An Horse Breaks Down Walls: An Interview

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Begun in a record store in Australia, An Horse is the project of Kate Cooper and Damon Cox. Since forming, Cooper has relocated to Toronto, while Cox remains in Melbourne, though the two tour frequently. An Horse has opened for bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Silversun Pickups, and Tegan and Sara. On Walls, the duo makes infectious indie pop that will brighten even the darkest day. Here, Cooper discusses David Lynch, Fugazi, and Justin Bieber.

ELM: So how are you today?

KC: I’m Great, thanks. I’m driving through the desert, enjoying the
desert vibe.

ELM: The desert?

K: Yeah, we’re on our way from Phoenix to San Diego today, it’s pretty, it’s one of my favorite drives in the States.

ELM: What do you like about it?

KC: I love the vibe of the desert, I don’t know. It seems very mystical to me, I sound like a hippie but it’s awesome.

ELM: What’s the landscape like where you’re from in Australia?

KC: I grew up on the beach, actually where I grew up was a lot like L.A.

ELM: Is it a big city?

KC: No, it’s like the miniature version. Actually when I grew up there it was very much a small tourist town, but it’s grown into a very large city.

ELM: I was reading an older interview with you where it said you and Damon were living on separate continents, is that still the case?

KC: Yes, I am living in Toronto, and Damon is living in Melbourne.

ELM: How do you feel that your music is received differently in Australia than it is, say, in the States or in Canada?

KC: Well, you know I’m not really sure. Damon and I are going home to play shows for the first time in two years, so we don’t really know how it’s gonna be received, I think it’s going to be great and fine, but I can tell you that in a week or so. But right now
I’m just hoping for the best.

ELM: You’ve toured with a lot of bands and opened for some really big names in music, I was wondering what have you learned from watching those bands and being on the road with them.

KC: We’ve learned so much. We’ve been on tour with some amazing bands. But mainly I’ve just learned that you have to work really hard for a long time and that they’re generally nice people, good things happen to nice people, so we’ve just been lucky that we’ve been on tour with a lot of amazing bands that make amazing music and it’s just so happens that they were all awesome. We’ve kind of learned from the best, which is pretty cool. Kind of blows my mind if I think about it too much.

ELM: You mentioned working hard–I was thinking earlier about how some songwriters schedule in writing time and some just do it when they feel inspired, and there are some songwriters that are really prolific and some that are not so much. How do you see yourself in those terms as a songwriter?

KC: You know I try not to think about it too much because it just happens. It often is when I just feel like writing, but often when I’m at home by myself, then it’s every day. I can’t really do it on tour, although sometimes I would like to be able to do it on more tour, but often it’s a time factor, and also it’s hard to get time alone, which is often difficult. I think I have to write a lot of songs, a lot of bad songs, before I get a good one.

ELM: When you’re writing do you have your guitar there?

KC: Yes, I write musically, with an acoustic, just very quietly, by myself.

ELM: I’m really curious about the song “Tiny Skeletons,” I think it’s one of my favorites from the record. Can you tell me more about it?

KC: I don’t really know more about it than you, I guess. I know that’s so silly to say but I don’t know. It was actually one of the songs that I wasn’t that keen on. In the recording process I liked the lyrics, I thought that they were cool, but I wasn’t really sure about the direction of the song, but kind of steered it into the direction that was good and that we should keep it. I guess it’s about when you’re kind of choking a bit in a relationship, ‘what am I doing?’ and it’s me going to myself, wishing I had the guts to say some of the things that I’m thinking in my head out loud.

ELM: One of the other lyrical moments I love is the Twin Peaks reference in “Not Mine.” Are you a big David Lynch fan?

KC: Oh, huge.

ELM: What’s your favorite work of his?

KC: What’s my favorite, that’s so hard, I mean obviously I love the TV show but Lost Highway. So scary, I think that the first 20 minutes of the film is possibly the scariest 20 minute scene on film. So freaky and fucked up, in a good way.

ELM: What other filmmakers do you like?

KC: All the classics, you know Hitchcock, I’m a big film noir fan, I love Best in Show,
Waiting for Guffman
, those films. I’m not sure who made them. But I really like old films, I’m always like,’Let’s get this, let’s get another Hitchcock film, let’s get Bullet, and it’s like, really?’ And of course I do love Spielberg, old Spielberg, like I love Duel.

ELM: I think I first saw Duel when I was in high school and I totally didn’t understand and was confused at the time.

KC: That’s the beauty of it, I think. I don’t think I’ve ever understood one, but I can’t stop watching.

ELM: Who are your favorite writers?

KC: That’s a huge question but I love Capote and Raymond Chandler. He’s one of my all-time favorites. I’ve just got done reading it, it’s like a hundred more books you need to read before you die. Jonathan Franzen, more modern, stuff, and Michael Chabon. I actually am very privileged because all my friends, pretty much, I would say 95 percent of my friends in Australia, which is about you know, 16 people, 95 percent of them are accomplished authors, and it’s kind of crazy they’re all coming into their own at home, writing amazing books that are blowing people’s minds, I feel very lucky to have such talented friends. So they’re australian authors, there’s a guy called Benjamin Moore, and our friend just wrote this amazing book that sounds very dry but she wrote it on deforestation in Tasmania, but it’s just such a compelling read, it’s so great. And you know what? The hotel where we were in last night there was Adaptatios the play, that’s that Charlie Kaufman screenplay that talks about The Orchid Thief and I had forgotten about that book until I watched that movie, and that is a great book.

ELM: Yeah, I’ve seen Adaptation but I haven’t read that book.

KC: Oh my god, you need to read it, it’s so good. And then watch the film again because it just makes it that…the idea for that screen play, I was talking about it this morning in the van, it’s just off the hook, that’s the most insane idea but it works so well.

ELM: What musicians do you like that people wouldn’t expect you to like?

KC: I mean, I love everything. My dad brought me up to have very eclectic taste. I love Kylie Minogue, I love Fugazi and I love Metallica, and I love Iron Maiden, I guess that might surprise people. I used to work in a record store, you know Damon and I, and it was kind of a punk and metal store, so I know far too much about metal, and black metal, and the difference between metal and black metal. I love punk music, that’s kind of what I was brought up on. I think a lot of people just assume I grew up listening to Hole and Nirvana, but I didn’t really, I grew up listening to Fugazi and Neil Young, and Motown Records. So it’s all over the shop, in a good way. I actually think Justin Bieber’s pretty good.

ELM: That one surprises me, I actually still haven’t heard his music.

KC: Yeah you know what to be honest I’ve actually only heard a couple songs, and I’m like, wow, these are great pop songs. But I wouldn’t buy an album, no way.

ELM: So you had “Camp Out” covered by Kaki King. What was that like for you?

KC: I was very flattered. Actually at the time Kaki was one of the first bunch of people that I ever sent demos to of An Horse because we were friends prior to An Horse existing and she heard some very early on and was very encouraging, it’s a cool kind of event. I think when
she covered that song, which was years ago now, I think she might’ve covered it from that demo before it was released. It’s a pretty cool thing, pretty humbling to have somebody that talented cover us.

ELM: How did you and Damon originally meet?

KC: We worked in a record store together. We’d kind of known each other from around town, because we lived in a small city, but we didn’t actually get to know each other until I started working at a record store that he was working at and we just got along really well.

ELM: I was wondering what your perspective is on the Toronto indie rock scene.

KC: I don’t really know too much about it, I’ve only been there since October, I haven’t been there that much. When I’m not on tour, I don’t go out, I don’t go to rock shows, that’s for sure. I know it exists, I know it’s healthy, I actually kind of know more things from the hardcore scene I guess, and that’s kind of all I know about it, I haven’t really got involved with the scene. But I know it’s very healthy and I know it’s there, and when I get some time off and spend some more time at home I’ll be able to discover more. But a lot of great bands come from Canada.

ELM: Are you active in any social causes?

KC: I am personally, but I’m in no place to fight for anything, but of course I’m active in my people [gays] getting rights. Same old story, really. I’m active, I have very strong political beliefs in Australia, and I have strong political beliefs about what’s going on in other countries it’s just I don’t have a say, which is frustrating, but, you know, me and Damon are very open minded, liberal people, and when it comes down to it it’s equality across the board, everything. I think we should just chill out and be cool.

An Horse Official Site

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