The Coathangers make fun music for pissed-off people. Seeing as the band — then consisting of Meredith Franco, Julia Kugel, Stephanie Luke, and Candice Jones — was conceived after an anti-Bush rally in the (relatively) halcyon days of 2006, it follows that a strong irreverent streak would follow. Early in the group’s history, this meant baking cookies and bringing along prizes for audience members at shows, to say nothing of their ballsy, impassioned onstage antics.
Although the band is a long way from passing out cookies at shows, the Coathangers have continually found new ways to garnish their traditionally punk aesthetic both live and on record.
“[We] definitely have gotten a lot of wild and positive reactions from songs like ‘Squeeki Tiki’ 'cause it’s pretty weird,” says singer and guitarist Julia Kugel, referring to a standout track on their most recent album, 2016’s Nosebleed Weekend. The song, a cathartic shout-along about a failed relationship, is punctuated by a squeaky dog toy. Naturally, this unconventional instrument is used in live renditions.
“I always have a few extra with me too because it’s a very specific sound. The original toy that I used on the recording actually broke on me, so I had to go and sample at the toy store... so I went and squeezed every single toy I could to find the right tone,” Kugel adds, demonstrating that her commitment to tonal accuracy knows no bounds. “One of the guys who works at Star Bar in Atlanta was kind enough to order me a whole box of 'em, so now I have a full supply. But people do take them at shows, so I’ve learned to have a backup.”
Raucous audiences are nothing new for Kugel and crew; along with the likes of Black Lips, Deerhunter, and Carbonas, the Coathangers were part of a mid-2000s wave of Atlanta, Georgia-based garage-rock revivalists that extolled and encouraged audience belligerency. Ten years, one fewer member, and five albums later, Kugel, Franco, and Luke have fostered a fan base that is as dedicated as it is ambitious.
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“Yeah, it’s really weird when people come up and say that they’ve been listening to you since middle or high school and that you inspired them to start a band or something like that... You know, it’s kind of like, Damn, I’m old!” Kugel says. “It kind of gives us a purpose besides just selfishly releasing music of our lives. It has given us a sense of Well, fuck yeah, we’re actually doin’ something and influencing people, which we never really set out to do.”
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The band will wield its influence in full force in Miami this Sunday during a performance at Churchill’s. Because of the bandmates’ extensive touring history and geographic proximity, they're well acquainted with the sometimes-demented and always-energetic rowdiness offered by Florida crowds.
“Yeaahhh, we have some really good stories in Miami, but... I’m not gonna go into that,” Kugel chortles before making an excellent observation of Florida audiences and character. “I think in a way sometimes... Florida gets neglected or passed over. So people are excited when bands come through... and there’s a combination of beach culture and Southern hospitality, and it blends for a good time.”
With Killmama and Sandratz. 8 p.m. Sunday, February 5, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Tickets cost $12.