Interview with drummer/vocalist Stephanie Luke | By j poet | Photo by Cam Evans
The Coathangers infuse every note they play with an intense energy that bristles with anger, attitude, and snarky humor. On The Devil You Know, their forthcoming album for Suicide Squeeze Records, due out on March 8, the Atlanta band capture the over-the-top energy of their stage shows with 11 scorching new songs.
“We took less than two weeks to record it, and we wrote all the songs in two weeks as well,” drummer and vocalist Stephanie Luke says. “We haven’t all enjoyed making an album this much since Suck My Shirt in 2014. I’m not a huge fan of recording. It’s a little tedious and I have ADD, but I’m fucking stoked on this one. Our first album, [2007’s The Coathangers], was our newborn, and on our next albums, the music was going to kindergarten, middle school, and high school. This one we’re sending off to college.”
“The past couple of years have been hard on everybody,” Luke continues. “The devil in the title is in reference to an ex-boyfriend, your telephone, or the internet or the government. Maybe even yourself. Every song on the album references one of the devils we recognize. Everybody knows some kind of devil; you just have to figure out who it is.”
Luke says the band—whose lineup also includes vocalist and guitarist Julia Kugel and bassist and vocalist Meredith Franco—created the songs in the studio, on the fly, with the help of producer Nic Jodoin, who also helmed their last studio effort, Nosebleed Weekend, in 2016. “We usually go in and record the songs as fast as possible, to retain the loose, loud energy,” Luke explains. “This time, Nic gave us an extra eye. On the songs where we wanted to push it a bit and be more original, he’d say, ‘What about this roll on the drum?’ or ‘this guitar sound?’ or ‘You’re going to do what?’ Sometimes, we’d like his suggestions; sometimes, we wouldn’t take his advice, but it’s great to be pushed. He cares about our music as much as we do. That’s a big compliment, because he’s such an amazing producer and musician.”
Lyrically, the songs on The Devil You Know take on the pressures of the modern world from a sharp, feminist perspective, something The Coathangers have always done, although the vocals are often submerged in the mix and hard to understand. “We don’t want the vocals to sit on top of the music,” Luke says. “On record, the sound is tighter and more perfect, but we try to get the singing close to what you hear when we play live. Onstage, the voices are part of the song like another instrument, sometimes louder or softer, so that’s what we aim for.”
“Like onstage, we play everything live in the studio, except for the vocals,” she notes. “If we need to beef something up or add another guitar part, we’ll do that, but we always record live and layer it up later to be as true to the live show as possible. We just want people to know it’s OK to be cheeky and smartass. It’s part of the punk aesthetic, being sarcastic and saying, ‘Fuck you all!’ but doing it in a tongue-in-cheek way.”