It’s been 13 years since The Coathangers started playing music together. That alone is a justifiable reason as to why they’re finally putting out a live record. But if you’ve ever heard the Atlanta garage punk trio’s music before, or if you’ve ever been lucky enough to watch them tear through their material live, you know they’ve been deserving of a live album ever since their first record came out in 2007.
The best way to hear The Coathangers is when singer-guitarist Julia Kugel, bassist Meredith Franco, and singer-drummer Stephanie Luke are bursting at the seam with energy, splitting their songs wide open so that they breathe fresh air live. Yet while it seems obvious the trio has been deserving of a live record for a while, it wasn’t until Kugel’s husband insisted they record a live record where they could turn up their sound to the max that they actually did the dang thing. The result is LIVE, a to-the-point record that sees the three musicians scan their discography onstage. Though last minute cuts like “Nosebleed” and “Down Down” were scrapped for length’s sake and technically should have been on it, LIVE plays like a perfect concert: frenetic, fun, and the perfect length to keep you actively engaged on through to the end.
“We picked our favorite songs to play and some old favorites. That’s how ‘Gettin’ Mad [and Pumpin’ Iron]’ got on there. It’s a song we do on occasion, but it really harkens back to when we first started,” says Kugel. “We recorded two nights, but only used the second night because it sounded better and had a good energy. You have to piece together what sounds good together and what catches that raw sound, you know? It was cool to play our older songs because that’s what they sound like now, so reintroducing the songs to fans and to ourselves, as a three piece instead of a four piece like we started out, was really cool.”
To pry into the backstories behind the band’s career, we interviewed Julia Kugel for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask musicians questions inspired by their song titles. With LIVE as the prompt, she digs into some of the band’s habits ahead of their set at the Royale this Tuesday.
1) “Watch Your Back”
DIGBOSTON: When is the last time you fell for a jumpscare?
KUGEL: Dude, my cat scares me all the time. She gets under the bed or hides behind the curtain and then does, as we call it, “string training.” She loves string. If you wave it in front of it, she will wait for so long and then dart out after it. She scares me every time. Just two little paws come flying out and grab it. I guess I’m easily scared. [laughs] You just never know when it’s actually coming!
2) “Follow Me”
DIGBOSTON: Where do you stand on the “follow back” rule of social media?
KUGEL: For one, I don’t have any social media, but I do engage in the band’s Twitter. I will only follow people that I find interesting. I have to say, you know, I don’t feel a pressure to follow someone because they followed me. I don’t feel pressure to be followed either. It’s a weird dynamic on social media, and that puts another level of pressure on it, too. I’ve heard this is the case with Facebook likes, too. I’ve heard that whole families will get upset over a cousin not liking a certain status, which is ridiculous. Isn’t life complicated enough? Get a life. No offense to anyone, but just… no.
DIGBOSTON: What’s the best way to be smothered with love?
KUGEL: The best way to be smothered with love is by your mom’s bosom or your mom’s neck. We all get taller than our moms eventually. But when you hug them and hit that sweet cozy spot, it’s great. There’s nothing like that. Everything about moms rule. Or I guess any loved one. Maybe someone’s mom could be a jerk and it’s the dad who has the good cozy neck in a hug.
4) “Arthritis Sux”
DIGBOSTON: How old were you when you first noticed you had arthritis?
KUGEL: It was actually our bass player, Meredith, who has rheumatoid arthritis. She found out when she was 19. She actually just swelled really badly. It was inflammatory at the time. She had no idea and it was a big deal. They thought she maybe had lyme disease because she was so young. That’s why we wrote that song. It’s kind of emotional. People think we’re so funny, titling songs like this one, but every song is actually about something serious.
5) “Captain’s Dead”
DIGBOSTON: Are you for or against rum?
KUGEL: [laughs] I used to really enjoy rum and vanilla coke. But as you get older, you can’t ingest that much sugar. Right now, I’m on clear liquors. When you’re young, you can have so much of that sugary good stuff.
6) “Burn Me”
DIGBOSTON: What’s the worst diss someone ever said about your band?
KUGEL: Oh dude, when we started out it was insanely mean stuff. We had “Your mom should have had an abortion,” “You’re the reason women shouldn’t be allowed to vote,” and stuff like that. It was all on Brooklyn Vegan’s comment section for a story about one of our shows. All the comments were so gnarly, like, “They’re not even that hot.” One time we had a show review on a different website where the writer described what we were wearing and then said he watched TV the whole time. I used to read stuff. Now I only read what [our publicist] sends us. That’s when we stopped reading stuff, because people would get so mean and it was not ok. You don’t even know what to say because you don’t want to engage and make it worse. Like, good for you, you learned how to type!
7) “Make It Right”
DIGBOSTON: Can you think of a small error you recently had to fix?
KUGEL: This story is from a while ago, but it works. I have a solo project and I put myself in a position where I let myself get bullied into including something in the credits of a record. Basically, I had to go through all 500 copies of a 7” and blackout some text on it and then rewrite it. Instead of printing new labels, I rewrote everything as a reminder to never, ever, ever let myself get bullied into agreeing to something I don’t want, even if it’s as small as a credit on a record. I don’t know why I let it happen. It’s my fault for agreeing to do something I didn’t like, and then made it right by going and doing this physical process to make sure I removed it. I would do like 50 a night. It felt like it lasted forever.
8) “Springfield Cannonball”
DIGBOSTON: Where can somebody find you in a swimming pool: lounging in the middle, doing laps, jumping off the diving board, or sipping a drink in the shallow end?
KUGEL: I think sipping a drink in the shallow end. I do all of those things, but I do like to mermaid around the pool.
DIGBOSTON: Have you ever witnessed a hurricane in real life?
KUGEL: No, but we have seen tornados. We were driving to Wichita, Kansas and there were four on the horizon. It’s really flat out there so you can see them all. We pulled under a bridge and watched them move. I don’t know if you’re even supposed to do that anymore. That’s the first time I ever saw twisters. We just watched them move. We haven’t seen a hurricane up close before, though.
DIGBOSTON: If you could control your impulses, which would you tame first?
KUGEL: I’m not much of an impulsive person. We all ended up being in this music business because we were shitheads and didn’t want to be told what to do. There’s this impulse to tell people to fuck off, essentially, and I’m trying to reel it in. I’m trying to take a breath before speaking. There’s definitely an impulse of “Don’t tell me what to do or else you can shut the fuck up.” I would like to reel that in more.
11) “Tonya Harding”
DIGBOSTON: In your opinion, what’s the most tragic part of the Tonya Harding ordeal?
KUGEL: [Sighs] Poor thing, both of them. I actually watched the Olympics when that happened. When she was at the judges booth with her skate up on the ledge and she was crying, pointing at it, and threw her arms up. The broken skate lace was the straw that broke the whole thing. It was pretty tragic. I think maybe it worked out well because she had a scapegoat, but it was a very, very sad moment. The fact that Nancy got hit was pretty tragic, too. I just remember that moment so well.
12) “Gettin’ Mad and Pumpin’ Iron”
DIGBOSTON: What does your workout routine look like?
KUGEL: Yes, I do! I have to have a workout routine now. It includes a morning routine of yoga, a light impact training, crunches, and stuff. When you get older, you have to make sure your core is strong so your back doesn’t fall apart. And I have to mentally center, too, which is very important for me. It’s so cliche now but it’s true! If I don’t, I feel really anxious. I have to take those 20 minutes to remind myself that everything is fine. By taking time for myself, I’m able to give to other people much more. It makes me realize I deserve that time.
Also, part of my meditation about taking time for yourself is making sure I pee whenever I want to. I do that now! I highly recommend you do the same. I would hold my pee because I would have to talk to someone, make a phone call, work, or anything like that. But don’t do it! If you have to pee, then go do it! You go pee! It’s your time! You’re earned it! Someone could say, “Well, we have to soundcheck.” But that can wait three minutes. It’s such a mental block. It seems so small, but when you allow yourself the time to pee then you can free your mind. Think about it. I hope you take time out for yourself to pee when you want to. Unless you were in a Devil Wears Prada situation with a crazy boss, why should someone hound you for being a few minutes late for taking care of a basic human right?
13) “Shut Up”
DIGBOSTON: Who do you want to silence forever?
KUGEL: Donald Trump. Right now, that’s definitely it.
14) “Squeeki Tiki”
KUGEL: I like the yellow ones with the Tiki guy on it. For some reason, I really like the yellow ones. Are there other kinds? I like the simple ones, but the yellow ones in particular. They make me happy!