Late last year, Atlanta punk band The Coathangers announced they’d be joined by Dengue Fever, Death Valley Girls and more for the Burger A Go-Go Tour, which kicked off in February 2018. Having been a band for over 10 years, the group has received a lot of positive buzz over the release of their five full length studio albums and their latest EP, Parasite. In 2016 they released an excellent record called Nosebleed Weekend, which made our Top Albums list. In November, the band performed Two Nights Of Magic at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach to create a live album and are currently in the final process of wrapping up the project. The Coathangers are a powerful and inspiring female band to many music fans and their carefree yet empowering attitude acts a breath of fresh air in the male-dominated music industry. mxdwn recently had the chance to speak with singer and guitarist Julia Kugel about the upcoming Burger A Go-Go tour, the band’s live album and the state of the music industry as we know it.
mxdwn: First of all congratulations on the upcoming Burger A Go-Go tour. It must feel great to be a part of such a power group of women in the industry, what does this tour means to you?
Julia Kugel: Oh, it’s awesome. I think it’s the only sort of big two day tour we’ve ever been a part of that is predominately female, I mean there’s guys in the bands, but it feels really good. A couple of years ago we were invited to play the Burger A Go-Go shows at the Observatory, so it’s really cool that now we’re able to travel with it.
mxdwn: What are you most looking forward to on the tour?
JK: We know most of the bands really well, like the Death Valley Girls, so mostly it’s just gonna be hanging out. It’ll be really good to hang out and we haven’t been to some of these places in a while and it’s really gonna be our first tour of the year.
mxdwn: Do you prefer writing and making music or the touring life? Or have you found a balance that fulfills both needs.
JK: Only now have we found the balance. We used to be just hit the road dogs, like always on tour. It’s where we feel most comfortable I think overall because our greatest asset is that we love to perform live. Recording and writing has always been stressful with time constraints put on it. But now, we’re writing and the girls are coming out in February, so we’re gonna be continuing the writing process for a new record, which is really cool. It’s cool to have time off and sort of gather your thoughts and be like “What do I think about everything?” When you’re touring you’re just always on an adventure, you know always going, so it’s hard to reflect.
Photo Credit: Owen Ela
mxdwn: Last November you played Two Nights Of Magic at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach to create a live album. How did those shows go and how is the live album coming along?
JK: Good! It sounds soooo good! The shows were really fun. The first night we were super nervous because we knew it was being recorded and the second night is the night we used. We were like “Yea we’ll figure out using stuff from each night” but no, the second night had the energy and had the zero fucks given attitude and it was so fun. We actually recorded the whole thing, so we have really great video footage of it and my husband mixed it, Scott Montoya. He’s done a lot of recordings in the past, so it was super fun to mix with him. It’s in production right now, we’ve picked all the vinyl colors, we’re just waiting for the test, so we’re really stoked on that. It’s the easiest way to make a record. I only want to do live records now. It’s just one day. There’s no thinking about tones, it’s just like “Bam!” that’s where you’re at. It’s really great. It’s just really great to have limitations sometimes.
mxdwn: A lot of your music comes from a place of frustration in response to everything that is going on in our world, but who do you listen to for inspiration?
JK: Every record we wanna make a Clash record. It’s just a great ground zero, The Clash, for protest music and it’s just really good it doesn’t sound preachy and stuff like that. I have to say that because every time I will reference the first Clash record. This is odd, but I always listen to our old records. I never listen to them once they’re mixed, mastered and I’m done with it, but I’ll go and listen to our old records and think “What’s the continuation of this, where do I want this band to go?” Because then you can sort of see it from an outsider’s point of view and you know just see what’s out there. I like to explore new music and see what everyone is doing, from hip-hop to rock ‘n roll and everything in between. You feel like “Ok well this is where the world is now.”
mxdwn: As a band it’s pretty clear where you fall on the political spectrum especially when it comes to Women’s Rights. With the culture changing a bit with things like the #MeToo movement, what are somethings you think the music industry can do to better support and protect women?
JK: There’s a lot of organizations popping up, like keeping women safe at shows. I don’t know as an industry, but there are organizations and there are movements happening that are speaking about things that have been happening to women for a long time, like getting groped at shows,and stuff like being inclusive and festivals and having our own sort of things. So there’s a lot of women now in control and they’re starting things and doing things and I think that’s the only way, through actions, through actually doing things and not just talking about it.
The personal becomes political. We didn’t set out to be a political band, really, we just did the thing. In turn, it became a political statement. I do think speaking out and being right about what’s not right and teaching women not to be victims and to be like “Hey this is wrong!” and speaking out and that’s even hard for me and I scream for a living. Sometimes you just switch positions and sort of have that conversation of you just say “No, fuck off” or get help or whatever. I think this whole mess of this presidency and everything happening has actually brought out so much conversation and people that would never think about the #MeToo campaign and all these things, they are talking about it and are talking about the imbalances with power and stuff like that. It’s pretty incredible. It’s doing its thing itself. I think we’ve all been guilty of not talking about these topics before. It’s really important just to have that dialogue. I do think they’re really changing and age of Aquarius is supposed to be all about the power of women!
Photo Credit: Mauricio Alvarado
mxdwn: Though The Coathangers started as something for fun it has obviously evolved into something much more than that. With the technology and social media of today, it is easier than ever before to make music and start a band. What impact do you think this has on the music industry? Is it good or bad that just about anyone can call themselves an artist?
JK: Art isn’t supposed to be an exclusive club for people who can afford to go to art school. It’s like the pretentiousness is kinda fading out. It’s evening the playing field. Just because you went to school where you know or you study it doesn’t mean you have talent, doesn’t mean you are creative. I never considered myself an artist. I just did what I wanted to do, what my heart wanted to do. It’s weird that whenever anyone calls us musicians, like if you wanna claim that and go with it and be an artist then do that, please! Does it mean that we’re bombarded with a lot more information, visually and auditorily? Yes, so you have to not be overwhelmed by it. It’s challenging to sort of decipher all of it, but it’s amazing. It’s amazing what it has done to artistry in general. Everyone needs a leg up, everyone needs assistance, it’s about finding your avenue and audience because a lot of audiences have been ignored in the past as well, females included. We had rock n roll full of men and they weren’t really singing to us about our issues so the audiences will find people who are speaking their truth, which is really cool.
mxdwn: Besides there being more access to the music industry as a whole, there’s been many other changes to the music world like streaming. Where do you see the music industry going because of all of these changes? Is there always going to be room for more artists?
JK: There’s always gonna be room because people quit bands all the time. The streaming thing is a little bit weird because artists aren’t really getting paid. Anyone can make art, but who is gonna make money off it? Who is going to make a living off of it? That’s the question and that’s where streaming services need to reconfigure their shit and figure out if you need a million plays in order to get your first penny off a song, then that’s a lot, especially since the market it so filled with options. That makes it really difficult for artists to stay making art. That’s gonna have to be figured out somehow. I come from a time where before the internet when you had to research stuff and read magazines to find music, so this is all really weird, the shift and the change. Now you have too much. With streaming it’s like “Please listen to me, look at me! I’m naked! I’m here! I’ve got all this wacky shit on!” When before you, the consumer, would have to seek them out and you wanted to buy one song of this person. It’s very strange, I feel kind of uncomfortable, myself, because of that. It’s gonna shift. That’s what happening. It is what it is and we’ll just see. The next 50 years are gonna be fucking crazy.
Photo Credit: Owen Ela
mxdwn: You guys seem to have a lot of fun and a much more humorous and lighthearted approach to your music, yet your music itself is pretty intense. How do you mentally prepare to perform for a show so you can get into your rocker element?
JK: Thank you. That’s us. There’s no preparing, that’s who we are. When we’re on stage, that’s us. I don’t know if you watch the show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” but Larry David, that’s who his persona is. That’s who he would want to be if he could just be that. And that’s who I want to be, someone who can just go “Yea, fuck off. I don’t like that. This is who I am,” and just be so open with your emotions that is, at this point, a really important catharsis to have. And when you have it every night, you end up being a very well-rounded person. It’s like if I didn’t have it I’d probably be a bit more of a psychotic person. Hopefully [we] induce that sort of release for the people that are in the room with us. We’re all just releasing shit, and it’s really good and we’re just gonna have a good time. I mean that’s the whole thing, that’s the point of everything. The humor in our music comes from the fact that if you don’t laugh, you’re gonna cry, and I’d rather laugh so I laugh at everything.
mxdwn: You’ve been a band for over 10 years now, so I’m sure you’ve gained some wisdom over time. What’s your biggest piece of advice for those wanting to get their start in the music industry?
JK: Our motto has always been “Fake it till you make it” so just play the part, do the work, write the songs. The work now is slightly different than it was before, so now you have to sell yourself more on social media, we didn’t have that, we had Myspace. We toured to spread the word about us, so whatever that work means, you gotta practice, write the records. Really, because of the access to everything, all the medias, if you have a good record and you’re nobody, you can probably still make it and catch someone’s eye. And be kind to people! You never know where you’re gonna meet. Everyone, from the bartender, to the door guy, to the security guard to the guy that sets up your mic, you better be nice. Don’t be a shitty person! You’ve gotta stand up for yourself if someone is being shitty to you, tell them what you think. In general, appreciate what you do because it’s a very rare gift that we have to be able to make music. There are a lot of people that don’t have access to media or to instruments. We are so lucky in this country to have all these things at our disposable, so be grateful for that. Come from that place because it’ll probably make you a better artist.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Boston Lynn Schulz