I’ll be honest; with a name borrowed from a Smith’s song and a history of hooking up in Junior High School, Girl In A Coma instantly recalled my first attempts at starting a girl group. My basement band never found fruition because my best friend and I couldn’t come up with a decent enough guitarist. It seems not only have the ladies of Girl In A Coma found a threesome worthy enough to tour in sisters Nina Diaz (who joined last) and Phanie Diaz, and Jenn Alva. The hard work and ability to stay true to their ideas led them to the forthcoming release of their fourth studio album, Exits & All the Rest, on Black Heart Records, Joan Jett’s label.
Exits & All the Rest does a fine job of showcasing the girls’ ability to write a good song with a catchy melody and introspective lyric line. Fans who discovered Girl in a Coma because of the 2010 release, Adventures in Coverland, can now find original songs like “Adjust” with a Joan Jett influence and “Control” with a David Bowie vibe, without actually covering songs fans love. Don’t get me wrong though, covering a great song like the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” instantly shows fans from where a newer band’s inspiration comes and showcases the raw talent as well as the ability to make a classic song their own. With the release of Exits, Girl in a Coma breaks free from its roots and starts making its own name.
Jenn Alva took the time to speak with Atlanta Music Guide about the new album and tour.
AMG: Your name comes from the Smiths’ song “Girlfriend in a Coma” – does that song have any special meaning or was it just a favorite at the time? Do you ever cover it?
Jenn Alva: It was one of our favorite songs at the time, and it’s funny because over time favorites change. If I thought about it now a new favorite would be “Wonderful Woman;” it’s such a beautiful song. Morrissey’s song “Ordinary Boys” could have fit us, possibly, if we were Ordinary Girls instead. As far as playing “Girlfriend in a Coma” live – it’s forbidden. I have joked around – only at practice – by playing the bass line though.
How did you get involved with the cable show “Jammin” that helped jump-start your career?
The producers for the show were looking for an all-girl band from San Antonio for the pilot. They had heard a lot of buzz from shows we played locally, and asked us to do the pilot. It had to do with a lot of word of mouth around town.
How is Exits & All the Rest more heart-stopping than you previous releases? How does it define the group more than the first three albums?
Well, this album is different because we wrote it a time when all three of us were going through some pretty hard times, and going through a lot personally. That plays in to the music and the lyrics. We’re growing as musicians; we know what our sound is and we’re getting more comfortable with it. Also, we recorded Exits & All the Rest using analog; it’s raw.
You are on Joan Jett’s label and recently shared the stage with her; how has her influence inspired your music?
She’s an artist to look up to for sure. When we were on “Jammin” we had to make a list of the artists we would want on the final episode – it was the surprise element to the show to have one of our inspirations on the show with us. We put down Joan Jett, Dave Grohl, Morrissey, and other names of artists we’d like advice from and Joan Jett’s people responded. She wasn’t supposed to sign us to her label, Black Heart Records, but she genuinely liked us so it was like a dream come true.
If I had to make a list of artists I’d like advice or collaboration from now Billy Corgan and Mike Patton would be on the list as well as new producers so we can continue to grow and expand our albums.
How have the bands you’ve toured with helped you build you career? Has anyone from Social Distortion or Morrissey given you advice on the road?
Not so much advice, but every tour we’ve been part of so far has taught us a lot. We get the chance to observe acts and how they perform, talk to their fans, and even watching them fuck up. Watching those who are more comfortable talking helps us; we observe them telling stories.
Miss Derringer and we hit it off right away; we became immediate friends. That was a favorite tour as was our most recent tour with the Go-Go’s.
Do you help with the lyrical content? Do you each come up with your own parts or is writing a full collaboration?
Nina writes the lyrics; we never put our two cents in. We really like what she does with her abstract ‘90s lyrics and guitar work. After she puts her lines together I write the bass part and Phanie adds drums. We share opinions, rearrange things, sometimes simplify a song, but the process works for us and hasn’t changed much over the years. Nina did have an idea for how she wanted the bass line to sound in “Mother’s Lullabye” so she and I collaborated on that, and it came out very distinctive.
What new song do you most enjoy playing live?
“Sly” was a song I didn’t really focus on until we started playing live. We tested a handful of songs off Exits and I’m excited to see what our friends and fans think of the new material starting with a secret show we’re playing tonight in San Antonio before the tour officially kicks off. We have a big, free show here [San Antonio] on the 29th and then the tour starts.
Other songs that are really fun to play live include “Adjust” and “She Had a Plan” because they have this grunge tribute feel; they’re fun.
Fans should check out our website www.girlinacoma.com because though Facebook is great, sometime it’s easier to find tour date information on our website. Quite often fans will post questions about when we will play their town and we just played there two days earlier! So, check our site and catch us on tour!
Girl in a Coma plays The Red Palace July 13th.