Coathangers come in lots of different shapes and sizes. They can be sharp and rusty or a dusty shade of brass. They can scream, play drums, and roust a crowd into a frenzy. Sometimes, they strut around in matching denim jackets. They’re calloused road warriors with a soft exterior. The Coathangers, hailing from Atlanta and opening for the Black Lips on their current North American tour, are three rocker girls who continue to impress and evolve as musicians.
“It’s really more like women’s lib, being able to say and do what you want and kind of pissing people off, but not really,” says Stephanie Luke, explaining the thought put into the band’s name – an important sentiment coming from an all-girl punk band who just released their latest LP, Suck My Shirt (Suicide Squeeze, 2014).
Vancouver Weekly: Originally, you guys started the band for fun? What was the scenario that made that happen?
Stephanie: Well, I was trying to tour manage bands out in LA, and I got tired of tour managing. So… when I got back [to Atlanta], me and Julia [Kugel] started talking starting a band. She had played music before, and I’ve always wanted to play the drums.
Julia: You hadn’t played before?
S: Nope. So, then we just started jamming around in her apartment. And, yeah… Julia and Meredith [Franco] were working together, so she came in on the bass, and it just kind of snowballed. We got a jam space. We got our first show, then our first 7″. Then we started booking our own tours.
VW: So, you guys just learned as you went?
S: Pretty much.
J: Fake it ’til you make it.
S: We were touring with other bands and applied that to us. We’ve been working really hard at it since then, y’know?
VW: Obviously, your sound has changed then since the beginning. Become tighter. Evolved with time. But originally, you were four people, and now you’re three. How does that affect your sound?
S & J (same time): We just don’t have a keyboard [chuckles].
S: Pretty simple. I mean, it wasn’t on bad terms or anything. She just didn’t wanna do it anymore. Got tired of touring.
VW: That’s understandable. And you all have nicknames?
S: Rusty Coathanger.
J: Crook Kid.
VW: Is this like a stab at the Spice Girl format or anything?
S, J, & M: No, like the Ramones!
S: “The Spice Girl format”… I like that, I’ll remember that one!
VW: The music video for “Follow Me”… I liked that a lot. Are you close with the guys in Mastodon?
S: We know Brent [the guitarist] really well, and we know Brann [the drummer].
J: Atlanta’s very small. We all know each other. It’s a small city, big town.
VW: That’s nice. There’s a pretty tight community between all the musicians then?
J: Yeah. We all practice in the same space. You see everyone. I mean, we’ve been doing it for so long now. Brent was at our very first CD release show. They helped us play our very first shows on the east coast too.
S: Yeah. It’s like a family.
J: And they just happened to have twenty minutes in the middle of their recording.
S: We were like, “Hey, do you mind doing this?” And, they were like, “Oh yeah of course, of course.”
J: They came in and picked out the dresses they liked. Put on the wigs.
M: We did about three takes, and then it was done!
VW: Did you guys have a backup plan if they couldn’t squeeze that time in?
S: Nope. No backup plan.
J: If that didn’t work out, then we wouldn’t have had a video. ‘Cause we didn’t want to be in the video.
VW: This new album is the first as a threesome. We already went over your sound without keyboards, but how is this album different from the rest?
S: I think the album is more raw.
J: Dynamics are always gonna change, no matter what happens. If you were in the room while we were playing, it’s just gonna feel different than if just the three of us were playing. It is different but not in a blatant way. Just the feel of it.
VW: Have you ever toyed with the idea of adding somebody else?
S, J, & M: Nooo.
S: This is such a good dynamic. So easy.
J: And we started the band together, not because we picked each other as musicians, but as friends. There’s no point, unless for some reason, something magical happens.
VW: In terms of songwriting, how is this record different from the others?
S: I guess… we’ve filled in where the keyboards used to be with a little more vocals, guitar pedals, and stuff. I’m always trying to push myself as a drummer. I think we’re all trying to push ourselves to get better at our instruments. You can never know enough. But for songwriting, it’s stayed the same. We all do it together.
J: Yeah. It’s always been very diplomatic. We always collaborate.
M: Still very accepting of people’s ideas too, though.
J: Everything gets a try.
VW: What I noticed in the record were that the themes were a little more personal, less playful than the previous records.
S: I guess that’s because we got a little more… I don’t wanna say serious, but more aware of what we wanted to write about. We wanted it to be songs that everyone can relate to.
J: They still come from real life situation, like all the other ones. But yeah, maybe a bit more aware that people will be listening to this one. Where with the other ones[, they] were just like [guttural noise]. This is me. This is us.
M: We definitely had to put more thought into it, but we had time, too. All the other times, we didn’t have time.
J: [Larceny and Old Lace] we had the most time. Like, the first record we recorded in about twelve hours. Overnight. The second one was in our practice space. The third one was in a studio. Just kept baby-steppin’ it up. And with this one, we came in prepared with all the songs done. We just came in there and played. It was very easy in that sort of way.
VW: Do you guys feel more pressure at all then? Was this release more daunting than the others?
J: They all feel like that. Plus, we have one member missing. So people are questioning what we’re gonna sound like. That, actually, made it more exciting, though. We were excited to hear what we were gonna sound like. What are we gonna do?
M: Or like [nervous, timid voice], “What are we gonna sound like?”
M: ‘Cause we had never heard some of the songs. We played them and practiced them but not heard them recorded.
J: There’s always pressure, though.
VW: Self-pressure, mostly?
S: Yeah. This is our life.
J: And it’s kinda like you’re putting yourself out there. So it’s hard to put that out for judgment.
VW: Well, that’s the ultimate dilemma with any form of art or self-expression. You’re making a very personal thing open for judgment by the public.
J: You have to. Otherwise, it won’t feel authentic.
VW: And that’s what people are looking for.
With time, the Coathangers have proven their prowess as punk prodigies. The sounds have only tightened with age and promise to keep improving. Their style, grit, and dedication to improve and push out authentic-sounding records will keep them in the spotlight touring with bigger bands (i.e. the Black Lips). This was their fourth time playing in Vancouver. I recommend you keep your eyes peeled for the fifth.
Released on March 18, pick up a copy of Suck My Shirt at your local record store.