Throughout the course of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the acclaimed, Atlanta-based JOVM mainstay act The Coathangers. Now, as you may recall, the JOVM mainstay act can trace their origins back to 14 years ago, when four young women — Julia Kegel (vocals, guitar), Stephanie Luke (vocals, drums), Meredith Franco (bass, vocals) and Candace Jones (keys) — without prior musical experience or lofty aspirations decided that they were going to pick up instruments and start a band, so that they could play a friend’s party.
That particular house show led to more shows around town — and those raucous and fiery live sets wound up comprising the band’s self-titled, full-length debut. Recorded during a graveyard shift at a local studio and mixed the following night, the Atlanta-based JOVM mainstays’ full-length debut was a raw, rowdy, revelrous affair. What the album lacked in polish, it made up in energy, charisma and brassy moxie. “We didn’t think anyone was going to listen to it,” The Coathangers’ Julia Kegel recalls. “We knew our friends in Atlanta would get it, but we didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. We were just excited to make a record.” Little did Kugel or her bandmates know that their scrappy house show anthems would catch on, leading to several years of successful international attention and a handful of critically applauded albums, including their out-of-print full-length debut, as well as a number of singles.
I think that the members of The Coathangers could never have imagined that their longtime label home would re-issue their long out-of-print, full-length debut as a deluxe, re-mastered version with a handful of extra tracks. Interestingly, the re-issued full-length debut, should remind listeners and fans of the band’s mischievous genre-fluidity. The band’s multi-faceted approach and diversity is a direct result of having multiple songwriters, who have brought their unique tastes and styles to the collective table. “It’s cool to to see how genre-fluid we‘ve always been,” The Coathangers’ Kugel says in press notes. “We got labeled as punk, and that was cool because that set us up as being against something, going against the grain. But it’s always been a weird dynamic of different tastes, and it still ultimately comes across as a bunch of girls having fun.”
Of course, the album is a bit of blast from the past, with the material possessing a spontaneity and careful spirit that’s invigorating, inspiring — and perhaps more necessary now than ever before. “We were just brash and making fun of things,” Kugel says. “We weren’t thinking about lyrics. We weren’t thinking about the industry. There was no thought about ‘making it’ or how people were gonna perceive it.” And as a result, the album was viewed as a private conversation between close friends, full of in-jokes, references and frivolities that reflected the band’s insular audience at the time — and their casual approach. “With this band I’ve felt like we have to speak for all woman-kind and as the records went on it became more and more at the forefront, but with the first record it was more like ‘ugh, these fuckin’ haters!’ It’s stuff we thought was hilarious and that felt really good to say because we felt safe. We didn’t think anyone was going to listen to it.” Lyrically, the album finds the band at their most unfiltered. Essentially, the album celebrates being young, brash, independent and full of joie de vivre as they say.
The re-issued edition of the self-titled album features the bonus track “Wife Eyes,” is grimy and sweaty bit of garage punk with a mischievously winking sense of humor with the song’s title and chorus being a play on words that’s partially being a tongue-in-cheek jab at the patriarchy and gender roles, and the paranoia of constant connection. It’s goofy fun — but it’s full of a freewheeling energy that seems largely missing right now.
“We have always encouraged each-other to explore other instruments. For us, switching instruments was a way to explore our creativity and expand our sonic landscape. Plus it allowed everyone to take a turn at the mic! You’re breaking up the standard (sometimes stagnant) structure of onstage dynamic and it feels exciting to both the audience and the people on stage,” Kugel says. “We have been told that watching us change instruments is empowering to people as well! It’s like ‘Hell ya! I can do that too! I can play the drums!’ The playfulness of switching sort of takes the pressure off of being so serious or possessive of a certain role or instrument. It also gives you greater appreciation for each other’s skill sets. I think some of our most creative songs came out of the practice of switching instruments and ‘Wife Eyes’ is one of our earliest recorded songs where we switched instruments: Candice plays drums and Steph the keys.
“The title is an obvious play on words-inspired by a joke on 30 Rock that lent itself well to speaking on the roles of technology and patriarchy in our culture. It’s amazing to see that we are still dealing with these issues today.”
The re-issued self-titled debut album is slated for December 4, 2020 release through Suicide Squeeze.