The Coathangers have been together for a decade, but it doesn’t feel like that long to them. “We didn’t realize!” exclaims guitarist-vocalist Julia Kugel (code name: Crook Kid Coathanger) over coffee at Grace Street in New York’s Koreatown. “The first couple of years we were like, ‘Ha, this is funny, why are people…” And then we’re like, ‘Oh s**t, let’s try to take this as far as we can.” Drummer Stephanie Luke (Rusty Coathanger) nods in agreement. “I guess it doesn’t seem like ten years, because we just have so much fun doing it,” she says. “It’s a part of who we are.”
Even if their time together has passed quickly, the Atlanta band still interacts like childhood friends: completing each other’s sentences and displaying a genuine concern for each other’s well-being. The irreverent punk trio — which also includes bassist Meredith Franco (Minnie Coathanger) — is about to drop their fifth studio record, Nosebleed Weekend (streaming below and officially out on April 15 via Suicide Squeeze).
Below, SPIN catches up with the Coathangers, who explain the vision behind Nosebleed Weekend, their excitement around touring with Swedish post-hardcore stalwarts Refused, and visiting PetSmart to “audition” squeaky toys for the album.
You’re publicly known as an Atlanta band, but you recorded Nosebleed Weekend in Long Beach, California. How did that happen?
Kugel: We decided to make the record out there and to write out there — sequester ourselves.
Luke: The guy who was producing the album, Nic [Jodoin], he lives out there. We went out there for pretty much all of May, and we’d already been writing some of the songs, but we really hunkered down and got this tiny little practice space from our friends and shared it with them, and just everyday for like six to eight hours, play, and write, and practice.
Did recording on the West Coast effect the way the record sounds?
Luke: I think it did, but it wasn’t intentional. California’s got a very different vibe. It kind of zenned us all out. I think it had an influence on it, but it wasn’t like, “We’re gonna go and get zenned out in California and write about it.”
So, real talk — is the title Nosebleed Weekend more to do with a coke binge or getting punched in the face?
Luke: It’s both. [Laughs.] It’s like, tongue-in-cheek. The drug thing wasn’t intentional, believe it or not. [It’s about] not putting up with people’s s**t.
Kugel: You know how people sometimes act like assholes when they’ve been doing a bunch of blow? You’re watching them, and you’re like, “Someone’s gonna punch you, and it’s probably because you’re such an asshole.”
Who’s idea was it to have Meredith on the cover with a nosebleed?
Meredith Franco: I get nosebleeds all the time. When we were in Europe last time was the worst. I would get one I think every day. The elevation — it was really dry out. And [my nose] would be like, gushing.
Luke: I was worried she was gonna like, pass out. She was losing so much blood.
Franco: They would have to cut tampons ’cause we were in the middle of nowhere, like in the van, [we] ran out of toilet paper.
Kugel: She even got a nosebleed at a show in Toronto.
Luke: And she finished the song, and then ran off to the bathroom after that.
Franco: It’s all the flying.
Kugel: So that’s why she ended up having a nosebleed on the cover. It’s the first time we’ve ever put our picture on the cover, so we didn’t really want it to be so serious. The picture is pretty awesome. It looks really strong. It’s almost like, we’re brave enough to do this, you know, ’cause we never wanted to. But then to have the nosebleed is kind of like, “Ha, it’s not that serious.” Like, everyone just f**king relax.
I get the impression that there’s an element of humor in whatever you do.
Luke: People take themselves so seriously sometimes. It makes me almost not want to listen to your music if if you’re so cool all the time.
I hear a lot of that in “Squeeki Tiki.” Did you use a literal squeaky toy?
Kugel: A dog’s toy, yeah, it’s shaped like a tiki. That’s where the name of the song comes from.
Franco: It lost its squeak.
Kugel: It busted because I took it on tour.
Luke: She had to audition a bunch of them. [Laughs.]
Kugel: Now I can’t actually play “Squeeki Tiki,” it doesn’t have the right tone. We had to go to PetSmart and audition squeaky toys.
Then going forward if you want to play the song, you need to always have the right squeaky toy with you on the road.
Kugel: It’s funny, ’cause I’ll put it in my backpack, and then I’ll turn a certain way and go “SQUEAK.” [Laughs.] Going through like, airport security.
Do you have a dog, Julia?
Kugel: Yeah, I have a dog but I haven’t been able to see him in a long time because of a breakup. The song is kind of about that breakup and me missing the dog.
Luke: I can’t even watch [Julia] when we’re playing [“Squeeki Tiki”] live, ’cause I start laughing. And then I’ll f**k up on the drums, I’m like, “Dammit, focus, focus.”
Are you guys psyched to go on tour with Refused?
Luke: So excited. Also very nervous. It looks like [frontman Dennis Lyxzén] never stops moving. Yeah, no pressure. It’s intimidating, but in a good way. I’m nervous to see how their crowd accepts us, you know? He’s a big feminist too, and he talks a lot about that onstage. He’s all about that.
What is the most significant thing you’ve learned over the past decade?
Luke: We started out real angry and angsty, and then you kind of just chill the f**k out, you know? [Laughs.] The older we get, the more we chill out and try not to take things as seriously.
Kugel: You learn to accept poverty. [Laughs.] No, we’re doing fine. It’s just kind of a general attitude, like, “Well, let’s figure it out.”
Luke: Just keep on moving forward. I woke up the other day and I almost had a panic attack, ’cause it’s like, I’m almost 35, what am I doing? And then I was like, “You know what? F**k that.” You never really have it figured out. Even my friends who got married and had the house and everything, that doesn’t always last forever. Nothing is guaranteed.
Kugel: From 23 to 33, you grow in every single way. I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with being a woman in the business, about being a musician, accepting the fact that I’m not at a place at 33 that I thought maybe I would be financially. I used to be a control freak. Now I’m talking about how everything’s chill. Who the f**k am I?