Eyes wide open

Nina, Phanie, and Jenn rehearse at their home. The trio is traveling to London next month to record thier first CD. (Photos by Mark Greenberg)

Girls In a Coma to start new year recording with Morrissey guitarist

Last week, Girls In a Coma were scheduled to perform at Sin 13's blowout, the finale before the club changes formats from goth and alt-rock to dance and lounge `see "Sound and the Fury," December 16-21, 2004`. Unfortunately, someone at the club apparently arranged for the electricity to be turned off - a day early - bringing new meaning to the term "unplugged."

Although the Sin 13 show was canceled, Jenn, Nina, and Phanie of the local band Girls in a Coma should have better luck on New Year's Eve at the Sanctuary. And if they fulfill their promise, their fans might get lucky as well. "We're going to give some kisses away," says Jenn, the trio's bassist.

"We will?" Nina, the singer, asks, sounding surprised.

"Yeah," says Jenn. "You know, for the countdown."

"You're going to have a line of people," Nina teases.

Phanie, the low-key drummer who keeps the band steady, just laughs.

Girls in a Coma, who have spent the last four years honing their chops on the local club scene, are getting their first big career break: On January 14, the threesome leaves for England to record at the home studio of Morrissey's guitarist Boz Boorer. To put in perspective the significance of this opportunity, keep in mind that the girls cite the Smiths, and especially Morrissey, as their major influence: Girls in a Coma is a play on words on the Smiths' song "Girlfriend in a Coma."

"If I had a dollar every time

I heard, 'I don't really like girl

bands, but you guys are cool ...'"

— Jenn

The band landed this coup through their well-connected manager, who knows Boorer and gave him a CD of their music. Boorer apparently liked what he heard and invited the band to record with him in England. After the band finishes recording with Boorer, their manager plans to use the material to shop the band to high-profile independent record labels, including Kill Rock Stars, home of one of their favorite bands, Gravy Train. Girls in a Coma would also be happy to end up on Morrissey's label, Attack.

Girls In a Coma would not be out of place on that label, as the band's music echoes strains of '80s-era British bands such as the Smiths and Wire. The band's website, www.girlsinacoma.com, is under construction; mp3s can be heard at www.myspace.com/girlsinacoma. A taut five-note guitar riff introduces the peppy "Race Car Driver," then dissolves in a wash of distortion. And when Nina sings, "You are the

sweetest pain," in an open-throated alto akin to Chrissie Hynde, she is sincere, yet not self-pitying. The dreamy "Consider," has a lilting vocal line that floats above the guitar that again, switches between angular lead lines and fuzzed-out chord progressions. While Jenn's bass locks with the drums to propel the song, she also adds melodic flourishes that peek through the mix.

Jenn, Nina, and Phanie share camaraderie typical of long-time friends and siblings. Phanie, short for Stephanie, taught Jenn, her friend of 10 years, to play bass; she also showed her younger sister Nina how to play guitar. Nina, who sings, began writing songs, and Phanie, a multi-instrumentalist, taught herself play drums so the three could form a band.

Even without a recording deal, last summer the band toured cross-country for the first time. Although they left San Antonio with only $500 in their pockets, Jenn says they made enough money on gigs and merchandise to get by. "I can't wait to just load up stuff and leave again," Jenn adds. They plan to tour in spring 2005.

Girls in a Coma,
Hearts Failed

Fri, Dec 31
1818 N. Main

Acoustic show
Sat, Jan 1
Café Revolución
527 El Paso
There are pros and cons to being females in a male-dominated industry, the band says. One advantage, Jenn explains, is that the sound guys are nicer to female musicians than to male musicians. But they often feel underestimated because of their gender. "If I had a dollar every time I heard, 'I don't really like girl bands, but you guys are cool,'" says Jenn, exasperatedly. Phanie agrees: "These guys come up to us and say, 'I thought you were going to sound like every other girl band - like the Donnas.'"

Yet overall, the band is happy with the feedback they receive. Even people who attend their shows expecting to hear a Smiths cover band aren't disappointed when they hear only one Smiths cover, a rocking "Please, Please, Please" that bears no resemblance the navel-gazing original. "They're intelligent, loyal, I love talking to them," Jenn says of their fans. "You'll hear me say it at every show, 'We love you.'"

On New Year's Eve, Girls in a Coma will likely say "we love you" many times, including the during the countdown to 2005 that Jenn is looking forward to - with or without the line of girls and boys waiting for kisses.

By Dawn Pomento

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