NINA DIAZ

Psyko Steve Presents

NINA DIAZ

WILD MOCCASINS

Wed, April 4, 2018

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$12.00 - $14.00

Tickets at the Door

This event is 21 and over

NINA DIAZ
NINA DIAZ
Almost two decades ago, on January 9, 1998, musician Nina Diaz was heartbroken to learn her grandmother had passed away. Exactly 15 years later, on that same date, Nina was writing new material when she felt someone watching over her. “I was using that night and felt this crazy energy,” says Nina, who had been battling substance and drug addiction for years. She did this, unassumingly, while fronting Girl in a Coma, the critically hailed indie-punk band that was famously nurtured by Joan Jett, had opened for Morrissey and Tegan and Sara, and earned multiple Independent Music Awards. Adds Nina, “I knew it was my grandmother.”

She ended up naming that mid-tempo, balladic song “January 9th.” Though that track doesn’t necessarily typify the eclectic sound of The Beat Is Dead, her debut solo release, it does set the album’s bittersweet tone. “On the demo, you can hear somebody whisper words before I sing them,” Nina says. She’s pretty sure that was the ghost of her grandmother singing with her. Two months later, Nina became clean for good.

Many albums capture the flood of introspection that comes after a life-changing experience. But The Beat Is Dead (out October 28 on Cosmica Records)—an expansive body of work that sonically references musicals, alt-metal, indie pop, new wave—powerfully chronicles Nina’s journey itself. “This album is the story of my addiction and my sobriety,” she says. Some songs were written while using, some in the infancy of going clean, some looking back months later with clarity. “It’s like I shed a lot of different layers of skin during this process.”

The Beat Is Dead, produced by both Nina and Manuel Calderon (who engineered Girl in a Coma’s Trio B.C.), didn’t start out that way. While working on new material for her band, Nina penned the rousing “Trick Candle.” As with any other Girl in a Coma song, she fleshed it out with her bandmates, drummer Phanie Diaz (Nina’s sister) and bassist Jenn Alva. “I’m the writer, but our songs really are group efforts,” Nina says. “We jammed it out, but it didn’t feel right. It wasn’t what I envisioned.” What followed were a few difficult, but ultimately supportive, conversations about Nina taking on solo projects between Girl in a Coma albums. “It was a little rough at first. People were scared—I was scared!” she says. “But I knew I just needed to do this.”

Creative floodgates opened. “I didn’t hold back anything,” she says. “Trick Candle,” in kind, became a bright indie-electro banger. “It’s about Michael Hutchence from INXS,” she says. “I called it ‘Trick Candle,’ because to me, he’s somebody who’ll never burn out.” In the track, she implores, “Say to me I am all the things you’d like again / Say to me I am / Say to me I am Michael.” Nina was still using when she wrote those words.

“When I was young, I imagined what it would be like to live that kind of life,” she says, of romanticizing Kurt Cobain, Sid & Nancy, the model Gia Carangi. “But I would never pay attention to the endings of these stories. It was more, ‘I wanna live my life like that!’” After founding Girl in a Coma at age 13, she started drinking socially. At her 16th birthday party, acquaintances introduced her to cocaine. By the time she was 21, “I got arrested. You’d think that would be the wake-up call,” she says, “but I continued to drink and use.” After a stint in AA at age 24, she moved on to meth. “I was a functioning addict. Someone nonchalantly told my sister, not thinking it was a big deal,” she says. Her family was shocked. “It exploded into this big thing.”

The industrial sturm und drang of “Screaming Without a Sound” expresses how anxiety-ridden the steps toward sobriety can be. “It’s about when you’re trying to explain something. Do you ever have those dreams where you’re trying to say something, but nothing comes out? You can’t breathe,” Nina says. “That whole song has to do with the addict, when they’re talking to a brick wall—telling someone they need help, but the other person won’t listen.”

Allowing herself to express these rushes of emotion liberated Nina artistically. “After you’ve made a fool of yourself by treating yourself like I did while I was using and drinking, everything after that is, like, nothing,” she says. “‘Why not try this? Why not do that?’” With this abandon, she willfully drew on all of her influences: They didn’t have to speak to an overall sound; they just had to make sense in the moment. “Each song has its own message, its own energy,” she adds. What began, in her mind, as a five-track EP, grew into something epic. All told, it took her three years to assemble The Beat Is Dead.

Along the way, many demons were exorcised. Upon first listen, “Queen Beats King” seems to be a wistful, ’80s synth-take. “But it’s actually about me being enchanted by a suave guy—then all of a sudden, I’m in hell. Then I find a light. I get myself out of it.” She continues to explore that resolve with “For You,” about surrendering to post-sobriety spirituality, and the punk-cabaret “Rebirth.” “I’m back from the dead / Like I told you friend / I will not love you till you are my enemy,” she sings. “It became a mantra,” Nina says. “When you know yourself, that’s when you can hate yourself the most. But that’s part of being reborn. No birth is easy. It’s painful.”

In the case of the bluesy, almost spoken-word “Mortician’s Musician” (fittingly, The Beat Is Dead’s 13th track), Nina recounts—and, in many senses, recants—peculiar, intermittent encounters with her birth father throughout her childhood. “He’s a mortician and would pick us up on weekends in a hearse. We’d actually have to go pick up bodies with him,” she recalls. “Sometimes, I would literally sit next to a dead body.” Nina calls out him out for being blithely unaware of how desensitized he was. “I’m not a fool for saying goodbye / When all I have are promises and lies.”

“To punish myself anymore is not even possible,” Nina explains. “The Beat Is Dead means that this story is over."
WILD MOCCASINS
WILD MOCCASINS
Fronted by Zahira Gutierrez (vocals/keyboard) and Cody Swann (guitar/vocals), Wild Moccasins’ forthcoming third full-length serves as a new beginning for the group. Look Together tackles themes of repairing relationships, shedding insecurities, and fresh starts, with vibrant guitar and synth lines layered under Gutierrez’s soaring pop melodies. The impassioned 12- track LP began to form merely a week after the release of 2014’s 88 92, as Gutierrez and Swann’s decade-long romantic relationship dissolved.

Healing proved to be a burdensome task, as Wild Moccasins were charted for two years of extensive touring. Gutierrez and Swann would spend countless hours positioned in a shared tour van, painfully staring each other down on stage and ultimately exchanging exaggerated he- said-she-said’s through songwriting.

“When you’re going through a breakup it’s not uncommon for heartache to steer your mind toward resentment,” Swann says. “But I never imagined how jarring it would be to hear it sung to me on stage.”

Emotionally aggressive tracks like “Doe-Eyed Dancer” examine the complexities of observing an ex from afar, as Gutierrez bitingly sings, "And I bet you thought you wouldn’t get caught/It’s not entirely her fault/But she will never love you, no." The combative opener, “Boyish Wave,” tackles misguided judgment through feisty guitar riffs and antagonistic percussion. Look Together’s title track details love lost and the respective vows that come with the territory, while the album closes with the deeply pain-stricken, “Waterless Cup,” in which Gutierrez laments through flawless vocals, “After all, I’m the one who poured the salt/The one with the change of heart/ After all, it’s all my fault.”

Gutierrez and Swann began their writing partnership roughly a year into their romantic relationship, in 2007. The group has undergone numerous roster changes over the years, but currently exists with the addition of Avery Davis (drums) and original member Nicholas Cody (bass). The dynamic quartet’s 2009 debut release, Microscopic Metronomes, is purely indie rock-driven, bolstered by dancey guitar riffs and tightly knit vocal harmonies; while full lengths, Skin Collision Past (2011) and 88 92 saw the band add more new wave influences with shimmering synth underlays. Their latest effort is highly pop-powered, with Ben H. Allen (Gnarls Barkley, Deerhunter, Animal Collective) at the production helm. Recorded at Atlanta’s Maze studios, Allen encouraged the group to revise their approach to the writing and recording process. The result is a diverse album that blends the signature, guitar-driven elements of Wild Moccasins’ early discography with expansive electronic and '80s/'90s pop components.

For most romantically intertwined bands, Look Together would have never happened. Dissolving the group would seem to be the logical conclusion of their romantic split, but instead, the former couple chose to reconcile their differences the only way they knew how – working towards a common musical goal. Songwriting has been habitually engrained in the duo, and while being emotionally vulnerable with a former partner was difficult, it helped to construct the bridge between confusion and solidarity, culminating as a resilient and volatile break-up record co- written by exes.

“I think we look back on that time and take some comfort in knowing that we went through that together,” Swann says. “It needed to happen in order for us to have this resolve.”
“Yeah, it needed to happen,” Gutierrez adds. “Now, when I sing the songs, I find myself breathing a sigh of relief.”
Venue Information:
The Rebel Lounge
2303 E. Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ, 85016
http://www.therebellounge.com/