“A lot of the songs on the album are about being away from home and being on tour and just the way that our lives have become. This band is such a big part of our lives now. It’s who we are.”
In an age where celebrity musicians take chartered planes to drop in on EDM festivals for one-hour sets, punk-rock trio, The Coathangers, are staying true to rock n’ roll’s original touring roots. From the very beginning the outspoken Atlanta-based group has constantly been on the road and in fact decided to form the band on the way from an anti-Bush rally in Washington, D.C. in 2006. Ten years later, guitarist, Julia Kugel; bassist, Meredith Franco; and drummer, Stephanie Luke are still on the move, but they’ve collected a lot of fans along the way, including Sonic Youth frontwoman and artist, Kim Gordon, who surprised the feisty femmes when she showed up to one of their Los Angeles gigs.
The Untitled Magazine got a firsthand glimpse of The Coathangers’ transitory lifestyle when we caught up with the band, in not one, but two cross-country locales: New York and Los Angeles. The “City of Angels” holds a deep significance for the group, as it is where they recorded their fifth studio album, Nosebleed Weekend. The decision to work in California marked a huge change in their process, as all of their previous LPs were created close to home in Atlanta. Working with producer, Nic Jodoin, at Valentine Recording Studios in North Hollywood produced an album that was unlike anything they have done before. Songs like “Make It Right” and title track, “Nosebleed Weekend” explore universal experiences, as opposed to earlier songs that described personal anecdotes. Worldly themes deserve a world tour and The Coathangers are currently on the US leg of an eighteen-month tour that has taken them around the globe from Europe to Japan, making its final stop in Australia this October.
Editor-in-chief Indira Cesarine spoke to Julia, Meredith, and Stephanie fresh off of the release of Nosebleed Weekend. Check out the full interview below to get the inside scoop on the making of the album, and our two exclusive photo shoots.
Indira Cesarine: How did The Coathangers come about?
Stephanie Luke: Julia and I knew each other in high school and then Julia and Meredith knew each other from work. I was living in Los Angeles and had moved back to Atlanta. I always wanted to play music, and I think the girls had as well. Julia had played classical guitar and stuff. When I got back we got some crappy instruments and started jamming out at her house in Decatur, Georgia. Then everything just started building. We got a practice space and started writing real songs, then we got our first show. It was like dominos. It was mainly due to the Atlanta music scene because a lot of our friends were in bands. They’re the ones who encouraged us to play shows, get the practice space, and get it together.
IC: How did you come up with your name? Does it reference abortion?
Julia Kugel: Well, we don’t ever want go back to that, right? It’s the woman’s right to choose or whatever the hell she wants to do. If you want to have babies, great. If you don’t, great. We were very politically active at that point, and we went to an anti-Bush rally in Washington, D.C. While we were driving back, we were like, “We should start a band!” and, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we called it, The Coathangers?” We looked it up and no one had used that name. People said, “Oh, is it because you love clothes?”
Meredith Franco: What did your mom say that one time? “It’s because you’re so skinny and your clothes hang off of you!”
S: I was like, “Sure… let’s go with that…”
IC: Sometimes skinny girls are referred to as “coat hangers,” but the abortion, pro-choice, point of view makes more sense. It’s really interesting.
J: It’s whatever you want it to be. We didn’t set out to be political, but it is just a fun name that got people talking. Whether it’s about body image or women’s rights, it’s probably a proper thing to talk about.
IC: Who were the artists that you were listening to when you first started the band?
J: We all came from very different musical backgrounds. Stephanie’s more of the punk rock background. I’m more into the weirdo, post-punk stuff like Gang of Four, and Meredith’s more like a rock ’n’ roll girl. That’s where we came together. That’s why the music is kind of all over the place; it’s not strictly punk rock or rock ’n’ roll. It is post-punk but weirder. We were limited in our ability to play because when we started it was just for fun. We had to be more creative in order to make it interesting.
IC: You definitely have some interesting lyrics. How do you come up with your song names? Your song, “Shut the Fuck Up,” is awesome, and “Don’t Touch My Shit” is another one. Those are great names!
S: It is just what you want to say.
M: Well “Don’t touch my shit”…
J: It was about a roommate who was touching Stephanie’s shit. The first lyrics in the song are, “I told you don’t touch my papers.”
J&M: “Cause they’re mine!”
J: It’s about real life. We have a song called “Shut the Fuck Up” and “Shut Up.” There’s a running theme about people and their big mouths. Because of what we do, we put ourselves in the position to get a lot of opinions, suggestions, and stuff thrown at us inadvertently, so theres some “shut up” references.
M: We just don’t swear as much now.
S: We’re not as angry as we used to be.
IC: Why is that?
S: We got older. It’s been ten years.
M: We’ve grown up since our early 20s.
S: Yes, we’ve kind of slowed down a little bit.
IC: So now you’re going to start writing ballads? (laughs)
J: We’ve always had the slow songs and the fast songs. We used to write stuff like, “Don’t touch my shit.” Now we write, “You can have it. I don’t want that shit.” It’s a different mentality. In your 20s you’re like, “Oh, it’s mine, this is mine.” Then in your 30s you’re like, “Oh, fuck it. Take whatever you want.” It’s a different way of looking at it.
IC: Tell me about your new album, Nosebleed Weekend.
S: It’s our fifth full-length album. We recorded it in Los Angeles, which is different. We always have recorded in Atlanta, but we got this really great guy, Nic Jodoin. He was our producer and helped us record, engineer, and produce the album. It was like nothing we’ve ever done before. We took a lot of time on this album and spent a lot of time with song structuring and trying to make the lyrics more accessible. We wanted the lyrics to speak to everybody, not just so much “This is my experience,” but, “This is what we all experience.” We were out in LA on and off for a year. It’s my favorite album that we’ve done, so that’s pretty exciting.
IC: Which songs are you most excited about?
S: We have the title track called, “Nosebleed Weekend,” which has a karma base to it.
IC: What is the “nosebleed” in reference to?
S: It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek. The main thing is, if you keep coming at me in a certain way, then I’m gonna punch you in the nose. You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin,’ that kind of thing. There’s also a literal reference. Meredith gets these awful nosebleeds on tour, especially when we’re in higher elevation, so she has her struggle with that. There’s the drug reference, but that wasn’t the idea behind it. It wasn’t intentional.
J: Even with drugs, if you indulge, then you might get a nosebleed. It’s like, “It’s alright, it’s okay, you’ll get yours.”
J: If you listen to the words, it’s like, “You’re being loud, and rude but, it’s alright, it’s okay. We’ll see what happens. You might get a nosebleed.” Whether it’s because you’re a crazy coke-head or because you’re just rude and someone might end up punching you in the nose.
S: It’s a “What goes around, comes around,” kind of thing. There’s a lot of good songs on the album. A lot of them are about being away from home and being on tour and just the way that our lives have become. This band is such a big part of our lives now. It’s who we are.
IC: Is this a full time gig for all of you?
S: When we are at home, we try to work our old jobs as much as possible, but it’s hard to say, “We’re in town for a month or a couple of weeks and then we go back out on the road.” It’s hard to keep a steady job. I’d rather be on tour then behind a bar.
IC: You’ve mentioned that you had some political references when you first started out. Are you still politically active when it comes to your point of view as a band or do you find that is something best left separate?
S: You’ve got to be careful with that because we don’t want to tell people what to think or what to do. You should think for yourself. At the same time, with everything that’s going on right now…where do you begin with this Donald Trump shit? Also, the Planned Parenthood stuff thats going on…
S: For the most part, we try to stay out of politics.
J: If we could have Planned Parenthood at the shows that would be great. We’ve worked with them before.
J: There’s nothing worse than someone standing and preaching to you. It instantly makes me want to walk away.
IC: Are there any causes that you’re really into?
S: Ours is just pro-feminism basically. People get feminism mixed up with hating men; that’s what they think sometimes. It’s just about equality. It’s just about being treated the same. When we first started, it was more of a boys’ club as far as bands and everything.
IC: In punk rock?
S: There weren’t a lot of all girl bands around since Bikini Kill and all those other riot grrrl bands. Our cause is to empower other females. We love it when girls come up to us after a show and say, “Oh, I started a band because of you,” or “I started playing guitar because of you guys.” Our cause is to continue to empower other females to do what they want.
S: Don’t let anyone scare you or hold you back.
J: Everyone lives in fear and then they don’t try, so we are trying to encourage girls and boys, whoever. It’s fun to have lived it and have someone see it and think, “Oh, I can do it?” It’s like “Yeah, you can.” You just do it and put one foot in front of the other. That’s in any business, really.
IC: I know you have your new album coming out. Do you have a tour booked yet?
S: We’ve got the next year and a half planned out, so we’re excited about that. We’re going to be touring with one of our favorite bands, The Refused. They’re amazing and we’re going to be doing direct support for them. Then we get to go back to Europe and then Australia. Hopefully, we’ll get to go to Japan. After that, we are touring the States. It’s so nice to be in the van and actually travel. Doing those long drives can be really tedious, but it’s also really beautiful. You get to meet people.
M: You get to go to towns you would never think to go to.
S: We’re excited just to get back out on the road and get back to work.
IC: I heard that Kim Gordon is a huge fan of your music. How did that come about?
J: We’ve seen her around Los Angeles a lot. She’s always at our shows, and she’s working on Glitterbust, her project with Alex Knost. They were playing somewhere, and we saw her and were like, “Come to the show.” She came to the show, and we were stoked!
S: We got to play with them at Pappy + Harriet’s.
J: She is just a cool person, and she makes great music. It’s a huge compliment. It just kind of happened that way. It was rad.
M: We told her about the show and then we saw her. We were like, “Oh my god, she showed up!” We were freaking out and then, we were like, “Yeah we had a beer with her!” We were trying not to think about it because we didn’t want to freak out.
IC: For her to come to your show is a big compliment. She’s such an icon.
J: She’s gone through it all. She’s seen first hand what it’s like to be a female in the boys’ club.
New York Photography and Styling by Indira Cesarine
LA Photography by Jeff Forney