Phanie Diaz doesn't want you Girl watchers to worry.
She's the drummer for one of Texas' biggest breakout bands of the past few years, Girl In a Coma. Her sister, Nina, is the band's guitarist and vocalist. While Nina works on a solo project, Phanie and the band's bassist, Jenn Alva, have unveiled Fea, their own side group that touches down at Mango's Saturday night as part of a month-long tour.
A mixed audience of Pearl Lounge regulars and curious Girl In a Coma fans got a glimpse of Fea this past summer. Once the music started, it was obvious these weren't the indie melodies the flagship band is known for.
"We've always been fans of early riot-grrrl and punk music so we decided to start a band in that genre," Diaz says. "With Fea it's just really raw, no-rules punk rock. We are political and we run this band ourselves. Jenn and I do a lot of the songwriting as well."
Fea formed in February; like any startup, there were wrinkles and ironing out. But after two lineup changes, Diaz and Alva thought they'd found the right mix with guitarist Aaron Lee and vocalist Theresa Moher. Moher sang for the indie-punk outfit Lisa Frank, while Lee is also guitarist for Michael J. and the Foxes. The Pearl Lounge date was part of a run of dates from here to California and back.
"We had a successful West Coast tour, but Theresa decided to pursue her true passion of art," says Diaz. "We parted on good terms,"
The band went to work looking for a new singer. Alva found Letty Martinez, who had fronted a Valley band, Angela and the X's, on Craigslist.
"Letty was looking to start a riot-grrrl band in her new home base of San Marcos. We realized we knew each other," Diaz recounts. "She came and auditioned and nailed it."
While the lineup issues sort themselves out, Diaz said the band nucleus remains strong.
"Jenn and I have been playing since '94," she says. "I originally played guitar and switched to drums when Girl In a Coma started in 2001. So we've been a team for a while now.
"It's definitely teaching us how to adjust and be more open and out of the Girl In a Coma bubble," Diaz adds. "It's also showing Jenn and I that we can write songs, which is pretty rad."
Also rad: the Houston music scene, according to Diaz. She and her Girl bandmates were shown the love when they headlined the 2013 Houston Press Music Awards Showcase. More recently, Girl and Nick Gaitan and the Umbrella Man shared a Houston date at Last Concert Cafe.
"The Houston scene has always been great and supportive. We've watched it grow and grow," Diaz continues. "One of our favorite bands from Houston is Los Skarnales. They're great guys, too, and have always been supportive of us.
"It's always great to meet and befriend the bands in each city who are working as hard as you," she adds. "They can tell you the spots to play and what's happening within their music community."
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Diaz said she has missed her sister while working on Fea, but they understand one another's pursuits and are entirely supportive.
"Nina actually recorded our first demo before we went to El Paso to record with Gabe Gonzalez. She's a Kathleen Hanna fan, so she understands what we are doing. She really likes it and wants us to take the band as far as we can," Phanie says. "Nina wants to do the same with her work and we definitely have her back."
"Girl In a Coma should be back at it fairly soon. It really just depends on Nina's record and where it takes her."
Fea has its own record in the works, an untitled album Diaz said will be released in digital and 7-inch formats by year's end.
"We recorded with Gabe Gonzalez who use to play with Sparta. He also recorded Girl In a Coma's first record Both Before I'm Gone and Trio B.C. We are super-comfortable with him so we wanted to work with him again."
"We've been fortunate enough to have fans support all our endeavors . We had 2,000 'likes' on Facebook before anyone even knew what we sounded like and that's amazing," Diaz says. "I think our true fans will always stay with us no matter what."
Fea plays with Houston's Vanilla Sugar and PuraPharm Saturday night at Mango's, 403 Westheimer. Doors open at 9 p.m.
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