An Horse: They’re Just Happy To Be Here
* Originally published at BestNewbands.com, May 4, 2011 – Read the full text here
If I were to tell Kate Cooper or Damon Cox that I think they’re the “next big thing,” they would shake their heads and change the subject. It’s a part of their charm, but they also would rather genuinely not know. So far, the duo from Brisbane, Australia known as An Horse have toured with Death Cab for Cutie, Kaki King, The Appleseed Cast, Wintersleep, Tegan & Sara (Quin, who are credited for helping break the band in America), and Manchester Orchestra, who they will be supporting on tour this year.
With the release of their second album, Walls, a performance on David Letterman, and their recent performance at Bamboozle, An Horse do not seem to be going away anytime soon. I talked with one half of the duo, about why a rational person who choose to create music for a living, the real story of their name, the secret of a good song and executing timely pranks on Damon.
Kristina Villarini: Can you explain what compels someone to pick up and move from their home, jump in a van and drive for long hours to play music in front of strangers?
Kate Cooper: I am not entirely sure. I like writing songs and playing music. It surprises me daily that strangers want to hear the music we make. You know, I do love a good adventure and playing music and traveling the world is a pretty damn good adventure.
KV: Your relationship with Tegan & Sara has been long documented by the press. Does it get tiring to hear about, or is it worth consistently mentioning?
KC: I understand why it’s mentioned and referenced in the press. It’s easy to mention and it’s a fine story. I am very humbled that Tegan and Sara care so much about the music we make and we are very proud to be their friends. They are some of the best people I know. And funniest. I don’t hear too much about it to be honest. I don’t read that much press.
KV: As I understand it, the name “an horse” came from a debate about whether you would use “a horse” or “an horse” in a statement. Was that ever settled, or are you continuing the debate by using it as your name?
KC: We used it as a band name to provoke thought and create debate. No, in all honesty, we used it because my sister had given me a sweater with “An Horse” emblazoned on it. I used to wear it and people would ask if it was a band. When we were looking for a band name, that seemed like an easy fix. It’s arguably correct either way. Choose your style manual.
KV: What is more long-lasting: a good pop song or a good rock song? What is more important: the lyrics or the music?
KC: A good song is a good song. I don’t buy into one kind of music being better than another. A good song will stand the test of time whether it’s straight up pop or black metal. It’s all very subjective. I think the two are so intertwined, it’s impossible to judge them as separate entities. I know other people who listen to the music before listening to a word the singer is singing and vice-versa.
KV: When you began becoming aware of buzz about the band, did you think “Finally!” or “Really? Us?”
KC: I try not to think about it all too much. Honestly, I just really like writing songs and playing them. It blows my mind daily that people care so much.
KV: What were the fundamental differences between Rearrange Beds and Walls?
KC: Sonically, it’s better sounding and I also think the songs themselves are a lot stronger. This time around we actually set out to make a record. We demo-ed the songs a lot. We tried to make them as strong as they could be before we recorded a note. Last time around, Damon and I recorded some demos quickly with a friend that later morphed into an album. So to be more succinct, it was a lot more deliberate.
KV: What did you have to learn how to do better, as a result of this band? What are you still learning how to do, ie; performing, singing, collaborating, etc.
KC: I had to learn a WHOLE lot. I think Damon and I are learning everyday! We have been so lucky to have toured with such amazing bands and people that we couldn’t help but learn from them. I think the minute I stop learning things will probably be a good indication that I should stop playing music. That or that I am–in fact–dead.
KV: Who is the last band that got you excited about music (besides yours)?
KC: Well, PJ Harvey just put out a new record and I am a huge fan. I was so excited to hear it. I love it. I am easily excited with music. If I hear something new that I like, I am immediately excited and inspired. Both Damon and I are super excited to hear Manchester Orchestra’s new record. We will get to hear the record, then see them play a bunch of it live on tour. It’s going to be awesome.
KV: Are you critical of each other, or yourselves more?
KC: I am very critical of myself. I am very rarely critical of Damon. He is very, very, very talented. I am my worst critic, but I like it that way. It means I have to constantly get better.
KV: Has this experience been everything you expected?
KC: Which experience exactly? This interview? Um, I guess so. Some very good questions here. I think perhaps you mean the experience of playing music? I am not sure I had any expectations. If I did they have all been blown out of the water. I feel very lucky to be able to do this for a living.
KV: What would fans be surprised to know about you?
KC: I have gotten Damon 3 or 4 times with a whoopee cushion in the last week. Easy target.
KV: Is it easier to write a song when you’re happy or defeated?
KC: I can write whenever I have some time to myself and a quite place. I think my songs often seem like they come from an unhappy place, but for the most part, I am a very happy person. Sometimes writing defeated or angry is a bad idea because the songs are so obvious and cringe worthy.
KV: What are your goals as a band?
KC: Obviously, we want to keep making records and we want more people to hear them. I think we both share a goal of being happy and fulfilled people. If we are happy and fulfilled anything can happen.
KV: Fill in the blank: “We were ___ to play Bamboozle.”
KC: We were covered in sunscreen to play Bamboozle.
KV: I’ve got another one for you. “Playing music is _____.”
KC: Playing music is one of the best things in the world. It’s right up there with chocolate, coffee and babes.
KV: What genre identifies most with your sound?
KC: I am not sure. I have never asked any genres (if we identify with them). Damon and I make music that we like. Maybe that’s the genre?
KV: What’s next for you?
KC: Hopefully dinner, but it’s looking grim on the highway.
An Horse are currently killing it on tour, including dates overseas. The band will be on the road through August, where they will perform at Lollapalooza. Check their tour page for more info to see when they will be in a city near you.