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Garage a Go Go: An interview with ATL's Coathangers 

click to enlarge thecoathangersjpg

ATL trio the Coathangers

Outside of reality television, porn and contemporary art, there aren’t many places that value amateurism quite like garage rock. From the Shaggs to Meg White, there’s a proud tradition steeped in the simple idea of not having a clue how to play your instrument. It’s one that Atlanta’s Coathangers fully upheld during their first show in 2006, when Minnie, Bebe, Crook Kid and Rusty Coathanger shambled through their first set at a friend’s party. With their middle-school band level chops, songs about boobies and parcheesi, and band-name pulled from Urban Dictionary, it didn’t appear to be a recipe for lasting success.

Nearly eight years have passed since that debut house show and the slapdash tour that followed; now the band that’s set to hit the Ten Eleven this Monday is all but unrecognizable. Trimmed to a leaner power-trio lineup, bassist/singer Meredith (Minnie) Franco, guitarist/singer Julia (Crook Kid) Kogel and drummer/singer Stephanie (Rusty) Luke have now morphed into a formidable live act with their strongest release to date—March’s Suck My Shirt—to back them up.

“It's been about a year since (keyboardist Candice [Bebe] Jones) left the band, so we've had time to re-adjust,” explains bassist and singer Meredith Franco, speaking at her home in Atlanta a few days before tour kickoff. According to Franco, the biggest adjustment to the lineup change came when they entered the studio.

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Suck My Shirt's cover art

“When we recorded [Suck My Shirt] we had to up our game,” explained Franco.  With that person missing, we had to fill in more space, add more singing and guitar parts. Otherwise there wasn't too much different.”

That last part may be understating things, considering the sizable leap in sound between this record and 2011’s Larceny & Old Lace. Sure, they’re still mining the garage rock nuggets of fellow ATLiens the Black Lips as a foundation. But now they’ve added the power-punk fixations of the Buzzcocks, the riot grrrl edge of Bikini Kill and the chewed bubblegum harmonies of Vivian Girls into the mix. That’s not to say they’ve gotten too good as instrumentalists per se.

“You know, I still don't know notes. I only know frets,” said Franco. “But that's how we make sure we sound like, well, us. We taught ourselves to play and we want to keep playing to our style. We’re not trying to do or be anyone else but us.”

While their riffs now pack an extra punch and their recordings sound far from the laptop mic quality of their earliest singles, it’s really the vocals that have carried their latest releases to another level. With all three members splitting singing duties, the contrast between Franco’s bratty warble, guitarist Julia Kugel’s pixie purr, and drummer Stephanie Luke’s pack-a-day howl has become one of the Coathanger’s most endearing features. All of it, according to Franco, came simply by virtue of spending ridiculous amounts of time on tour, learning the ropes as they went along, and working to get better night after night.

“The first few years, we didn't have a booking agent, we just scheduled everything ourselves. And eventually it built to where we could get a booking agent, then a better booking agent, to where now things are better. But it wasn't easy.”


7pm Mon, July 28

The Ten Eleven

1011 Avenue B


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