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Hanging with the Coathangers

A visit from Atlanta's all-girl power punk band

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Explosive, sloppy, and sassy as a hopped-up feral cat, the Coathangers have been an integral part of Atlanta's punk scene for seven years now. The all-girl band, reduced to a trio when their co-founding keyboard player took a walk last fall, recently released full-length number four. Suck My Shirt (Suicide Squeeze Records) is raw, and loud, and funny—see the video for "Follow Me," in which the hirsute, tattooed members of heavy metal powerhouse Mastodon lip-synch, wearing Coathangers wigs and dresses.

Right away, you know the Coathangers are all about having fun. (Or is it the song titles: “Don’t Touch My Shit,” “Shut the Fuck Up” or “Nestle in My Boobies”?)

Love this description from the Village Voice: “The thing that makes them really worth listening to is the fact that, despite being tagged as garage/post-punk/grrrl-somethings, they aren’t reviving anything. They are a nothing-fancy good-time band—you know, like some local living-room-only geniuses whose ‘Louie Louie’ variations feel like God’s true pleasure message when you are just drunk enough.”

The Coathangers’ June 28 show is a Savannah Stopover/MusicFile production.

According to bassist Meredith Franco, the band was literally formed on a lark. “I’d never even played bass before,” she says. “In middle school, I played clarinet, but that’s like completely different!

“Stephanie (Luke) had never played drums. We had a drum set, so she just sort of fooled around. Julia (Kugel) played acoustic guitar, but never electric guitar. We had no idea. Literally no idea.”

The Coathangers’ now-departed keyboard operator was Candice Jones. “Candice and Julia lived together, and Candice had a keyboard,” Franco explains. “We were just hanging out, and just started practicing. It was like an idea that came up, ‘We should start a band.’ And we actually did. I was hanging out with them and they needed a bass player. I said ‘OK, I guess I’ll try.’

“I was excited. I was nervous, because I’d never played anything like that before.”

A rigorous touring schedule meant Jones’ abrupt departure in 2013 had to be dealt with—and fast. “It was a mutual thing,” Franco says. “We both kind of knew it was happening.

“But it was right before Europe, and we didn’t really get to practice. Because we went to South By, then we went to Europe—I think we had maybe like a week to practice without her. So that was kind of stressful! We’re like ‘Uhhhh ... we’re gonna go to Europe, and we’ve never played as a three-piece before.’ And nobody really knew. But everything worked out perfect. Everything happens for a reason.”

Recording Suck My Shirt, she explains, “was different, because we didn’t want to sound empty without the keyboards. So I think we all felt like we had to kind of step up our game. Which was kind of a natural progression anyway. So we would all add more vocals, or I would try to make my parts not more complicated, but maybe bigger.”

The band members live in Little Five Points, East Atlanta’s bohemian district.

“Me and Julia,” says Franco, “used to work at a dress store together, wedding and prom dresses, stuff like that. Pageants. Since we got back from tour, I worked there for a few days, but now I work at this vintage store that’s right by my house. And Stephanie works at a bar right up the street.”

They’ve just reunited after a month off, and will tour aggressively through the rest of the year. And in early 2015, they’ll visit Australia for the first time.

Their day jobs will be waiting.

“The dress store is run by Julia’s family,” Franco explains, “so they’re like ‘Yeah, go live your dream and come back. You have a job.’

“And we always play at the Star Bar, where Stephanie works. So they’re totally fine with it. Which is pretty awesome.”

CS
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