Julia Kugel-Montoya (Crook Kid), Stephanie Luke (Rusty), and Meredith Franco (Minnie)
Photo by Jeff Forney
When The Coathangers played their first show at an Atlanta house party in 2006, the group could barely play their instruments. What started as a fun way to get together with friends and be rowdy evolved into a self-titled album on Die Slaughterhaus Records that perfectly blended post-punk and riot girl sensibilities. Fast forward fourteen years later, and The Coathangers have developed into a powerful sisterhood that isn’t afraid to fight for equality and independence. From their name (a DIY abortion method) to their message in every song spanning six albums, they’ve shown they won’t be swayed by anyone or anything, staying true to their ideals and surrounding themselves with anyone that wants to come along on their journey. Raven connected with drummer and vocalist Stephanie Luke, aka Rusty, to reflect on the longevity of the band, the importance of standing up for what you believe in, and how the fear of the unknown should not be an obstacle in going out and doing what you want.
After releasing their first full-length album on Die Slauterhaus, the group received an email that would change the course of the band in the best way. “David [Dickinson], the owner of Suicide Squeeze Records, got in touch with us via email, which we couldn’t believe was real because we love his label. We got back in touch with him and the rest was history.” From there, the band pumped out five albums on Suicide Squeeze, plus a live album that was recorded at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach in 2018. With every album, the relationship between the band and the label got stronger, and it created an environment that allowed The Coathangers to be who they truly are. “David allows us to have creative freedom on Suicide Squeeze, which means everything. It means we can always be the band we want to be, and it’s allowed us to continue to grow.”
Allowing a band to have creative freedom gives them the chance to build a platform they’ve always wanted, and that’s exactly what happened. The Coathangers have never been afraid to share their voice, and that message is clear in every song. With topics ranging from addiction to gun control, expressing their truth, whether personal or political, is something they take pride in. “We write about what we’re constantly thinking about and what’s important to us. As artists and with what’s been going on, how could we not?” Take the song, “Hey Buddy,” for example, which touches on street harassment, women, and transgender issues. Its lyrics expose those who hurl abuse at individuals living outside rigid gender roles. “We want that song to resonate with everyone and anyone who’s been discriminated against. It’s so very important. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel bad for who you are.”
This sense of empowerment from The Coathangers is something they hope inspires their fans, both in a political sense and personal sense. They’ve been vocal in the past on the importance of personal growth and looking within yourself to figure out what you want out of life, as scary as that may seem. According to Luke, fear of the unknown, whether its failure, lifestyle changes, or personal struggles, should never prevent anyone from going out and doing what they want. The band is a testament to that. “Everything in life is about growth. I cared for years growing up what my family, classmates, even strangers thought about me, and I always felt so awkward and left out. When I started this band with my bandmates, I was finally allowed to be who I always was, the freedom to express myself and all of the feelings that I never really knew how to get out.”
The environment The Coathangers have created over the last fourteen years has given others freedom to be who they really are. From their first full-length album to now, they’ve created a space, both through their music and live shows, for all to be welcomed and accepted. Not only do they feel that, but according to Luke, they hope the fans feel that as well. “No matter how big the crowd, I’ve been able to experience so much love and acceptance from all of the people who have come to our shows. It’s so cathartic. That’s what music is all about, connection and acceptance.”
Follow The Coathangers on Instagram @thecoathangers, @thecoathangers on Twitter, and The Coathangers on Facebook. You can purchase their latest album, “The Devil You Know,” here. You can purchase the reissue of their self-titled album, “The Coathangers,” out on 12/4 here.