The Coathangers' Julia Kugel Talks Sexism And Getting Rowdy In Dallas.
Since the very beginning, nearly everything The Coathangers have done has been done only half-seriously.
From their name (a nod to a crude abortion tool) to the way they were prodded heavily by friends into playing their first shows, virtually all of their moves have been made with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Take, for instance, early songs from their catalog like “Nestle in my Boobies,” which has been called both feminist and anti-feminist depending on who is writing the review. The band, meanwhile, usually just points out that the song was an attempt to write the silliest thing possible, and that it was never intended to be in any way a sexual song.
But things are changing for The Coathangers. With their latest release, Larceny and Old Lace, The Coathangers eschewed their typical DIY approach in favor of their first experience in a proper studio. As such, it's their most serious effort to date.
In spite of everything, though, no matter how much respect an all-female band gains from their critics, peers and fans, it seems there is still an element of sexism that remains whenever these bands are discussed in the male-dominated world of music criticism. And that can be hard to shake.
Locally, that's been a hot-button issue of late. So, naturally, we breached that topic when catching up with Coathangers guitarist and vocalist Julia Kugel in advance of her band's show tomorrow night at Bryan Street Tavern.
Do you think you guys get treated differently because you're an all-female band?
That's kind of a weird question to answer because this is the only band I've ever been in. We get treated how we get treated. I don't know. I would probably say so. We've just been discussing that lately. People assume we're going to be girly girls or bitches or something. I think that's just kind of life in general. I don't feel like that's just a band thing.
I think people are surprised at how loud we get. But you never know what you're going to see when you see a band anyway. I definitely think that, after watching us play, we earn more respect.
I mean there are always going to be the douchebags.
Is there a secret to getting people to move past the “chick rock” stereotypes and view you as just another band?
I don't know how you get past that. It's part of who we are and people are fascinated by it or something. Or it's just an easy thing. You don't have to think. You can just put it in and make some sort of comment about girls or riot grrrls or whatever. Maybe it'll stop when people just stop being such fucking idiots? I mean, people have to classify it somehow.
It is a fact: We are all girls. It is what it is. We can't do anything about. We really can't. We have opinions on it as far as not being talked down to, and personal respect levels, but we can't help what people write. And literally anyone can have a fucking blog. Some of our show reviews are just a review of what we're wearing — like “She's wearing pants, she's wearing a skirt.” It's just so stupid. You can't control the stupid people. Then there's some people that actually get it and ask intelligent questions — or just aren't douchebags.
Let's try to get intelligent then: Some of your earlier recordings were done in a matter of hours, but it sounds like you got to spend a little more time on Larceny and Old Lace. How did that extra time effect the final product?
It's so much better. We got time to take with it and to sit and think about it. We didn't have to rush. Every album, we take more and more time. We had more time to mix. I'm like a mixing freak with our albums. The atmosphere was just more chill. It just comes off, I think, less frantic.
Did you still do a lot of it live all together or is it more tracked out?
We still record all the music live, and then we did do some overdubs on this one — layering some guitars and stuff, and layering some vocals — but we try to keep it [as live as possible]. We definitely get drums, bass and guitar down first. We tried doing it separate one time, and it just sounded so empty or something, so fake.
Do you guys still have day jobs that you work when you're not on the road or have you kind of moved past that?
No, we haven't moved past that yet. Meredith and I work at like a wedding dress/prom dress/pageant dress mega-store, so that's a mind-fuck going back to that reality where pageants are important. It's so crazy. Then Stephanie bartends and waitresses, and Candice is between jobs right now.
What do you remember about your first show?
That it was terrifying. We were all terrified. Our friends were like, “You have to play shows!” and we were like, “No!” So we just went on stage and we didn't move. We just shook the whole time. We just tried to get through the five songs we knew.
Do you remember the bands that you were playing with?
We played with a band that doesn't exist anymore called The Hiss. Now most of the members are in the Barreracudas.
They were the ones that came to our practice space and we played a song for them. They were like, “This is awesome! You should just fucking play a show!” And so we did.
Atlanta is pretty well-known for its hip-hop scene. What's the punk scene like there?
There's a huge mixture of stuff. There's a lot of hip-hop, but there's also a lot of rock and pop. Andre 3000 and Cee Lo go to shows at dive bars. And then there's southern rock. There's a lot of that sort of stuff. There's a lot of punk rock, though.
The shows are diverse. A punk band could play with a screamo band and a southern rock band. Everyone kind of floats around.
You guys play Dallas a lot. Are there things you look forward to doing when you're in town?
Well we always look forward to seeing John Iskander. He's been with us since the very first tour of the west coast. He booked our first Dallas show. He's a good buddy and we love him. And we love playing in Dallas. Our last three shows there have been ridiculous. Dallas is rowdy. It's so fucking fun. It's really fun, surprisingly.
The Coathangers perform with Jaill and Sealion on Friday, August 3, at Bryan Street Tavern.