Though the band seemed to rocket out of nowhere with its 2007 debut, Both Before I'm Gone, San Antonio trio Girl in a Coma has been plugging away for nine years — since then-thirteen-year-old Nina Diaz played one of her songs for her older sister Phanie and their friend Jenn Alva. "Jenn said, 'Whose song is that?' I said, 'It's my song,' and she was like, 'No, really.' She thought I covered a song," recalls Diaz on the phone from Atlanta. "So they gave a look at each other and they asked me, would you like to be the singer of our band?" Now 21, Diaz has grown into a powerful frontwoman, her bluesy/punky guitar riffs and dramatic, Morrissey-influenced vocals bolstered by Alva's hard-driving bass and her sister's powerful drumming.
The group's second album, Trio B.C., is named for the sisters' grandfather's Tejano band, and it closes with a Spanish-language cover of "Ven Cerca," an early-'60s garage-pop song by the Mexican group Los Spitfires. But these girls don't consider themselves a Latin rock group; Diaz doesn't even speak Spanish. "I'm teaching myself on the road," she says. "Our tour manager Ernesto is giving me little classes, because eventually, I would like to write an album of songs in Spanish. I'm the youngest of three kids, and my great-grandma was the one that was from Mexico; my grandmother and my mom and me were all raised in Texas. So it was around me, but I never really picked it up."
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Even more visceral and self-assured than the act's impressive debut, Trio B.C. is a powerful, stripped-down record that kicks from beginning to end. Songs like "Static Mind" and "Slaughter Lane" recall Social Distortion in the way that they blend roots-rock twang and punk venom, while a softer side emerges on ballads like "Pink Lemonade" and "Trail." Says Diaz of their evolution, "The '50s vibe that somehow seeped its way in there is surprising, because I was actually listening to a lot of Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins and stuff when I was writing songs for this album. But Jenn's a huge Elvis fan, so there's always Elvis around somewhere, and I like to listen to Nina Simone and Billie Holiday and Roy Orbison."
Girl in a Coma
Girl in a Coma, with Miss Derringer and the Blackouts, 9 p.m. Monday, July 6, 3 Kings Tavern, 60 South Broadway, $5, 303-777-7352.
Unsurprisingly, the outfit has been embraced by a slightly older generation of rockers; the early demos were produced by Morrissey guitarist Boz Boorer, and the threesome is signed to Blackheart Records — label boss Joan Jett sings backup on "Joanie in the City." Diaz calls her amazing. "She's a really strong person, and she always gives great advice," says Diaz. "And she's always ahead of the game." When pressed for tales of rock-and-roll debauchery involving the ex-Runaway, she laughs, saying, "Everything's been pretty innocent, pretty normal up to now. But ask me that question in ten years and maybe I'll have a story."