissey's] favorite song of ours is “Clumsy Sky,” and we heard that he still plays that song in concert halls before his shows as people are coming into the show.
What are some of the driving emotions or creative forces behind Exits?
Well, a lot of it had to do with changes each of us were going through in our lives. Some of the songs have to do with relationships, some of them have to do with things Nina had been going through, or changes with Jenn, or just different things that had been going on around us. So it was more of a personal record.
For instance, “Mother’s Lullaby.” Jenn had recently lost her mother, so Nina had kind of written that song not only for Jenn, but Nina and I are very close to our mother as well. So it’s kind of written from a mother’s perspective.
Have any songs been playing better on the road than others?
We’ve been getting a great response on “One Eyed Fool,” in particular, and “Knocking at Your Door.” That was one we probably weren’t expecting, so that was a big surprise. We’re actually thinking about making a video for “One Eyed Fool” since it’s been getting received so well.
Is that what you’ll do once you get done with the tour?
Yeah. As soon as we get home. Even when we’re at home, we’re busy.
Phanie encourages her fans to keep in touch with the band and stay up-to-date on shows via GIAC’s website www.girlinacoma.com!