Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Chicana and proud: an interview with Fea

Photo Courtesy of Fea
Photo Courtesy of Fea

Women in the music industry are held to a standard demanding sexual appeal. If a woman aspires to succeed musically, she is often encouraged – if not required – to slim her waist, grow out her hair and augment her breasts and buttocks just to advance her product, pressures and procedures her male counterparts seldom experience.

Nevertheless, San Antonio based Chicana punk rock band Fea is taking steps to promote that women in the music industry are more than just their bodies, cultural background or sexuality.

Fea came together in 2014 during a temporary hiatus from Girl in a Coma. Two of GiaC’s members, drummer Phanie Diaz and bassist Jenn Alva, decided to channel their fervor for empowering women – specifically, women of color – into a culturally rich and forceful product, and thus, Fea was born.

The band has crafted a sound exclusive to Chicana San Antonio, filled with intermittent English and Spanish lyrics, upbeat guitar riffs and politically cognizant hooks like, “No soy golfa ni ramera, no soy puta o mujezuela! No soy zorra, no soy perra! Solo soy mujer moderna!”

Fea debuted at the 2014 Maverick Music Festival and went on to tour the country with bands such as Babes in Toyland and Kristeen Young.

After a few transitions in membership, the present-day Fea is lead by bassist Jenn Alva, drummer Phanie Diaz, vocalist Letty Martinez and guitarist Aaron Magana.

In honor of the band’s two year anniversary and stellar show the 2016 Maverick Music Festival, Elizabeth Davis of the Paisano spoke to Diaz about the band’s concept, and what San Antonio’s response has been in receiving Fea’s socially constructed, unwavering Chicana message.

Q: Fea began in 2014 during a break period of Girl in a Coma. Are each of Fea’s current members based in of San Antonio, and did you guys know each other previously?

Phanie: Jenn, myself and Aaron are all from San Antonio. Letty is from the Valley of Texas and currently lives in San Marcos. She’s working on living in SA, though.

Jenn and I met when we were in 7th grade. So a long time ago. It’s been a 20+ year friendship. We bonded over music and have that drive to this day.

We met Aaron at an open mic Nina used to host in 2010 or so. Letty had a previous band she fronted called Angela and the X’s, and whenever GiaC would play the Valley, they would open up.

When we started Fea we put an ad up on Craigslist looking for a singer and Letty replied. Small world!

Q: Fea blends social awareness and culture into a product that is wholeheartedly fierce, but not unwelcoming. This is conveyed through even your band’s name, Fea, which represents the fact that you all don’t view yourselves as conventionally “beautiful.”

Fea isn’t after the stereotypical or even desired image of female beauty; rather, you guys seem to be dismantling the idea that women — especially Latina women — have to be beautiful if they want to make it in music.

I guess I want to know what public reception has been to this idea?

PD: You hit the nail on the head. The cool thing is our audience gets exactly what we are trying to do and we have been well received. We believe once our May record is released it’s going to open up a conversation that already exists but tends to be overlooked or even ignored.

In this industry women are told how to look in order to sell records. It should not be so. It has happened to Jenn and I, and we’ve been told comments about our weight and look.

The product is the music. I find that there is just too much music that is mass produced, similar in sound and no thought behind it and its selling. This is because people are getting conditioned to believe that this is the way it is. It’s not.

When females like myself, Jenn and Letty come forward and talk about it and expose it we can address it. We need males to also understand that a woman is not an object and also carries the same strength as them.

We are equal beings. That is why Aaron is here as well. He sees us as equal musicians.

Q: I hear a lot of Riot Grrrl in Fea’s sound. Who would you say are Fea’s biggest musical influences?

PD: Alice Bag, Poly Styrene and our mothers.

Q: In May, Fea is heading out on tour with Kristeen Young, and on May 5, you guys are premiering your new record at Hitones. This might be a breach of contract, but will “Mujer Moderna” be featured on the record?

PD: The release on May 5 has the songs we did with Lori Barbero of Babes In Toyland.

However, in July the full length will be released with songs produced by Alice Bag, Laura Jane Grace and Lori. It will also include “Mujer Moderna” with a video.

Q: 2016 is not the first time Fea will have played at Maverick Music Festival. In fact, you all did your debut show at Maverick in 2014.

What does Maverick Music Fest mean to you all, and how much do you think it does for the city of San Antonio’s musical landscape and attraction?

PD: It’s no secret that Jenn and I adore San Antonio. People will always have a love and hate relationship with their hometown, but once you leave it you start to realize how great it is here. How cultural and real it is.

I always hear the conversation that San Antonio holds them back. There is no such thing. You can only hold yourself back. Changing the scenery will not change your development. It’s what you can do to better your talent and how you can expand.

There are ways to leave and expand but always come back to home base. We’ve always asked ourselves how can the band grow and how can we help this city. It’s a give and take.

Girl in a Coma only became successful because of the people here. We are proud of them and they of us. You are limitless when you have that hometown support. So having these festivals just showcases how beautiful this city can be.

It’s great to feel that energy and to have touring bands see that we have something special here as well.


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