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Is a trio the best size for a band?

I was at a show for Whores. ( the other night, and it got me thinking about the creativity of  some of the trios that I’ve seen live. Bands like Russian Circles (, Tera Melos (, Zozobra (, and on and on and on have set some really high bars for other bands to aspire to.

So what makes those trios so good? Obviously there’s the fact that they’re just full of good musicians, but I feel like there being only three parts in the band forces a higher degree of creativity for each instrument.

Case in point: Helms Alee, seen here:

Ben Verellen (the guitarist) is playing some crazy guitar parts. Dana James, on bass, is often employing fuzz and chording to fill space while Ben plays solo type riffs. Hozoji Margullis is constantly driving the band forward with heavy hits utilizing the whole drum kit. And they’re doing all of this while each member sings. It all comes together for a unique sound that is just awesome.

Now, I understand why bands go with more members. By adding a rhythm guitarist, a band can allow each guitarist to focus on a different style of playing, and that eases the load on each of them. Adding a vocalist allows members to focus more on their playing instead of the vocals. As a bassist who has tried to sing while playing, I know that either suffers without a ton of practice if I try to do both at the same time.

So I’m not saying that having more members is necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve played in bands with 3 guitarists. One of those guitarists was described as “the guy who plays whale sounds.” I’m not sure that really added a whole lot to the sound, but a lot of post-rock style bands employ that idea.

There are always exceptions to the rule, but the more I think about it as I am working on starting my own band up, I think three piece is going to the be the direction that I head.

But that’s just like, my opinion, man.

Interview with Phanie from Girl in a Coma

Last semester, one of my professors turned me on to the band Girl in a Coma. Label mates of Sick of Sarah, and all around awesome chicks. I took another one of that professor’s classes this semester, and am writing a paper on the evolution of Chicano/a music, with a focus on the punk rock side of things.

So when it came time to talk about some of the influential bands in that scene, Girl in a Coma was on the top of that list. So I reached out through twitter, and Phanie, the drummer for the girls was awesome enough to answer my questions. Not all of the questions are related to music, but it’s a cool read nonetheless. So, without further ado: (My questions are in bold)

Who are some of your musical and cultural inspirations? It goes all over the place. Growing up in San Antonio music is a part of everything. From births to deaths, to turning 15, to cleaning the house. Everything. So our musical influence and inspiration range from rock from the 50s such as Richie Valens, Patsy Cline all the way to Selena , the Riot Grrrl scene, and even our own families who had their own cojunto groups.
How do you ladies identify yourselves? (Culturally, regionally, racially, etc.) Latinas.
Jim Mendiola directed a lot of your videos, and he uses some very strong imagery. What made you choose him for your videos, and was the imagery all intentional? Yes it was. We actually met him through a show we did called Jammin for a spanish english channel called SiTV. That is also how we met and got signed with Joan Jett. He really like his style of filming and how connected he is with his culture and his city, which is San Antonio. He understand how we are raised and where we come from. We knew that we wanted to have a video that showed off this city and people and we knew he could do it.
Regarding the imagery, is there a significance in that imagery to any of you? An example being the shots in Static Mind, that’s South San Antonio, if I’m not mistaken. Is that an area you grew up in? Actually we grew Northwest side of San Antonio. To us though.. San Antonio is its own thing in general. We all connect because we are all raised pretty much the same, we understand the music around here..we connect in this city. Our art our passions. It may be towards different goals but all in all its the same feeling. We try to highlight on what best represents that.
Your music has some very political undertones. Have you faced challenges as a result of that? Well its a challenge in itself being an all female latina group and have 2 members be gay. People automatically want to stick you in a category. Sometimes we won’t be taken serious as musicians.  We are a “girl” group. We are a “gay band”. We are a “texmex” band. To us we are just a band from San Antonio who loves what we do.. and wants to show that. That simple. Everyday is a challenge but the more we stick around and continue to do what we do.. the more we believe people begin to respect that.
And this one isn’t so much for the paper, but as a musician myself, I’ve gotta ask: What gear are you ladies using? (It looks like, from videos, Nina uses a modded Tele, and Jenn uses a…Gretsch?) Nina has a Brent Mason tele. Jenn uses a Jack Cassidy bass and I use Gretsch drums!

Thanks so much to Girl in a Coma for answering my questions!


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