Atlanta's The Coathangers are a confrontational quartet of ladies who play old-school punk with a modern vigor. This is one band where the limited instrumental skill of each member actually adds to the quality of the music.
The Coathangers' most recent effort, Larceny & Old Lace, came out in June and features enough spit and bile to thrill just about any nihilistic young person.
In anticipation of the band's show tonight at Bryan Street Tavern, bassist Meredith Franco took some time from her job working in a clothing store to speak with DC9 about the band's provocative approach and renowned stage presence.
Being in an all-female band, do you get tired of being compared to other all female acts?
Yes, because, most of the time, we don't sound like anything close to those other bands. It's just that we're female and they're female. So they just try to make the easy comparison.
Why do you think that is? Are such comparisons made by mostly male critics?
I don't know. Maybe. They don't really compare our music to those other bands. They just reference us being all-female. It's just lazy.
The cover of Larceny & Old Lace is pretty shocking. Did the band want that effect?
Yes, it's brutal. Our friend lives in New York and, when we play there, we stay with her. She does photography and, one day, she had a lot of pictures out and that was one of them. We saw it and fell in love with it. She put something over the picture to make it look like it's eaten away. I think that adds to the effect. It makes it look really old.
What is the biggest difference between the new album and the band's other two releases?
We recorded in a studio and we actually had time to make a record. The first, self-titled album was also done in a studio, but we only had a day to do it. The next album, Scramble, we recorded in our practice space. This new one, we actually had time to process the songs. We spent a week or so and we didn't have to rush it.
Was the writing process different?
Not really. Someone would come in with an idea, either a lyric or a riff and we would just go from there. Nothing has changed that much.
Many of the new songs seem brittle and kind of bitter. Is that a theme to your work?
When we wrote this new record, it was a tough time for the band. Last year, we were on this tour that we called "the death tour." A bunch of our family members died. Jay Reatard, our friend, died. It was a tough time and I think a lot of that came out on the record.
One critic claimed that you guys write anti-love songs. What do you think about that?
If that what that person wants to think, so be it. Actually, on this record, I think there are more long songs. "My Baby" is a love song.
What about "Trailer Park Boneyard"?
Not a love song. We wrote that song on the way to Lubbock, Texas. We had to take all these back roads. I think the drive was, like, 12 hours. It was endless rows of trailer houses in the middle of nowhere.
That's what happens when you go to Lubbock.
No! We love that place! We love playing there! There's this great pancake place we go to...
I heard this story about you guys, so I've got to ask: Did you guys really buy the cheapest instruments you could find at a pawn shop?
Well, I used [drummer] Stephanie Luke's old bass when we first started, and she kind of stole her drums from this boy. Julia [Kugal] got an electric guitar because she only had an acoustic. And Candice did have an old keyboard. So technically, nothing was bought at a pawn store.
Have you upgraded?
Stephanie got a new drum set about a year and a half ago. I got a new bass three years ago, and we all chipped in -- even Julia's boyfriend -- and got her a new guitar.
I've noticed some websites describe The Coathangers as a pop band. Do you see yourselves as that?
A lot of people call us a punk rock band, but I don't know. We tell people that we are a No Wave band. We definitely aren't a political band. We don't preach at anybody. If we say something, it's not literal. But we say what we feel.
Your live shows are often described as somewhat over-the-top. What do you put into a live performance that maybe other bands do not?
On stage is the only time we can really be ourselves. At work, we can't say what we want -- we have to be nice to everybody. On stage, we really feel free, and that's why I think people have fun.