Band of the Week: The Coathangers

Music Features The Coathangers
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Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
Band Members: Julia Kugel (guitar/vocals), Stephanie Luke (drums/vocals), Candice Jones (keyboard/vocals), Meredith Franco (bass/vocals)
Album: Scramble
For Fans Of: X-Ray Spex, Le Tigre. Black Lips

“People tell us, ‘Oh, I thought you guys were gonna suck!’” says keyboardist Candice "Bebe Coathanger" Jones. Her fellow Coathangers, gathered at a table in a coffee shop outside their hometown of Atlanta, alternately nod and shake their heads quizzically. It's February, and as the punk-and-giggles, all-female foursome prepares for nine upcoming SXSW gigs and the release of their second full-length, Scramble, venomous declarations of incompetence ("I heard they're actually going to stop letting women vote now because of bands like this," one anonymous Brooklyn Vegan commenter posted last fall) are losing potency. What are they supposed to do, wonders guitarist Julia "Crook Kid Coathanger" Kugel, when some critics dismiss the band's onstage silly-string antics and lyrics about boobies as inane sloppiness, while others allege the girls are actually trying too hard?

Skepticism has followed The Coathangers ever since their debut in mid-2007, the same summer that fellow Atlantans Black Lips and Deerhunter hit their respective strides. When the 'Lips-founded label, Die Slaughterhaus, set the newly formed Coathangers up with a 7” release, the resultant enthusiasm led the ladies to complete a sassy, scratchy full-length album of their own. Propelled by the boisterous irreverence and snotty garage-foolery of numbers like "Don't Touch My Shit" and "Nestle in my Boobies," the band and their self-titled debut were buzzed-up and booked along the East Coast before its fledgling members were fully comfortable with their own instruments. Kugel, with the big eyes and snarky bite of Lily Allen, is quick to admit her initial power-chord ignorance; tall, tattooed drummer Stephanie "Rusty Coathanger" Luke sends her bandmates into fits of laughter while mocking the stiffness and fear of their early performances. Seeing footage of themselves playing for the first time, she says, "was like being in a zoo and watching a zebra. And wondering, ‘Is zebra gonna do something?'"

Chalk it up to their D.I.Y. nature, but Coathangers aren't embarrassed by pressure to improve— instead, they've embraced it. "We take it seriously, but not ourselves," Jones says of the band. "We care. But we don’t take our personas, the band image, or any stuff like that seriously. Because it’s ridiculous.” The ladies are proud of Scramble (out this week via Suicide Squeeze) which they believe retains the uncompromising attitude of their debut with a markedly tightened, more consistent sound that proves as cathartic as ever with the frenzied face-breakin' threats of "Stop Stomp Stompin'" and "Gettin' Mad and Pumpin' Iron." A soon-to-be-released music video for "Stompin'" features an alien overlord who hates the band so much that he sends a giant, one-eyed creature to destroy them, Japanese monster-flick-style. With the Coathangers' powers combined, however, the grotesque hater—like so many others—is overcome.

“We’re in on the joke," Jones says. "We made up the joke. We know what it’s about. That’s why we’re laughing.”

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