Alva, who with Phanie Diaz makes up those two thirds (Diaz’s sister and third band mate Nina is straight), is happy to be lumped together with other lesbian bands like Gossip. “As long as it’s not crappy pop music,” she snaps.
If anything, the trio’s cross to bear is, as with the Shondes, their name. “It’s something that we did a long time ago,” she says of the moniker, which references “Girlfriend in a Coma,” a 1987 song by the Smiths. “I don’t necessarily think we’d ever take it back because we still love the Smiths and Morrissey so much, but I don’t know,” she trails off, sighing. “Some people think we’re a tribute band.”
Susan SurfTone might suffer a similar fate, but if so, she doesn’t see it as a negative. The surf musician adopted the name to reflect her unusual identity: “I’m a guitar player who doesn’t sing.”
While growing up in landlocked upstate New York in the 1960s (SurfTone is 57), she was taken with surf music at an early age, thanks to one-hit wonders like the Chantays, whose “Pipeline” hit number 4 on the Billboard charts in 1963, and the Pyramids, who hit it big the following year with “Penetration,” considered the last great instrumental surf music hit. “I just gravitated towards that sound,” says SurfTone.