Bloodied & Bruised: The Coathangers Fight Back

by: Lauren Rearick

Photo: Matt Odom

Photo: Matt Odom

The Coathangers have been making the art they wanted for a decade.

Starting as a joke band, with no experience in any of the instruments they wanted to play, the Atlanta trio will release their fifth studio album, Nosebleed Weekend on April 15. 

A simple glance at the cover or a listen to one of their songs and it’s clear this trio has become serious about their craft and equally as serious about “writing and performing the songs they would want to hear and listen to.”

Speaking by phone ahead of a practice for a forthcoming Nosebleed Weekend tour, Rusty Coathanger (Stephanie Luke), explained the band’s beginnings, and how together they’ve formed an unstoppable force.

Photo: Le'Donne Morris

Photo: Le'Donne Morris

This story begins like most musical dreams - as young ladies of the South the members of the Coathangers grew up playing prim and proper instruments - saxophone, clarinet, high school band. Starting a band was always a daydream but never a reality until Stephanie grew tired of her place in “the boys club” as a tour manager. 

“As a young lady in the South, playing drums wasn’t something you did,” she said. “One day I was just like ‘Fuck this, I’m gonna start a band.’”

Teaming up with Meredith Franco, Julia Kugel and former keyboardist Candice Jones the friends did just that, despite having zero experience in their respective instruments.

“We were kind of just fucking around,” Stephanie said. “After awhile we realized we need a practice space, and then we started touring, and never in a million years would I have imagined we’d still be here.”

Here is 10 years, five studio albums and numerous single releases later, plus an opening stint for The Replacements, sold out shows across the country and a musical attitude so wholly their own it knocks you flat on your face from the opening note.

It was important to the band for this album to reflect a new side to The Coathangers. Past albums were typically recorded in Atlanta, but for Nosebleed Weekend they “switched it up,” and headed to California.

“We spent basically a year concentrating on this album and really wanted something with more mature material,” Stephanie said. “We wanted our sound to progress a little more and the opportunity to record in California just kind of fell into place.”

Producer Nick Jodoin was able to secure the band a unique recording space - Valentine Recording Studio - which been shut down and unused since the 1970s.

Among shag carpet and funky furniture, that reminded them of “their grandparents’ home,” The Coathangers recorded in a place formerly used by The Beach Boys and Bing Crosby.

“It was cool as shit recording there,” Stephanie said. “It was like stepping back in time, it was 70s as hell.”

Both veteran and new Coathanger fans will still find something to love on this one, with Stephanie noting there’s a “little bit of everything” on this release, including the newness of “Nosebleed Weekend,” the vintage appeal of “Squeaky Cheeky” and the energized “Down Down.”

Each single features their signature tongue-in-cheek ‘tude, with the whole album inspired by a bloody European weekend in which Meredith suffered a series of nosebleeds and the idea of karma. 

“Nosebleed Weekend is all about basically you’re going to get an unexpected punch in the nose,” Stephanie said. “We’re not putting up with anyone’s shit on tour or away from home. It’s a play on words which is something we’ve always been about.”

Photo: Grace Lopez

Photo: Grace Lopez

With the album completed, special editions coming with a First Aid Kit and a blood red splatter, the band is ready to hit the road again and continue living this unexpectedly sweet dream. 

Live shows are typically known for their high energy and personalized message, with members eager to display a sound that stays true to their recorded material and gives fans something to enjoy.

“When we started I was 25 and I have kind of grown up with the band,” Stephanie said. “We were kind of late in the game to start a band so this has definitely had a big affect on me. I gained so much confidence and we all realized that you never know unless you try. There’s nothing else that we wanna do, we just want to continue to make music.”

mp3: "Starting Again" - Lisa Prank

mp3: "Kick the Habit" - Leggy

mp3: "Kick the Habit" - Leggy