Interview for Heatwave Magazine
Atlanta-based band, the Coathangers, were a band before they became musicians. All they wanted was to hang out, jam out some tunes and have fun while they were at it.
So, ten years ago, a new exhilarating band was born, consisting of Julia Kugel (guitar/vocals), Meredith Franco (bass/vocals) and Stephanie Luke (drums/vocals). Growing from their early days of no-wave and primitive garage rock through classic rock, and even some country ballads, you can never miss their omnipresent ferocious and irreverent punk rock attitude.
Look out for this wonder group, for they know what they’re doing and they are insanely serious about having fun. And yes, the Coathangers are on their way to this side of the pond to promote their fresh new album!
Heatwave: The Coathangers have been around for ten years. A decade is a pretty round number. What do you see when you look back?
Julia: I see us growing up in a blur of shows and records, of new and fading friendships and relationships, fun times and trying times. Probably the same things you see when you look back, ha. Ten years is a long time…
Stephanie: Yeah, ten years is a nice round number! I see a lot of hard work, a lot of amazing experiences, traveling the world, meeting really great people, seeing and experiencing a lot of great other bands, and also getting to meet some of our musical heroes like Joan Jett, Ian MacKaye, Keith Morris, etc.
Heatwave: And what do you foresee for the next ten years?
Julia: More surprises and further successes. Watching each other turn 40! Ha! Damn. Records, songs, tours, life.
Stephanie: Hopefully more of the same and more albums!
Heatwave: Nosebleed Weekend, your fifth album, will be released on 15th of April. How was it to record your first album outside Atlanta, this time at Valentine Recording Studios in North Hollywood?
Julia: It was amazing and challenging. We isolated ourselves in Los Angeles and pushed ourselves to write and play better. It was a very focused effort.
Stephanie: It was a little weird feeling at first, not awkward or uncomfortable, just very different not being at the Living Room Studios in Atlanta. However once we really got to recording at the historic and retro-beautiful Valentine’s Studios, we felt right at home.
Heatwave: How much does this album differ from the other ones? Do you see it as a ten-year stepping-stone, perhaps?
Julia: This album has a warmth and focus that perhaps is different from the other records. Really, we always saw that each record is a snap shot of where we are in life at the time. That’s how the record is different – we physically and emotionally were at a different place.
Stephanie: This is the second album as a trio, so even though there’s only three of us, there’s a lot of volume and power behind these songs, very straight forward rock, but yet it still maintains our Coathangers vibe/sound. These qualities mainly stem from having an amazing producer/engineer, Nic Jodoin, who really made us work this album HARD! He helped with pushing us to our limits, song structure, etc., really amazing to be able to have worked with him!
Heatwave: Why this title? There must be a story behind this one too.
Julia: It really came about because Meredith (Minnie) kept getting nosebleeds on tour. It’s something that runs in her family. It kinda became an on running joke. Then one day I just kinda came up with the phrase and blam… funny, irreverent record title. Just our style.
Stephanie: The title actually refers to karma in a way, kinda. As in, if you talk crap about people maybe expect to see it come back to ya in a rough way.
Heatwave: Where do the ideas and storylines for your music stem from?
Julia: Life. People. I recently made a move to Southern California, which influenced the storylines – A sudden feeling of alienation, missing home, not knowing where home actually is. We toured quite a lot during the past two years and that always breeds ideas. Also there were some deaths, as there usually are. Love.
Stephanie: Our ideas and storylines always come from personal experiences and people we have met or had relationships with, sometimes we write a song that simply has no meaning, and we let the listener make up their own storyline for it.
Heatwave: After ten years of touring, did you develop any rituals of preparation? Maybe a quirky routine or even some kind of mantra?
Stephanie: We’ve got a few rituals, usually there’s always a group hug and of course a shot of tequila or a cheering of sorts! We also try and stretch beforehand, so we aren’t as sore the next show.
Julia: We usually do a group hug before the show. And Steph usually smacks us on the butt. ‘I love you’ is our mantra.
Heatwave: By now you are more sisters than most siblings. How does this bounding affect your development as musicians?
Julia: We encourage each other and are able to be brutally honest with each other when necessary. Therefore we are able to push each other as musicians and writers. This also enables us to be more generous with each other. Egos take a backseat to what is best for the group.
Stephanie: We are most definitely related now! Being as close as we are helps with lots of aspects in the band. It helps with everything from songwriting to working things out if we get in a tiff, etc. Definitely helps us be honest with each other on every level.
We are so close now, I sometimes don’t even need to look up or even hear exactly where we are while playing live, and I can literally go off the other girls’ vibes and know exactly what to do next.
Heatwave: How important were Black Lips at opening doors for your band?
Julia: In the beginning they were really encouraging and open to our sound and passion. They asked us to open for them and we even did a few short tours together. I think it gave us some kind of street cred, ha. They have always been championing our sound and we are really grateful to have that hometown support.
Stephanie: The Black Lips were very helpful in the beginning along with all the other local bands in Atlanta that helped us get on certain shows. We’ve tried to do the same for bands we enjoy as well, that’s how music should be – we are all one big family.
Heatwave: What is the music scene like in Atlanta?
Julia: Atlanta has a close, tight knit music scene. Everyone pretty much knows everyone else, crossing genre lines. Hip-hop is put on the same bill as rock n roll and disco. Everyone plays in side projects together. It’s a nice place.
Stephanie: The music scene in Atlanta is still going pretty strong although the types of bands playing might have changed a bit. There’s still a large group of punk, doomcore, hardcore, shoegaze etc. There’s also a “house show” part of the scene that has made a comeback, which is great, keeps it real.
Heatwave: What bands from your local scene can you recommend us?
Julia: Shantih Shantih, Black Linen, Predator, and the Bad Spells
Stephanie: Curtis Harding, NURSE, Shanti Shanti, Midnight Larks, and Illegal Drugs
Heatwave: Is the goal of living from music alone still alive and kicking?
Julia: Yes. Now the goal is to live without roommates!
Stephanie: Living from music is still alive and still just as difficult. Most of the money bands make from touring and record sales goes straight back into keeping the band going, so we all still have part time gigs when at home.
Heatwave: I know you have a lot of freedom on your current jobs when it comes to touring. That must be a relief. How do you manage to balance both worlds? And not to forget Julia’s other project, White Woods.
Julia: Coathangers is the primary focus, so you figure out how to make time for everything else. It just means that we are always working.
Stephanie: It’s difficult to balance both worlds, but it’s just like anything else in life, you simply make it work. Sometimes the most difficult thing to maintain is the special relationships we have with boyfriends, friends, and family. Being on the road it can be hard to find a place just to make a call home, so it can be frustrating.
Heatwave: There are a lot of strong visual statements in your videos. How important is visual communication in your music?
Stephanie: Visual communication is important because fans usually enjoy seeing the band they like as people, but we more or less just try to have as much fun creating and being a part of the past videos we’ve done. We always try and use friends to film and direct them because then they also get noticed for their creativity as well.
Julia: Well, it sets the tone and represents who we are and what we think (at the time, ha) so yes it is prettyyy important.
Heatwave: A little moth told me you are playing in London on May 5th. I can’t wait. What about you?
Stephanie: We love going to Europe, especially London! You guys definitely know how to have a great time!
Heatwave: Will you swap instruments this time? Do you do this to keep it interesting for you, for the audience or both?
Julia: Yes… probably. We started doing that to keep it interesting for us, but it also keeps it interesting for the audience.
Stephanie: We will be swapping instruments on a few songs, we do it because why the hell not? It also keeps us on our toes!
Heatwave: Could each of you tell me in one word what makes you go forward? In essence: what ticks you?
Julia: An overwhelming need to create.
Stephanie: One word that makes me tick? Revolution.