Between Hell and the Bollocks with Chica Diabla

“Every time we get momentum going, my stupid cancer thing happens and I’m, like, ‘Oh, my god!’”

“The first rule of business is find a void and fill that niche,” Nats explained. “We knew nobody was doing what we were doing in San Diego." (Chica Diabla left to right: Nats, Jon, Elizabeth, and Rachel)
  • “The first rule of business is find a void and fill that niche,” Nats explained. “We knew nobody was doing what we were doing in San Diego." (Chica Diabla left to right: Nats, Jon, Elizabeth, and Rachel)

Chica Diabla vocalist Elizabeth B. and bassist Rachel Bunz had a homespun, three-song demo of material in the can when their future drummer happened upon a posting they had placed on Craigslist.

“I moved out here from Minneapolis to go into a PhD program for education in psychology,” Nasty Nats explained to the Reader. “I was going to retire from music. This would have been my second retirement. I tried to do it when I was back home and I couldn’t do it. Then I came out here and I couldn’t do it. I checked out Craigslist for shits and giggles and there was an ad that said ‘Female front and female bass...Runaways/Missing Persons style band,’ and I was, like, ‘Oh shit, that’s right up my alley.’ So I went and jammed with those girls.”

The three clicked and started practicing together. Nasty Nats brought a heavier edge to the band that would steer their material more in the direction of harder rock and punk as opposed to the “cutesy pop,” as Nats referred to it, of their original demo. All three contributed to the creative process and generated songs before they found a guitarist — Jon Jon St. Patty.

"Bat-Shit Crazy"

...by Chica Diabla, live at Brick by Brick, July 2015

...by Chica Diabla, live at Brick by Brick, July 2015

When their producer asked them how they wanted their debut album to sound, Nats requested “a mix between Highway to Hell and Never Mind the Bollocks,” which sums up the LP quite well. Besides Liz B.’s vocals (which are often compared to Missing Persons frontwoman Dale Bozzio), the signature sound of this band is St. Patty’s overdriven amplifier — a tone that has its roots in the blitzkrieg delivery of the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones. It’s not a new sound, but it is one that has been dormant — and missed — for decades.

“The first rule of business is find a void and fill that niche,” Nats explained. “We knew nobody was doing what we were doing in San Diego. The crowd that really likes us, the 30- or 40-somethings who grew up with bands like us and the Runaways and Missing Persons, they don’t get that in San Diego. So when we come out and do that, they kinda go apeshit.”

Chica Diabla knew they had tapped into a winning formula when they played the Touchies CD-release party a couple months after they had started gigging out. Nats referred to the enthusiastic response of the crowd at the Casbah as the band’s “You like us! You really like us!” moment. More gigs ensued, and the band even scored a prime spot opening for Bunz’s heroes Nashville Pussy at the Hideout. Chica Diabla’s album had just come out, better gigs were on the horizon, and then Liz B. found out an old enemy had returned — cancer.

Fundraiser for Elizabeth B. at San Diego Woman's Club, July 9, 2016

Fundraiser for Elizabeth B. at San Diego Woman's Club, July 9, 2016

“Every time we get momentum going, my stupid cancer thing happens and I’m, like, ‘Oh, my god!’” Liz explained. “Back in 2013, when I first had cancer, we had Jon in place and we were starting to get momentum and starting to get opportunities. Than I had cancer and had to be out for a while. Then, the second time, when I was diagnosed in December [2015], we had just opened for Nashville Pussy. We were getting these opportunities and now I’ve been out for a while. It’s been frustrating for me. Luckily, the band stands behind me and waits for me.”

The breast cancer has spread to Liz’s brain and, as a result, she has been getting radiation treatments and heavy doses of medication to fight it. The medication tends to zap her energy, so Chica Diabla has been on hold for most of 2016. The band recently began practicing again because Liz’s radiation treatments have been completed.

The band’s first gig back will be a fundraising party for Liz at the San Diego Woman’s Club on July 9. All of the proceeds for the event will go to Liz to help her through her difficult time. And the gig will be a change for the band, as the event’s clientele will differ from those at their usual nightclub gatherings.

“It will be our first show back and it’s, like, ‘No pressure!’” Liz said with a laugh. “It will be in front of all these people that I know from different facets of my life. My job. What I call my normal friends — my friends that don’t go out and see bands...”

“Those weird normal people,” adds Nats.

Even during this time of struggle, the band continues to hold a positive place in Liz’s life.

“I can’t drive now because the cancer is in my brain, so I’m at home a lot doing nothing,” she said. “I don’t go to work. I’m on disability. It does provide something to look forward to and something to get me out of the house... Everything was the same for a long time, during the treatments for the past six months, so it’s nice to be doing something creative. It makes me happy.”

Chica Diabla plays the San Diego Woman’s Club (2557 Third Ave) on July 9 from 3 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $50. And on Friday, August 19, they play a long-coming record-release show at the Casbah.

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