Iconic Girl in a Coma exorcises their demons to deliver their best album yet
Published: October 26, 2011
Girl in a Coma broke my heart. Jenn Alva (bass) and Phanie Díaz (drums) are eating meat again.
“Oh, c’mon…” says Phanie. “It’s hard when you’re on the road.” Jenn tries to make me feel better: “We’re still not eating beef… We’re not there yet.”
But the more road-friendly diet is a small thing compared to the many deep realizations and adjustments this group went through on the way to the making of Exits & All The Rest, a triumphant work and the trio’s fourth album. Not surprisingly, the album is dedicated to Ernestine Davis, Jenn’s mom, who passed away in March. But it is also dedicated to San Antonio, “for being our inspiration.”
At a time when bands routinely leave town as soon as they get a taste of success, Girl in a Coma don’t ever see themselves living anywhere but the Alamo City. What is it about San Antonio that inspires them so much? I asked the girls to show me around those places that nurtured them growing up and continue to provide nourishment. Weeks before their free CD release party at the Pearl on Saturday, Girl in a Coma showed up at the Current’s office in their 15-passenger, 2005 Ford van they call “Big Bertha,” and took me on a trip into their past.
“Romance us!” says Jenn, standing in front of the van. It’s a code phrase meaning, “Whoever has the keys, please open the van.” There are no automatic locks, so things have to be done the old-fashioned way, by hand. “We call this ‘romancing,’” Jenn says as she (the band’s official chauffeur) gets behind the wheel. Phanie is to her right. I have the honor of sharing the second row of seats with vocalist/guitarist Nina Diaz — this is her spot, typically nobody rides or sleeps back here but her.
The van is a mess. Clothes, shoes, papers, flyers, CDs, you name it, litter the floorboards and seats. I notice a huge pair of red boots cast to the side. “They’re Jenn’s,” Nina says. “Badass, right? Jenn’s Bigfoot. Dang, right? I’m like 6 1/2.”
“I’m 10 or 11,” says Jenn.
“Petite feet,” sings Nina.
“Feminine step … ” Phanie responds, referencing a tune by Tim and Eric from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Jenn smiles and keeps on driving. The girls are in a great mood.
It’s a day after Steve Jobs’ passing, and I comment on the iPod plugged into the dash.
“Oh, there’s a song there from when Nina was 12,” says Phanie. When I ask to hear it, Nina rolls her eyes. “Oh, I sound like a chipmunk,” she says of the track, recorded by a friend who was still learning her equipment. “I was singing loud, and she told me, ‘You’re not supposed to sing so loud when you’re recording,’” Nina says. “So I was backing up on it, but now I’ve learned: you can sing loud.”
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