The Coathangers' Julia Kugel talks safe spaces, punching people in the face

Apr 25, 2018 at 1:00 am
From left: Stephanie Luke, Meredith Franco, and Julia Kugel of the Coathangers.
From left: Stephanie Luke, Meredith Franco, and Julia Kugel of the Coathangers. Courtesy photo

Atlanta-based punk band the Coathangers is going on 12 years of creating fuming, booze-fueled rock 'n' roll, and it's celebrating by releasing a live album, recorded over two days at Alex's Bar in Long Beach, Calif.

Guitarist and singer Julia Kugel — aka Crook Kid Coathanger — says in some ways, the live record finally captures the true soul and sound of the band, known for its raucous live performances.

"Making records in the studio is cool, but you have so much time to think," says Kugel. "This is such an instinctual, honest representation of who we are. It almost feels like our first record in a weird way."

However, the band has evolved substantially since its first, self-titled record released in 2007. Originally bred from a shared loathing of conventionality and a love for partying, the Coathangers never really thought they'd be career musicians. Now, more than a decade later, Kugel says she can't think of a way the band hasn't grown, aside from the fact that she plays the same guitar.

Kugel even says that the group had become considerably less angry than they were when they started cranking out songs in their early 20s — until the election of President Donald Trump, that is. However, instead of making music that is overtly political, Kugel says the bandmembers use their lifestyle to project a political stance.

"The personal is political," says Kugel. "Instead of talking about it, we just do it. I think that's our political statement. We got into music because we don't want to be told what to do, because we're all a bunch of shitheads."

Throughout the years and the band's varying levels of angst, the Coathangers' refusal to take any type of shit and the band's appreciation of a good time has survived. Just when fans thought the California Coast might have mellowed the band out, the group released Parasite, a five-song EP with a blaringly agro title track. "I don't want parasites/ eating me from the inside out/ I don't want parasites/ they're gonna make me lose my mind," Kugel hypnotically howls into the mic. While the song takes on a literal meaning — all three band members contracted parasites on their 2016 tour — Kugel says it took on a metaphorical meaning as they were writing and recording it during the 2016 presidential election.

More than anything, the band wants to create a safe space where it's kosher to scream at the top of your lungs and sing about punching people in the face. "All we basically want to do is create a catharsis, a place of safety at our show where you can let it all go," says Kugel. "I get to stand and scream on stage for an hour. Do you know how important that is to my mental health? So to whoever's listening, I hope it's helping their mental health as well."

In terms of actually punching anyone in the face, like multiple songs suggest, Kugel admits the band has gotten entangled in its fair share of fights back in its scrappier days. "We used to be wilder," says Kugel. "But it's more just the fantasy of it. Don't you just want to tell somebody, 'I'm going to punch you in the fucking face,' even though you know it's not right and you might go to jail?"

The Coathangers open for Minus the Bear on Thursday, May 3 at the Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-858-9333;; Doors at 7 p.m.; Tickets are $25 advance, $38 the day of show.