Published June 15, 2009
Australian band An Horse has a straightforward approach: Kate Cooper sings and plays guitars; Damon Cox, plays drums and sings on occasion. No bass, no extra parts, no drama. They have a concise muscular sound on their impressive debut record, Rearrange Beds (Mom & Pop Records). “Post Cards” at a tidy two and a half minutes, is a power pop testament to a bittersweet affair, in the expansive “Little Lungs” Cooper’s vocals build from vulnerable to fiercely expressive. The Brisbane natives are living the life of the young band in demand, playing South by Southwest, crashing on friends’ couches, and touring relentlessly across America and Europe. We spoke before their vibrant set at Mercury Lounge—where the duo played side by side, harominizing intensely—and sorted out how they write lyrics, why their track “Camp Out” references Hole, and whether they are related.
DAVID COGGINS: The two-piece band has always been interesting. What’s it like playing just one man and one woman?
DAMON COX: It’s really good because there are fewer personalities and fewer people to make decisions and less chance that there are going to be problems. We didn’t set out to form a two-piece it just happened that way.
KATE COOPER: We didn’t try to form a band; we just wanted to play some music together. It turned out kind of cool and we were compelled to keep doing it.
DC: So it wasn’t that you wanted this elemental sound—that you didn’t want to play with a bass?
COX: Not at all. We were playing in other bands, and we just ended up recording five songs and didn’t know whether we were going to put it out or not. Then we released an EP and were asked to start doing tours.
KC: I remember playing it for a few friends at home and they said you’ve got to release this-it hadn’t really occurred to us.
DC: So there wasn’t a specific moment where you declared, ‘This is a band, we are An Horse’?
KC: I feel like the minute we finished the first song we looked at each other and thought, “This is pretty cool.”
COX: We struggled in other bands for years. And I feel that we didn’t want to do it the same way again. Luckily we got asked to do a tour over here [in the US] before we toured at home, and that started things fairly quickly.
DC: What’s the difference between playing here and in Australia?
KC: Well tours are smaller there-we did three tours there in January alone and it’s taken us three months to do one tour here.
COX: Home is great. But we definitely have more people here that believe in the band. I don’t know why.
DC: The album is great. I listen to it so much I have to stop, I don’t want to…
KC: You don’t want to kill it?
KC: Thanks. I’ve been killing albums lately.
DC: What about this Hole reference in the song “Camp Out?” It took me a few times before I recognized that. WHAT IS THE REFERENCE TO
KC: Live Through This was one of the first records I listened to when I was a teen and it was one of the first songs I taught myself how to play on guitar. I actually thought that line was cheesy but I recorded it and the people thought it was fine. I did second guess it but we left it.
DC: There’s a quality of liking music in the music, which is nice. When you have a man and a woman in a band people must ask you about the dynamic of lyrics about love.
KC I write lyrics and Damon writes lyrics. And I’ll send him what I’ve written after we’ve written a song together and he’ll go away and read them and never really ask me what they’re about, and I won’t really tell him. He knows me very well and we spend a lot of time together. Before we were in a band we went to work everyday together.
COX: We worked in a record shop-that’s how it all happened.
KC: That was really beneficial for us. Before we made music we got to discuss it for two years.
COX: It was almost like an apprenticeship. After it was over it was like this is working well.
DC: How have the changes in the industry worked for you, with MySpace and everything?
KC: It’s tricky. People are consuming a lot more music-everybody has an iPod, but not everybody had a CD Walkman. People listen to music all the time, of course they steal it more. You just have to adapt. But I’m a collector-from the time I was working in a record store-when I find a record I love I go buy it and spend time with it.
COX: As long as people come the shows that’s good. The live scene is healthy.
KC: I would have been a lot cooler kid if I had the Internet growing up.
DC: I definitely wouldn’t have spent my time hoarding Van Halen albums. Do people ask you about the White Stripes?
COX: A few people say we’re like the reverse White Stripes, since Kate sings and plays guitar. But we don’t really sound at all like them.
DC: And you’re not a fake brother-sister combination.
COX: Actually, in our first bio it said we were brother and sister. It was on our MySpace page and it said we were siblings. And then things started to happen and the bio remained the same.
KC: I think I wrote it because people always said we look the same. People always came up to us and asked, “Are you brother and sister?” So I just said yes.