These Latinas may rock, but Girl In a Coma isn't making Latin rock
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."
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."
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."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.