Ten Years Later, Desperation Evolves Into a Contagious Confidence for The Coathangers
After a long, successful tour with The Black Lips, Atlanta punk rockers The Coathangers headed to California on a whim to record their fifth album, Nosebleed Weekend (Suicide Squeeze Records). It was only after leaving their comfort and familiarity in the South that the band realized the consequences of their decision.
“It was a really challenging experience, recording this record in LA, isolated. No family, friends, or any obligations of that matter,” says vocalist and guitarist Julia Kugel. But working with producer Nic Jodoin at Hollywood’s Valentine Recording Studio pushed the trio to new limits during the recording process, making Nosebleed Weekend their most all-around impressive record yet. Kugel remembers spending hours searching for the right guitar tones for each song with Jodoin, determined and focused on tweaking the songs on the album until they were as powerful as they could be.
“Nic made us work a little harder than the Atlanta crew, because we’ve been friends with those guys for a long time,” Kugel said. “There’s a little less hanging out, a little more down to business. It’s nice getting pushed in that way.”
The Coathangers will celebrate ten years since their rise out of Atlanta’s underground punk scene in 2006 with the release of Nosebleed Weekend. “Atlanta used to be a really gritty city,” Kugel explains. “Shit sucked, and everyone was poor, so the only escape from that was to go to shows and get rowdy and throw beer cans and stuff. It’s catharsis.”
The friendships between bandmates, which along with Kugel includes Stephanie Luke and Meredith Franco have grown and changed over the last decade and when keyboardist Candice Jones left the band in 2013, the remaining trio has learned to rely on each other more than ever.
“Tour after ten years brings out the worst in you. The amount of respect this craft demands of us has changed how much self-control we have to exhibit,” says Kugel. “You see these people at every level of their sanity, so as far as the friendships between us go, we’ve never been more honest with each other.”
Although they started without much musical experience among them, over the last decade, The Coathangers’ carefree youthfulness evolved into a contagious confidence and punk attitude.
“Nothing when we started was deep. We were just blindly going for it,” Kugel says. “We were like soldiers, just keeping on going and going. We were really determined and fearless in that way. It was desperation.”
The trio has become known for exchanging instruments and vocals on different songs through out their live performances, showing their versatility. The constant instrument changes make sure that no Coathangers album ever has a dull moment. That is most apparent on Nosebleed Weekend, where the band pulls off everything from “Squeeki Tiki,” a therapeutic breakup anthem punctuated by the squeaks of an old dog toy, to “Make It Right,” the album’s grungey lead single. Of course, The Coathangers have new grievances in 2016 that they weren’t worrying about ten years ago. On “I Don’t Think So,” the band laments, “I’m tired of staring at a phone like it’s a person… Hello, hello, can you hear me? It’s not easy.”
While The Coathangers’ 2007 debut self-titled album featured angry, straight-forward anthems like “Shut the Fuck Up” and “Don’t Touch My Shit,” Nosebleed Weekend draws from that same tenacity in a more seasoned way. Songs at the core of the album like “Watch Your Back” and “Burn Me” demand a backdrop of a sweaty punk show in a basement with their percussive cymbals, aggressive bass, and shared vocals among the trio. But now, with a decade of performance under their belt, these addictive punk elements are spiced with more intricate guitar riffs and complexity. The songs are longer and more complicated than a simple minute-and-a-half long jam, with suprising variations upon each verse. Kugel, Luke, and Franco layer their vocals and harmonize throughout songs like the title track “Nosebleed Weekend,” adding a new edge to their sound.
“Every album goes in a different direction,” Kugel says. “We don’t want our songs to be on the radio or anything – it’s just us saying, ‘This is who we are right now.’ The process of making music isn’t for anyone but us.”
In the early days, while working on albums like The Coathangers, Kugel, Luke, and Franco adopted the nicknames Crooked, Rusty, and Minnie Coathanger, harking back to the punk alteregos of bands like The Ramones. These nicknames have become more of a nostalgic echo than a stand-in identity for the stage, but Kugel still appreciates the influences that inspired the nicknames.
“We were inspired by all of the rowdy ladies of the 70s and 80s, and people have always been stoked to see us acting out on stage however we want to,” Kugel says. “It’s empowering for guys and girls to see what should be a certain way not be that way. If our music inspires anyone to pick up any instrument, whether it’s a guitar, a hammer, or a wrench… Fuck. We can all do anything we want to.”
Just weeks after the release of Nosebleed Weekend on April 15, on Suicide Squeeze and their album release show in Atlanta, The Coathangers will depart on a European tour. The trio may not get much downtime outside of the tour van and the studio, but no matter how difficult the mania can get, this whirlwind lifestyle suits Kugel, Luke, and Franco.
“The ten year anniversary made us step back,” Kugel says. “We were like, ‘What the fuck?’ We thought it was seven years – we’ve been together seven years now for the past five years, it feels like.”
Though they may have lived a decade-long adrenaline rush, The Coathangers’ persistence and motivation is as present as ever on Nosebleed Weekend. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and for the three women the Atlanta underground, it’s still time to let loose on stage.