I managed to duck out of work early with what I thought was plenty of time. It was an abysmally hot week in Los Angeles, and a trip to San Diego sounded like a great idea.
It took four and a half hours to get there. I got to the show late, drank too much, and the band was playing an hour earlier than scheduled. No matter. This time, I’d be able to catch them from beginning to end. Drunk and out of breath, I scurried to the front of the stage to watch Atlanta’s The Coathangers.
The Coathangers are one of those bands that just own their sound: the crashing drums and raucous bass; every chugging guitar riff; every howl and every wail. They’re neither hype nor hyperbole, they’re just that damn good.
Uncompromising and inviting at the same time. Each album and each show is an answer to every two-bit punk and riot grrrl, every critic and blogster.
Fuck you, let’s party.
Aldo Huxtable: Interviewer
Aldo: So I found out that your latest album, Suck My Shirt, has a story behind it.
Stephanie: Well, we were in the studio—this is a very serious story—and we had very little tequila left in the bottle, passing the bottle around taking shots. And Ed—the guy who was recording us—spilled a shit-ton of it of on his god-damned shirt…
Meredith: Almost all of it.
Stephanie: …and I was like, “You suck that shirt.” Because we don’t have a lot money, okay. So when we buy a bottle of liquor you better… so we were like “Suck that shirt, suck that shirt, and suck all that alcohol out of it!” And that’s all it is, see how serious it is?
Aldo: …I saw that Larceny and Old Lace, that album title was based on a Golden Girls episode.
Julia: That is correct.
Aldo: And, I remember watching Golden Girls when I was like maybe five or six and I didn’t hate it. [laughter] I’m watching these septuagenarians going about their business, then I read that Julia wrote a couple of essays. What topics did those papers cover?
Miranda: Julia learned English by watching Golden Girls.
Stephanie: It’s kind of big.
Julia: They were for my women’s studies classes and focused on the progressive nature of the show. We would never see in 2014 four aging women who look like aging women have sex lives, or lives at all for that matter. The show was very progressive for its time, dealing with AIDs, homosexuality, race, drug addiction/abuse, women’s roles in society and aging. Plus... it’s a hella funny show! We were also kind of thinking about female serial killers and just where your brain has to be in order to be there. So it all came together in this really weird way that came from the Golden Girls and from serial killers
Stephanie: We make the connection, motherfuckers. [laughter] That’s why The Coathangers exist. You can take fucking My Little Pony and fucking Myra Hindley (The Moors murders from mid-‘60s England. She killed five children), and make a cupcake out of it.
Aldo: Scramble, is there a story behind that album title?
Julia: We used to do this thing in a hotel where we would scramble so that we would only have to pay for two people occupying a room instead of four.
Aldo: You would pay for one bed?
Julia: We would put hoodies on and just walk in—because we all had dark hair at that time.
Aldo: Because hoodies aren’t shady at all.
Julie: [Pointing to Meredith] People think she and I are the same person.
Stephanie: People think that I’m Julia and that I’m Candice, who’s not even in the band anymore. It’s crazy. [laughter] I’m like the tallest tattooed-out motherfucker. They would upcharge you if you have more than…
Julie: Then you’d come at different times and they would just think it was the same person, because no one pays attention.
Stephanie: So, trickery.
Julie: And also we were just like, that album…
Stephanie: That whole album was a scramble.
Julie: It was our second album and it was like our brains—our scrambled thinking.
Meredith: And we had no time, so we were just like scrambling to get it together.
Aldo: I’ve read in other interviews where you say each album is like a snapshot.
Stephanie: It’s really a snapshot in our timeline.
Julie: When you go to a show, do you want to hear the same song over and over?
Aldo: Of course not.
Stephanie: That’s what we try to do. We try to make sure that every song makes a point; that everything is consistent, that it sounds like us.
Julia: We don’t try to write the same songs. There are similar ones, of course, because it’s us.
Stephanie: But we don’t want to be that band that is putting out songs where you can’t differentiate between song one and song seven.
Aldo: When it comes to writing an album, is it like, “Okay guys, now it’s time to write an album, let’s set some time apart” or… ?
Stephanie: It can’t be rushed. What makes them different is where we’re at that point in time in our lives. Life is fucking fucked up, so everyone’s on a different page every year.
Julia: Even songs change too, you know.
Meredith: That’s why we put songs we did on the 7”s when there were four of us. They’re completely different. Now this is what it is.
Stephanie: Life is consistently changing. The only thing constant is change, and I think we try to keep up with that. But, at the same time, we don’t want to be that band that’s just one long song. We’re always willing to experiment with different ideas and different ways of playing. We’re always open to learn more. You can never know too much about anything.
Aldo: So coming back to your latest album, before the whole ordeal, was there a different title?
Meredith: There were a lot of them.
Aldo: Shoot them off.
Julia: It was stuff to do with three, it was the power three.
Aldo: Like cubed?
Meredith: No like triangles and stuff like that. Stuff that didn’t really make sense.
Julia: [laughs] It was like, “Dude, who are we trying to kid? Just Suck My Shirt. I can’t even deal with this right now. That’s how we felt about figuring out the title.
Meredith: That’s the one we kept coming back to. We didn’t want it to be too serious because we’re not.
Aldo: I heard “suck my shirt” and the first thing that came to mind was…
Meredith: Eat my shorts!
Julia: Yeah! That’s cool too, because that’s what it is. We’re going over the titles and ideas behind our songs and we’re always like, “Fuck you, dude. Don’t tell me what to do.” That’s kind of the attitude I feel we have with most of the songs.
Stephanie: Everyone’s lost the main idea behind fucking music, man. It’s like, have a fucking good time, do whatever the fuck you want, say what you want. You have a fucking opinion? Do it better than me. I fucking double dare you. Suck my goddamn shirt, among other things.
Julia: We approach it in a way of, “This is us and the sound that we make is the sound that we make.” So if you want to join along, then let’s chill and if you don’t—if you and want to sit there and say, “You’re not doing this and you’re not doing that”—then suck my shirt and fuck off. It’s either you’re with us or your hanging out in the corner talking about my shirt. Fuck you, man. [laughter]
Meredith: We’re just partying.
Stephanie: The reason that we tour so much and that we want to play so much is because we want to meet people like you and hang out and have a good time. That’s what rock’n’roll was invented for—to enjoy and experience different things and people. We ain’t curing cancer, honey. We’re just trying to have good time. Suck the shirt. Love it. Live it.
Julia: Suck the shirt of life. [laughter]
Aldo: Julia, you play classical guitar, and Stephanie you play harpsichord…
Stephanie: [laughs] No, I want to. I want to buy a harpsichord and play vampire music.
Aldo: Like Phantom of the Opera?
Stephanie: Absolutely, yes. I’m totally serious. Anyways, that’s neither here nor there. Nice bringing that up, though. [laughs] Where’d you hear that? [laughs]
Aldo: I did my research.
Julia: [pointing to Meredith] She plays the clarinet.
Meredith: I wish I did still, god.
Stephanie: Pick it back up. [laughs]
Aldo: Do you have anything left?
Meredith: Well, I was in a marching band. I’d remember how to play everything, if I had one. After this tour I’m going to buy a clarinet. [laughter]
Aldo: March around the stage, like in color guard.
Stephanie: She was in flag—what was it called?
Aldo: Color guard.
Julia: No, it was flag team, like color guard. [laughter]
Aldo: The Coathangers tour a lot. Do you ever pull over to sightsee?
Julia: We made it a point to start going and sightseeing in recent years. We took days off to go to the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. We also try to fit in beach time when we tour Florida. Just on this tour we stopped at Roswell, New Mexico which has always been on our list.
Aldo: I notice that—at least for the full-length albums—the past three albums have been recorded or mixed, locally, in Atlanta. Since you’ve been touring, has there been a place where you’re there and like, “We feel The Coathangers could create music here.”?
Julia: If we had time. We need to have time. We’ve always thought about California.
Meredith: There’s just not enough time.
Stephanie: Then when we’re back at home, we’re all working.
Julia: We don’t have the luxury of a lot of money and time.
Stephanie: Money and time—which no one has any of.
Julia: And you want to go home. Like, if you have three weeks off, you want to spend it at home, where you’re comfortable, not necessarily in a strange place, adjusting and working still.
Aldo: So you feel you need to touch base at some point?
Julia: Of course.
Stephanie: We would love to take peyote and go out to the fucking desert, Joshua Tree, and record an album there. That would be great. But we need like $10,000 and fucking four months. Who the fuck has that shit? Nobody. Boom.
Julia: But maybe we will. We would love that.
Meredith: A girl can dream.
Stephanie: But at the same time, we work really well under pressure.
Julia: One time we went to a farm in Virginia. We just spent time writing and it was highly beneficial.
Stephanie: We were in the middle of nowhere on a fucking farm and we had nothing else to do. And it was just beautiful and we’d get in the garage jamming.
Julia: A couple of the songs came from that.
Aldo: A lot of the songs from Suck My Shirt came from outside of Georgia?
Stephanie: Yeah, on that goddamned farm. Those ideas came from there.
Aldo: So you guys have played at a cemetery, at a goat farm, pool halls, bars. So, first of all, the cemetery thing. How did that happen and how was the gig?
Stephanie: It was at a festival.
Julia: Oh, the zombie walk!
Stephanie: It was a festival that they do in Atlanta. It’s the big cemetery there.
Meredith: Oakland cemetery.
Aldo: And this is an active cemetery, right, where they keep burying people.
Meredith: Yeah, but it’s pretty old.
Stephanie: It’s so old it’s starting to lean in on itself.
Meredith: I don’t think they bury people there anymore.
Stephanie: I mean, it’s pretty old. It’s old as fuck.
Julia: It was hot as fuck. It was like being on a silver skillet.
Meredith: I thought I was dying. [laughs]
Aldo: How was the crowd?
Julia: There was like seven people and two hundred dead people. [laughter]
Aldo: I’m sure there were more than two hundred dead people. There were generations of people watching you guys, from beyond the grave. You had a captive audience.
Stephanie: It was hot as shit. It was like 4:30 PM.
Meredith: It was fun.
Stephanie: But, yeah, why not? Well, it was our friends who were putting it on, so we do everything for our friends
Julia: We play a lot of shows. When we started, we played pretty much any show.
Aldo: And I saw that one of your first shows was at a ninja erotica thing. How did that happen?
Meredith: That was on our first tour, too.
Stephanie: We didn’t even know until we showed up!
Aldo: I know what Hentai is, but I don’t know what ninja erotica is.
Julia: It’s girls with ninja masks on with swords.
Meredith: While we were playing, they had the ninja erotica behind us.
Aldo: So there was like a screen…?
Stephanie: There was a projector.
Aldo: Did you guys know?
All: [In unison] No!
Meredith: We got there and thought it was a Halloween party. It was Halloween, so we though, “Yay, Halloween party.”
Julia: This guy comes out with ninja outfit and we’re like, “How cool. You’re a ninja.” And he’s like, “Do you know what this party is?” and we’re like “No.” He’s like, “It’s the launch of my ninja erotica website.”
Stephanie: It got weirder and weirder.
Meredith: But the ninja girls were there dressed up as ninja girls.
Aldo: How was that show pitched to you guys?
Julia: It wasn’t pitched. It was our first tour. It was like, “We finally got you a show,” and we’re like, “Awesome!”
Aldo: Has there been a gig you had to turn down due to it being too weird?
Julia: We did turn down a SXSW boat gig because it seemed like a logistical nightmare. But we’d pretty much play anywhere as long as it’s a good time! If they want us there screaming in their faces.... then cool!
Aldo: So I was cruising the YouTubes a while back and I stumbled across a clip of you guys on LA Ink. How did that come about?
Julia: That was just a fluke. Our publicist at the time asked if we wanted to do it and Steph was into it. So we all went and she got us tattooed on her. Now that’s commitment to the team!
Aldo: Speaking of videos, you guys have about eight music videos, right? Was the first video you shot for “Parcheezi”? Has the visual interpretation of your music always been a part of the band?
Julia: Yeah, I think “Tonya Harding” was the first video. Or “Parcheezi.” [laughs] Not sure. The videos thing has always been important, but only recently have we really gotten comfortable with the process.
Aldo: How were you able to shoot the video for “Merry Go Round”—which, for our readers, features a bearded dude in a satin-looking shirt wearing a creepy mask who looks straight out of Goosebumps—in a playground, without being chased out of there? I notice that towards the end, when the masked dude is spinning on the UFO, there is—what looks like—a mom and a young child looking on.
Julia: That video was actually made by our good friends Bryan and Clinton out of Kansas City. They shot all the footage of them and we sent them the footage of us from Atlanta. So I’m not sure how they got away with the playground antics. But that video rules!
Aldo: A couple of weeks ago I saw a still for a Coathangers documentary. How is that going? What’s the story behind those bruised-up gams in the title screen still?
Julia: Umm... that was just a short that our friend JTrav made after he went on tour with us for a week. We used most of that footage to make the ”Go Away” video. It’s not an official doc or anything. The bruised pic was just amusing. Steph used to play the tambourine on her leg during shows and got these gnarly semi-permanent bruises on her thigh. We always get these crazy bruises on tour...
Aldo: It’s a game. I’m going to read you four names of male and female meteorologists…
Stephanie: Oh, I like this.
Aldo: Five names in total.
Meredith: Do we have to guess where they’re from?
Aldo: You have to guess if they’re bullshit or actual names.
Aldo: First name, Amy Freeze.
Meredith: How is it spelled?
Aldo: A-m-y and then Freeze, like the band The Freeze.
Meredith: No, I say bullshit.
Julia: If it was spelled different, I’d say bullshit too.
Aldo: So are you saying bullshit?
Aldo: It’s true. WABC, NY.
All: [in unison] Aww.
Aldo: Okay, JohnnyMountain.
Aldo: One hundred percent true! KABC in Los Angeles.
All: [in unison] Aww.
Stephanie: Sorry LA. [laughs]
Aldo: All right, Dallas Raines.
Stephanie: Wait, no. [laughs]
John (dude driving the van): I know for a fact that’s true.
All: [in unison] True.
Aldo: That’s bullshit. He gave it to you. It’s one hundred percent true. [laughter]
Julia: This next one has to be fake.
Aldo: Does it? All right, Larry Sprinkle. [laughter]
Stephanie: You take that back, you take that back!
Meredith: How is it spelled? [laughs]
Aldo: Larry, as in Larry David. L-a-r-r-y. and Sprinkle, as in fucking sprinkles.
Stephanie: That has to be true. It’s true because it’s so bad.
Meredith: I really hope that it’s true. [laughter]
Aldo: North Carolina.
Meredith: [laughs] It’s true!
Stephanie: I need to talk to this guy. Are you serious? Larry Sprinkles?
Meredith: Remember when we met that meteorologist when we were in El Paso?
Aldo: What was his name?
Julia: I can’t remember. I was on the news.
Aldo: Why were you guys on the news?
Julia: I was an expert witness in an alien autopsy. Next question.
Aldo: No! [laughs] Let’s take a step back, alien autopsy? [laughter]
Julia: No it wasn’t. It was about a cloud.
Stephanie: It was about a green cloud that was over El Paso.
Aldo: Wait, did you see it?
Stephanie: Well they showed it to her on a screen.
Julia: The reporter’s all, “What do you think it is?” “Looks like science to me.” Then at the very end I go [head cocked to the side, with an inflection in her voice] “Maybe it’s an explosion.” [laughter] I was like, “There is no way they’re going to use this. Why are they interviewing me?” [laughter]
Stephanie: It was the most bizarre thing ever.
Aldo: They got that on camera and that’s what they put on air?
Julia: Yeah, they used it on the news.
Stephanie: We just got to go to Roswell, New Mexico. That was pretty cool. We went to the UFO museum. You know, if this is it, then what the fuck?
Aldo: It’d be kind of boring.
Stephanie: It would be such a bummer. I’d be so depressed.
Aldo: I’m pretty sure there’s a bunch of other things out there.
Stephanie: I feel like they’re just looking, like this is a kind of science experiment. Like, “Watch, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.” [laughter]
Aldo: Okay, last one. Mann Weatherby.
Meredith: What’s the spelling?
Aldo: M-a-n-n Weatherby.
Stephanie: It’s got to be true.
Aldo: One hundred percent bullshit. I made that up!
All: [in unison] Ahh!
Meredith: “I made that up.” [laughs] I should’ve gone with my first instinct.
Stephanie: We should’ve stuck it out. You got us. [laughter]