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The 21-year-old lead singer and guitarist for San Antonio’s Girl in a Coma leaped onto the rock scene in 2007 after she and her bandmates (drummer and older sister Phanie, bassist Jenn Alva) were discovered by Joan Jett—who promptly signed them to her label—and invited to open concerts for Morrissey. The Latina trio is getting new buzz this summer as they tour their sophomore album, Trio B.C. (Blackheart).
Let’s talk first about how Girl in a Coma got started. Your sister and Jenn are both eight years older than you and were already playing together when they asked you to join them. Were you surprised? How old were you? I started playing guitar when I was twelve, but I didn’t show them anything till I was thirteen. They were about to go out, and I was like, “Hey! You guys wanna hear this song real quick?” And they were like, “Yeah, yeah, hurry up.” I played it, and Jenn asked, “Is that a cover?” I said, “No, that’s my own song.” They looked at each other and said, “Do you want to be the singer?”
When was your first show? A week before my fourteenth birthday.
And when did you first go on tour? Could you get into the clubs? I was sixteen, and we went during summer vacation. I would have to wait in the van [until showtime]. I’d play acoustic or talk to my friends, or people would hang out with me in the van.
You’re an all-female band in a male-dominated field. What kinds of challenges do you face? There’s a bit of tension sometimes from people thinking, “We already know what to expect from you,” or “You won’t know your instruments,” or whatever. But by the end of the show, they are pleasantly surprised. I like to think we hold our own. People get interested not only because of our name but also because we’re all girls and two-thirds lesbian. We get a lot of e-mails from younger girls who are starting to play music, and that’s the biggest upside of what we do.
Do you enjoy being on the road? My eyes are really open this time. I’m taking in the beautiful scenery and meeting wonderful people. It feels like there’s this big change going on.
What change? We’re playing a lot of new songs, and I’m just noticing people’s reactions. I recently broke up with my boyfriend, so this is the first tour where there’s no check-in. I feel more freedom. Just being able to walk around and smell the air feels really good.
How did growing up in San Antonio inform your music? It’s our culture. I’m learning to speak Spanish—we have a song on Trio B.C. in Spanish—and San Antonio is very family-oriented. Eating the food, hanging out with my friends—it’s just a warmness that sneaks its way into the music.
Is your family musical? Our grandpa was a musician. Trio B.C. was actually the name of his band when he was younger.
You were signed to a record deal by Joan Jett after taping a cable TV show in New York. How did that happen? The show followed struggling bands, and Joan [made an appearance] at the end of it. We kind of fumbled out words, and she watched us play. Later she introduced us onstage at [New York club] the Knitting Factory, and afterward she and [producer] Kenny Laguna offered us a record deal. She believed in us and took the chance.
Did you sign on the spot? Yeah [laughs]. We were just aching to record the songs already.
Now, in March you had an incident outside a club in Houston where you and Jenn were arrested. I can’t talk about that at this time, but I’ll be happy to explain when it’s all over.
So the case is still pending. Has it been expensive? Yeah, well, we have a defense fund and a lot of donations.
Second albums can be scary things. How challenging was it to come up with new material? I had to write on the road because we were touring. Two of the songs, “Trail” and “Empty Promise,” were older ones, and there’s a cover of “Ven Cerca,” by Los Spitfires. For the rest, I’d sit in the van and work with GarageBand. Whenever we had time at home, we’d jam it out together. I’m really happy with it.
Listen to tracks from Trio B.C. at rhapsody.com/girl-in-a-coma/trio-bc