In addition to Girl in a Coma, another San Antonio trio played Brooklyn this past week: Pop Pistol, who made their NYC debut at Trash Bar on Tuesday September 28. The band consists of guitarist and vocalist Alex Scheel, bassist George Garza, and drummer Jorge Gonzalez. All three contribute either synths or samples to the studio recordings, a sound that’s replicated live by a backing track. Say what you will about using pre-recorded playback; it works for Pop Pistol by adding a sort of surprise to their onstage appearance. “Where’s the keyboard?” is a question that onlookers commonly ask, as the band generates sonic layers richer than their three-piece composition would lead one to expect.
Frontman Scheel sings with his eyes closed. After the show, he explains that, during the set he imagined the Brooklyn Bridge and other famous New York landmarks that he and his bandmates — all in their mid-twenties — had seen that day for the first time. ”To me, New York is like the only city in the world,” Scheel says. “Being here is like killing a fantasy.”
What is it about New York — about music in New York — that from the outside gleams like a city on a hill, yet on the inside hungers for new things from elsewhere? Here bands are a dime a dozen. Indie music-philes pride themselves in knowing where a non-NY band is from — and the more obscure the place of origin, the better. (For example, the fact that thrash maestros Lazarus A.D. hail from Kenosha, Wisconsin, makes them seem all the more special when they blow away the veteran German headliners at the Nokia/Best Buy Theater in Times Square.) Ironically, though, for musicians who live in other cities, being a big fish in a small pond only seems good enough if eventually New York notices you. Getting to New York is hard, but getting New York’s attention can be harder — even if you already live here.
Scheel likens being in New York to “killing a fantasy,” but really there’s a mystique to wherever one is not at the time or hasn’t been. And so I wrap up San Antonio Week in Brooklyn with this: Pop Pistol and Girl in a Coma — thank you for visiting. Rock on, and know that this niche of New York knows who you are.
As I write this, the Texas trio Girl in a Coma are playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg. But, when I spoke to bassist Jenn Alva yesterday, the band was still on the road and had recently been pulled over by a border patrolman about twelve miles outside of Mobile, Alabama. “He said that he had stopped us because we had a lot of luggage and Texas plates,” Alva says. If only the patrolman could see them now at their sold out show in Brooklyn…
Besides staying busy with their current tour (which includes opening for The Dresden Dolls in Texas in November), GIAC will release on October 19 their third album, Adventures in Coverland, a collection of—you guessed it—cover songs. (Lest you think the band is taking a breather from songwriting, know that guitarist Nina Diaz has already written about twenty new songs for another studio album, planned for release in spring 2011.) Alva explains that, with the exception of one new song and an acoustic version of a track off their previous record, Coverland is a tribute to artists whose music has influenced GIAC.
OH: How did you choose the cover songs for the new album?
JA: Each of us made a list of about ten to fifteen songs by different artists that we wanted to cover, and Nina looked at all of them. [The selection process] was about if we could do it, if we could pull it off. Because we’re not just dealing with fans of our band. If you do a cover, you’re dealing with fans of The Beatles and Patsy Cline. So, we really had to make sure that we were able to pull it off. We’re happy with our choices.
How did you incorporate your own style into the songs so that they sound different from the original versions?
You want to put your own touch on it. You want it to be a Girl in a Coma song, almost. It started with Nina rearranging the song, and then Phanie and I came in. Some of those original bass lines I didn’t even pay much attention to. I wanted to kind of rewrite the bass line so that it would be kind of like a new song altogether. For example, the Selena song—that’s a completely new bass line. Patsy Cline—that’s a new bass line. And then some of them, you don’t want to drift off too far with changing it, especially doing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” because it’s already so great—not that the other songs are not or that they needed changing. It’s just one of those things with the Beatles.
Of the artists the band chose to cover, which ones had the most influence on you personally?
I love Patsy Cline. I love all oldies and rockabilly. So, Patsy Cline, Ritchie Valens—those were a pleasure to do.
It was at SXSW. He’s good friends with our buddy David Garza, and David was talking about us. [Robert] wanted to come check us out; he did, and he really liked our music. He did some filming during SXSW and kind of threw it together and asked, “Hey, do you want this? I put it to ‘As the World Falls Down’,” and of course we said “Yes!” There was a lot of common ground, with being from San Antonio and all.
It seems that the success of GIAC has drawn some attention to San Antonio and to the music scene there. Would you agree?
I hope so. This is another reason that keeps us going. You want to put your city on the map. You want it to be known that there’s great art, great music, and great people. We’re very proud of San Antonio.
Want to catch GIAC live? Check out their upcoming shows on their facebook page.