Analogue Music | Coma Girls

Coma Girls

By Matt Conner

Chris Spino's vision for pop music comes from his definition—a much more expansive view than what modern categories might allow.

The man behind Coma Girls grew up appreciating a great hook, a killer melody, or a memorable composition no matter the box it was placed inside. It helped to have a musical household around him, revealing the beautiful flavors of folk and gospel, Motown and grunge. Within each, he found earworms aplenty. Pop music with permission to take on whatever musical form the song wanted.

Four years after Spino decided on a permanent move to Los Angeles, Coma Girls is releasing music again for the first time since 2015. It's a shift away from the band's debut, but Spino says the new environment is allowing him to find his "truest self." It's pop music by a rock band. It sears, jangles, bites and drives even as it catches your ear and doesn't let go. Right now, we just have a 7" of new songs to appreciate. Given enough time, however, we've got a feeling there's plenty more to come now that Spino is settled.

Analogue: The music changed since the last time we heard from you on this new 7". Was there an element of fear involved in shifting a sound? I'd imagine it's hard enough to establish an identity and sound these days that shifting things around could be problematic.

Chris Spino: I think it's easier when you're in a place you're not from. I have a hard time being pretentious so when you're in a place where you don't know anybody, you're able to be yourself easier than people you've known your whole life. It's easier to start over and have a fresh start and be yourself and not feel stuck with the person you've been your whole life. You can be the person you want to be, the person you are deep down, your truest self, I guess.

I'm really happy I grew up in Atlanta because I think it's a special place, but it's makes me value being out here in L.A. more. It has become my city. It has become my home. I'm honestly happy that I made the move.

" this current state of pop music, it's an exciting time to be doing what I am doing which is making pop music as a rock and roll band."

When I was in Atlanta, I was surrounded by music all of the time. My mom was a dance teacher. She had this old Cadillac, so we'd drive around and listen to oldies radio stations. Some of my earliest childhood memories are turning it up or listening to her cassettes over and over until they stopped working. Then I'd be in the dance studio with her or have records at the house. I think all of that had a really lasting impression when I was growing up.

Analogue: What was the soundtrack?

Chris: I grew up loving rock and roll and pop music. I grew up loving the Beatles, especially the early stuff, the Hard Day's Night era and their more mod stuff. My mom loved Elvis Presley and Rod Stewart and some other people, but the rock I grew up listening to was really pop music. It was Little Richard and the Kinks. Pop has a different connotation now than what I perceived growing up. I grew up listening to a lot of Motown girl groups, doo wop, stuff like that. Those heavy harmonies, like the Beach Boys, made me fall in love with rock and pop music.

Being out here in L.A. where there are so many pop artists and in this current state of pop music, it's an exciting time to be doing what I am doing which is making pop music as a rock and roll band. That's what Coma Girls has always been about. It's a band but it's also a solo project. It's a bedroom project for me but it's also a band where I enlist a rotating cast of friends of mine. So it's very much both.

Analogue: I'm glad you brought up the influences in the first place, because it's easy to hear some historic reference points despite the songs feeling fresh.

Chris: My dad is a writer so my parents are both creatives. They're also both teachers. Between that and then I grew up having a sister four years older than me. I learned to play guitar when I was in the pre-teen years, so I also fell in love with a lot of music that was prevalent at that time in the mid-'90s. My sister showed me stuff like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins. I remember Nevermind coming out on Geffen Records and they were the biggest band in the world. It was a phenomenon, but Kurt Cobain wrote pop songs.

You look at Geffen now and it's Nicki Minaj, but in the '90s, Sonic Youth was signed to Geffen. I think making that cross from loving oldies and being raised on gospel and folk and country and Motown but then also becoming a teenager and getting into punk and then also having a soft spot for softer stuff, it all draws me in. It's the culmination of things.

Analogue: You've been in L.A. now for four years. How has that time been for you?

Chris: When I came here, I was literally homeless for six months. I had a real hard time when I first moved here just to live. I was writing a lot when I moved here, but I didn't really have an outlet to release music or money to record. These two songs on the 7" are songs I wrote three years ago that are just now making their way out into the universe. It took me a while get set up on my feet and able to live. That's why I appreciate being out here now.

Analogue: Did that test your mettle?

Chris: I've always known that I wanted to write and perform. Living in L.A. feels a lot more appropriate here. Back in Atlanta, you say you're a musician and it's like, 'Yeah, but are you really? You work at a Chinese restaurant.' [Laughs] Here you can really be an artist without the guise that comes with being one in your hometown. I try not to get caught up in the idea of making it. I think it's important to keep your head down, hone your craft, and try to do something that moves you—something natural and true. Then when other people are listening to your music, they can relate it to their life.

VISIT: Coma Girls