“When we see (Joan Jett), it’s like seeing our tia that we haven’t seen in a minute.” -Phanie Diaz
With their tour van parked outside and instruments sitting in the entryway of their downtown home, Fea is preparing to hit the road on tour.
I sat down with three band members July 6 to discuss everything from their upcoming tour, their relationship with Joan Jett, their love for San Antonio to their favorite Texas foods.
Bassist Jenn Alva, drummer Phanie Diaz, singer Letty Martinez and guitarist Shelly Webster comprise Fea. Founded in 2015, the San Antonio-based Chicana punk rock band has been praised by National Public Radio and Alternative Press magazine.
Despite the acclaim, Fea isn’t shielded from scrutiny.
“We got our fair share of public people poking at us,” Diaz said. “Especially being females in rock, we tend to get more picked on for how we look.”
The band takes the criticism with a grain of salt and makes it an opportunity for discussion.
“We go into it with an open mind,” Alva said. “We give people an opportunity to understand us.”
Martinez said the criticism motivates them.
“I think the three of us have the personality where when someone wants to make fun of us or put us down, it fuels us,” she said.
How does the band get past the critical observation? It’s easy once they’re on stage.
“I find that those 45 minutes where I’m on stage is the moment where I get to escape personal problems,” Martinez said. “The stage is a great place to be and that’s why the pandemic was really hard on us.”
Prior to COVID-19 lockdowns, Fea purchased a tour van for the upcoming shows they had booked. When quarantine restrictions were implemented, the band was put in a tough spot.
In November of 2020, they live streamed a show from The Bang Bang bar (co-owned by Diaz) to fundraise to keep their tour van.
In spite of the financial uncertainty, the band said quarantine was a learning experience.
The break from touring gave Fea a new sense of appreciation for it.
“It was a blessing in disguise in a weird way,” Diaz said. “It was good that it happened so that we could weed out what we needed to and bring in what we needed.”
This August, tour dates are back on and they’re eager to get back onstage. Fea has eight shows scheduled in Texas, including two with Joan Jett.
Fea is signed to Jett’s record label, Blackheart Records, and said she is very supportive and proud of the band.
“She’s a big part of what we do,” Diaz said. “When we see her, it’s like seeing our tia that we haven’t seen in a minute.”
Martinez laughed about an experience she had while wearing a Joan Jett shirt at the gym.
“Some girl came up to me and was like, ‘Oh, my God! Did you hear (Jett’s) going to play here?” Martinez explained. “I was like, ‘Do I say that I’m the opener?”
She said she told the woman her band was opening for Jett.
“She was shocked,” Martinez said with a laugh. “She said she was definitely going to go to the show. I was like, ‘Whatever, like Joan didn’t convince you! Like she’s really going to go to the show just to see me who couldn’t do a pull-up.”
Even when describing the most uncomfortable tour experiences or injuries, the band expressed gratitude for the “adventures.”
The band described once spending the night in a cat infested apartment of a fan in Florida and Alva reflected on dropping equipment on her foot just before a show in San Francisco.
“It’s fun,” Diaz said. “As odd as it gets, we laugh about it the next day.”
Alva and Diaz grew up in San Antonio, meeting at Jefferson High School and graduating from Edison and MacArthur. And although Martinez is from the valley, they all share a love for San Antonio and have no intentions of moving away.
“When we were in Girl in A Coma, we had hometown love,” Alva said. “So it only makes sense to stay and grow here.”
Prior to Fea, Diaz and Alva were part of another San Antonio band, Girl in A Coma with Diaz’s sister, Nina Diaz.
Girl in A Coma, who broke up in 2018, left a lasting impression in the music community. The band opened for Morrissey and their album, “Exits and All The Rest” was named on NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2011 list.
With so many local musicians performing around town, the band said it’s important to go out and attend a show.
Diaz said going to see a show is a way to discover new music.
“You need to come out and support,” Diaz said. “That’s what grows the community and bonds us together. You can make someone rise out of it. That’s what happened to our band and it can happen to anybody.”
The band’s upcoming Texas shows are:
Aug. 5 House of Rock – Corpus Christi
Aug. 6 The Gremlin – McAllen
Aug. 7 The Cold Brew – Laredo (tickets at door)
Aug. 8 The Lonesome Rose – San Antonio
Aug 13 Dan Electro’s – Houston
Aug 14 Paper Tiger – San Antonio
Aug 21 Nutty Brown Amphitheatre w/ Joan Jett – Austin
Aug 22 Floore’s w/ Joan Jett – Helotes
Writer’s pick: ICU
Fea’s pick: Moderna Mujer
Fea’s tour must-haves: Tacos, Whataburger and Hot Cheetos and cheese