A Lot Has Changed Since The Coathangers’ Dallas Debut in 2009. Their History With the City Hasn’t.

The Coathangers aren't really a Dallas band, but we'll claim them.
Jeff Forney
The Coathangers aren't really a Dallas band, but we'll claim them.
The Coathangers have a history with Dallas that is almost as old as the band itself. In March 2009, the Atlanta punk trio played South by Southwest, then made their way to Dallas to play a festival called “South by South Flesh” at the Lounge on Elm Street. From there, their history with both the city and the promoter John Iskander,  from Parade of Flesh, sprouted.

“We just ended up getting to know each other, and he ended up booking more and more shows for us,” recalls Coathangers drummer Stephanie Luke. “He would be nice enough to let us stay at his place whenever we were in town. He’s kind of like an older brother now.”

The Coathangers will make an appearance at The Foundry this Friday. In gearing up for her umpteenth DFW performance, Luke spoke with the Observer on the various changes in the band’s career, from their humble beginnings in Atlanta’s DIY circuit to celebrating 10 full years of their affiliation with Suicide Squeeze Records (the label behind some of the earliest releases of Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith and Minus the Bear).

During their formative years, members of The Coathangers barely knew how to play their instruments. Like many punk bands past and present, a musical ineptitude of this sort never stopped them from wanting to take a stage, and it certainly didn’t hurt them. Quite the contrary — the then-four piece played their first show at a house party, and from there more opportunities came. That very performance led to The Coathangers playing their first “proper” show at a 2007 event dubbed “Kenny Crucial’s 4th of July Party” with The Hiss.

“[Kenny Crucial] is kind of a living legend,” explains Luke. “He’s kind of an elusive, Atlanta character. He’s just always been there. Back in the day, I would see him at every show. He’s a big sweetheart and definitely an Atlanta staple.”

“When we were first starting out, [we would see] Black Lips, Deerhunter, pretty much everyone in Atlanta. We would go to their shows, [and] they would help us get our first shows.” — Stephanie Luke

tweet this
It wasn’t long before the band made it onto the radar of various Atlanta scenesters, and so their network expanded. As Black Lips, another Atlanta band, reached its commercial peak in the late ’00s, they became wise to The Coathangers’ talents and befriended them, even giving them some opening slots on upcoming tours.

“When we were first starting out, [we would see] Black Lips, Deerhunter, pretty much everyone in Atlanta,” says Luke. “We would go to their shows, [and] they would help us get our first shows.”

An increasing profile led to the band getting other opening slots on tour packages of note: Japandroids and Mika Miko in 2009, The Thermals in 2010, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead in 2012, Refused in 2016 and label mates Minus the Bear in 2018, among others.

Since 2009, The Coathangers would continue playing their share of DFW gigs. You could even say they play more Dallas shows than some local bands. They’ve made the most frequent NSFWknd appearances of any artist in the festival’s 10-year history and have played other shows at venues such as The Granada Theater, Club Dada, Bryan Street Tavern, The Cavern, Trees, The Prophet Bar and the short-lived Pariah Arts.

An entire decade has passed since the band’s DFW debut, and there have been countless changes in the interim. “South by South Flesh” went through various name changes — from “Bro Fest” to “Spillover” to its current incarnation “NSFWknd.” The Lounge on Elm Street changed its name to The Nightmare, only to shutter a mere five months later. The most recent tenant of the 2810 Elm St. space it once occupied was Vinty, a swanky nightclub that got shut down by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission not long after it drew ire for sharing a domestic violence meme on Facebook.

As for The Coathangers, five full-lengths, eight split singles, one live album and one EP were all released via Suicide Squeeze. A noteworthy lineup change happened in 2013 in which keyboardist Candice Jones left on amicable terms. The following year, The Coathangers were featured on a song by fellow Atlanta band Mastodon, on their song “Aunt Lisa.” The trio made their televised debut on Last Call With Carson Daly in 2016.

Through all these developments, Dallas has remained one constant stomping ground for The Coathangers, almost being a home-away-from-home of sorts. It’s fitting, too, because The Coathangers are almost a local-band-away-from-home.