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An evolutionary tale

By Courtney Devores
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  • PREVIEW

    The Coathangers

    WHEN: 10 p.m. Thursday.

    WHERE: Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.

    TICKETS: $3.

    DETAILS: 704-333-9799; www.snugrock.com.



With women’s rights all over the news again, a band called the Coathangers might start attracting more attention.

“I would hope so,” says Julia Kugel, guitarist and co-vocalist for the Atlanta-based arty punk/garage pop band. “But no. People are asking about whether we’re a three piece (the former quartet is now a trio), not the political state of the right to choose.”

Women’s rights weren’t as front and center in national politics when Kugel and her band mates came up with the name driving home from an anti-Bush rally in Washington, D.C., in 2006.

“I had just graduated from college. I was in the state where I was angry about everything. It was almost kind of playful, but for those who get it … Some people are like, ‘Oh I get it. Because you like clothes?’ ” You can almost hear Kugel roll her eyes over the phone. “Whatever. Go watch a Kardashian thing.”

She continues: “It really came from the idea that it was cool to be part of a movement. When you do something like that it feels like a change could happen and it’s really inspirational. I was on a total feminist kick. I was minoring in women studies. … Especially having George Bush there mocking me was so infuriating. The energy (of the rally) led us to starting a loud band.”

The Coathangers fittingly play Snug Harbor’s gender-bending gay dance night Shiprocked! Thursday.

As untrained musicians whose inexperience gave them a fresh, fun, punk sound that was reminiscent of riot grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and early Sleater-Kinney, the Coathangers is the rightful heir to the ’90s feminist punk movement. Kugel wasn’t that familiar with it when they formed.

“It wasn’t something we tried to imitate, but we had to get educated real quick because people kept referencing it in interviews,” she says. “I graduated high school in 2001. I wasn’t in college when it was all happening. In high school you’re not aware of social movements. Until I went to college and started studying feminism and expanding my ideas of the world did I understand the concept.”

Unlike many of its predecessors, the Coathangers’ music isn’t blatantly political. They don’t write protest songs full of slogans.

“The personal is political,” says Kugel, whose songs touch on friends’ deaths, relationships, life on the road, and old-fashioned storytelling. There’s a sense of fun throughout their three albums and vinyl singles though that earned the group a reputation as a party band.

The band name sort of has a less serious and unintentional double meaning considering Kugel is actually surrounded by hangers when she’s at home managing her family’s bridal and formal shop, where she and bassist/co-vocalist Meredith Franco work.

“It’s shocking sometimes,” she says of the juxtaposition. “We do pageants. We dress Miss Georgia. It’s almost complete opposite from what I actually care about. Here I have to value appearance and overly feminized women – although it’s an intricate kind of topic. ... Sometimes when we come back from a long tour, it’s like bizarro world for a few days.”

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