The Coathangers didn’t light out for California because they’d always dreamed of stepping through the doors of Valentine Recording Studio, but the Atlanta trio ended up being floored when they arrived for the first day of tracking.
“Our manager got us in touch with Nic Jodoin, who was the producer on Nosebleed Weekend, and that was the first time we’d ever worked with anyone like that,” drummer Stephanie Luke says, speaking on her cell from the home of the Braves. “He was amazing—he reopened Valentine Studios for us. It was just sitting there empty. He couldn’t believe it and we couldn’t believe it. They were basically using it as a storage unit.”
To understand the significance of that, one has to consider the kind of talent the space played host to back in the day. A short list includes Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, and the Beach Boys.
“Nic just kind of stumbled upon it, gussied up the place, and then we were the first band to go in there,” Luke says. “It was frickin’ amazing. With a place like that, you can just feel the history. He restored it to be just like it was back in the ’70s, so there was shag carpet everywhere and lots of mustards and olive green. It had such a cool vibe to it and we felt very blessed to be part of it.”
Perhaps more importantly, the Coathangers also found themselves inspired. The group—which includes singer-bassist Meredith Franco and singer-guitarist Julia Kugel—has built a well-deserved reputation as one of Atlanta’s best good-time garage-punk bands, thanks to songs like “Nestle in My Boobies” and “Shut the Fuck Up”.
For Nosebleed Weekend, Luke and her bandmates aimed to be something more than the best thing this side of the Black Lips. So they decided to step entirely out of their comfort zone by decamping to L.A. and writing with no outside distractions.
“We’d always recorded in Atlanta and we love the Living Room guys who we’ve always worked with,” Luke says. “But we wanted to take a step further and get out of the box that we’ve been seen as being in. We wanted to maintain our sound, but also to try things we’d never done before. Because this album was coming out for our 10-year anniversary, we were like, ‘Just really frickin’ go for it.’ ”
And go for it the Coathangers did, not only recording on the West Coast but also holing up and writing in the Golden State. The band meshes gutter blues with steel-eyed posthardcore on “Down Down” and dips its toes in classic Seattle grunge for “Nosebleed Weekend”. “Watch Your Back” is the circa-’79 Slits mainlining white noise, while “Make It Right” sets up in the garage and stomps on the distortion pedals.
All of it leaves one wondering where the Coathangers might go next. Take the fact the band initially came together on the way back from an anti–George W. Bush rally, and add the reality that Donald Trump is currently making America hate again in the White House, and one might wonder if the Coathangers’ days of mixing things up are only starting.
“The best thing that comes out of bad things happening is that’s when music and art and activism really shine,” Luke says. “That’s when people write amazing songs. It’s hard to write a song when you’re happy, unless you’re in a band that always sounds happy. So as awful as everything is with the political climate in America right now, in some ways it’s really great.
“We’ve already been writing new songs because we’ve got so much to say. We’ve never tried to be an overtly political band, because we want people to think for themselves. But at the same time it’s almost impossible not to say something.”
The Coathangers play Fortune Sound Club on Saturday (March 18).