"Can I be in your band?" SLUG Editorial Assistant Esther Merono surrounded by The Coathangers. Photo: Angela H. Brown
I came upon The Coathangers in a happy accident. Halfway through my week in Austin for SXSW, I was hanging out solo on Red River after catching Zola Jesus at Elysium, and decided to pop into the Swan Dive to grab a drink and relax before This Will Destroy You finished off my night. I walked into the white, ballroom-like room as the gravelly vocals of Rusty Coathanger rang out from the silk tasseled drapes at the back of the stage, her thrashy drum beats backing the garage-rock style guitar played by Crook Kid Coathanger as she yelped into her own mic. Minnie Coathanger had center stage, rocking back and forth on the bass with her back turned to the audience, and BeBe Coathanger tilted her head to the music as she chewed gum and cast spells over her keyboard. I immediately asked the chick next to me for the name of the band and thought I heard "The Coathangers." THE COATHANGERS?!?! I went to check the line-up at the door to make sure I'd heard correctly. Yep, the fucking Coathangers. Awesome band name aside, these Atlanta femmes continued to win me over with their set as they played a variety of noisy, punk/pop/bluesy/garage rock songs. Their stage performance was hands down the best I saw all week long at SXSW, and I saw a shit-ton of shows. I must've looked insane as I sat grinning and laughing, scribbling furiously in my notepad, 'cause there was no way I was gonna get too drunk to forget about these guys. They finished off the set in a screaming match, all on different instruments than they'd started on, and I knew I was in love. As if I needed any more reasons to like them, after buying a bunch of merch and expressing my delight to Minnie, she gave me a big, heartfelt hug. I HAD to see The Coathangers play again––and I did, two more times that week.
Catching up with them again at Cherrywood Cafe a couple of days later for the Girls Rock SXSW Showcase, I set up a time to interview them the following day after another show at Spider House. By the time I saw them for the third time Saturday, I already had half their songs memorized and had read everything about them I could click on. I know, obsessive much? Whatever, these girls had made my week.
I wish I could play this interview for you as audio, because these ladies were so much fun to talk to, but alas, another band (and by "band" I mean a pleasantly plump, topless woman with mouse ears and gold booty shorts) started playing next to us as we talked so the audio's kinda shitty. I'm incredibly stoked to tell you that The Coathangers are going to be in Salt Lake City on April 1 at Urban Lounge. You can listen to all of their music on their Bandcamp page here: thecoathangers.bandcamp.com. See you at the party!
SLUG: I know you've been together for a while, wanna tell me how you got started?
Rusty: We were a bunch of idiots fooling around with our instruments and we didn't know how to play. We went to one of those anti-George Bush rallies (this was a long time ago), and we had a lot of time in the car, so we were like, how funny would it be if we started a band? So, we started coming up with the name … we came up with The Coathangers eventually. I stole a drum set from this guy who owed me money, [Crook Kid] already played guitar, I had a bass so [Minnie] borrowed that, and [BeBe] had played keyboard before as well so she had a little cassio kicking over there.
We had a bunch of crappy shit and we started playing at their house, and then we got a practice space, and then we played a show, and then we were like, this is really fun, maybe we shouldn't treat as so much of a joke––but it's still kind of a joke.
The first year we were playing we were really just learning our instruments while we were writing music, so we would just be like: don't move––like deer in the headlights, 'cause it's really intimidating.
Minnie: We saw a video and we were like ...
Rusty: … We need to move around, that is lame, we need to just have fun, and that's how it started.
SLUG: So you all knew each other before then?
Rusty: We've all lived with each other ...
Crook Kid: … Made love to each other ...
Rusty: … Worked with each other … I think that's why it works, because we're all really honest with each other at all times and we all love each other very much.
SLUG: There's a stigma behind girl bands being dramatic and whatnot, you guys have been together for a decent amount of time, though, over five years. How has your band dynamic changed?
Rusty: We don't give a shit.
Minnie: It's been the same.
Rusty: We don't care about the stupid shit anymore, we don't care if you like our band or not, if you like it, you get it, you're cool. But us personally, we're all the same.
Crook Kid: Just a few years older.
SLUG: What about your music?
Crook Kid: Has it changed? Not at all.
Rusty: It's totally changed, Mrs. Crook Kid. It's gotten better.
Bebe: We've had a lot of practice.
Rusty: We've finally learned how to play those instruments and that helps when you're in a band.
SLUG: Your live show is nuts. You guys swap instruments quite a bit. Did you have to learn to play each other's instruments in addition to your own?
Crook Kid: Everyone interprets an instrument in a different way. One time, on the first record, I was like, I can play this drum beat, what can we do with this? It keeps it fresh so you don't write the same song over and over again. It's just to keep it fun because we're not fucking Metallica. When you see a show and you see the same song for an hour, it could be an awesome song, but it's the same fucking song, and we don't like that.
SLUG: You have quite the controversial name … Would you consider yourselves feminists?
Rusty: Yeah, but I think people misinterpret that word. Feminism is about equality, not about girls being better than boys or that bullshit, it's just equality––everybody should treat each other like human beings. Sometimes when we're on tour we do get treated like we're idiots or groupies or something, like no, I'm playing the show dude, let me back stage, give me a beer or something.
SLUG: What's it like being an all-girl band at this point in time?
Crook Kid: We've never been in another band, so we don't know what the difference is. There are so many females playing all the fucking time, shredding … I see them, I see them on stage. So maybe it's because we're all female in one band … It's awesome, I don't have a bad time, I think we all have a great time and we know when to tell people to fuck off. We're in the fucking band and no, we're not sucking your dick, which is kind of fun too, to put people in their place. It's a good time.
SLUG: Is your music reflective of that?
Rusty: Totally. For us it's the time to get it all out. I want to be screaming about something that pisses me off.
Crook Kid: It's not that we write about being women in the general sense, but it's our experience as humans.
SLUG: Are you inspired by any female musicians?
Crook Kid: The thing is, we're inspired by musicians, so it's weird when people are like, well, what women? Well, all women inspire me that I see play, I don't know their names, I just see them on the fucking stage and they're a really good guitar player or whatever.
Rusty: We love like Bikini Kill, of course, The Raincoats, Delta 5, Kleenex.
Crook Kid: But it's never been that we want to sound like them. We're inspired by all music, I don't have to like them because they're men or women, it just sounds fucking awesome and that's the sound I like.
Rusty: For us, we're not trying to be hot or sexual.
Crook Kid: One of the main things that we try not to do is be sexually provocative.
Rusty: We don't want to look pretty, we want to fucking melt your face.
SLUG: What are you guys working on now and what are you excited for?
Rusty: We just put out a split 7" with Davila 666 from Puerto Rico and then we're going to continue doing split 7"s with our record label throughout the year, a series of four.
Crook Kid: Everything else is a secret.
Don't miss your chance to see these The Coathangers melt your face on April 1 at Urban Lounge.