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Coathangers take on gun violence in ‘Devil You Know’

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From left, Julia Kugel, Meredith Franco and Stephanie Luke are The Coathangers. (Courtesy Matt Odom)

Strident Coathangers bandleader Julia Kugel used to attack topics that annoyed her with the ferocity of a hungry shrew. But lately the Long Beach-based firebrand has changed her tone. After watching analysis by MSNBC as it listed a daily litany of alleged crimes of Donald Trump, which he’d sidestep by the end of each week, she grew tired of waiting for justice that never came. “The anxiety and fear that’s invoked by paying really close attention to everything — all the over-information and over-stimulation — kind of makes for a bad life,” says the Atlanta musician. “So I’m living by the good news policy right now. I only want good news in my life.” Still, her claws are razor-sharp on The Coathangers’ latest sixth album, “The Devil You Know,” with punk anthems like “F the NRA.”

How does one filter in only good news?

I think it’s not getting stuck in social media, not getting too deep. And also not getting so emotional about things. That was what was so divisive about the whole thing in the beginning — everyone was so emotional, and rightfully so. But it became like, “OK, everyone chill.” Myself included. S—, when they were saying North Korea was gonna bomb us? I live in California, and every day I was on edge! Do I need to fear every day? That’s kind of what “F the NRA” is about, too — fearmongering. Like, f— off. You’re not gonna have any power over me. I’m gonna hang out with myself for awhile.

As a composer, it can’t be easy to ignore everything going on around you.

I think for awhile, when we were writing the record, yeah — everything had a tinge of the political, because we were writing it at the time it was all happening. That’s why the songs are so emotional, or assertive and aggressive. So now I’m just living in a different reality. We’ve taken a lot of steps forward with this righteousness that resulted from a Trump administration.

Until now, there’s been only one song that dealt with school shootings, The Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays.”

It’s because of fear. Honestly, we had several meetings about that song. People said we shouldn’t put it on the record, that it was too much of a hot-button issue, that we were gonna get backlash. And when I spoke to Kathleen Hanna about it, she was really, sincerely worried for the potential attacks, and that factor is pretty intimidating. But the NRA’s reaction to the Parkland shootings really put them in the position of, “You’re a f—- joke.” So so far, I’ve seen nothing but positive results, people just thanking me for saying this stuff. Again.

IF YOU GO

The Coathangers
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Feb. 23
Tickets: $20
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com

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