An Happy Accident

24 April 2012 | 11:25 am | Daniel Cribb

In the lead up to An Horse’s show at the Rosemount Hotel, vocalist/guitarist Kate Cooper talks to Daniel Cribb about coming out of her shell, writing music across oceans and friendly plagiarism.

n Horse vocalist/guitarist Kate Cooper seems to be stuck in her own rendition of Doctor Dolittle as of late. From angry, bite-your-face-off canines to deafening parrots, Coopers has had all kinds of trouble thrown her way from the animal kingdom. “Right now I'm sitting next to my friend's dog Bat, and he's bat-shit crazy,” Cooper says with a soft voice, hoping not to set Bat on a rampage. “He's staring at the door waiting for me to open it so he can go crazy.” Normally a friend's energetic dog wouldn't have Cooper treading so lightly, but after their producer Howard Redekopp's dog Fanny bit one of their assisting engineers on the face during the production of their last record and almost took a chunk out of hers, she has good reason.

“Uncle Peter, the bird that lived with my friend in Montreal, was also a problem. He was a noisy, noisy bird. I had to get rid of him. I was sending demos to our A&R people and it was like, 'Turn down at 2.45 – 2.47', because the tweet was so loud it was going to deafen them, so I had to get rid of him. We're still friends though,” she says, discussing the writing process of their last album Walls.

“I moved to Montreal because I needed a change... I wrote a lot of it [Walls] in Montreal and it was really nice to write somewhere different. We're signed to a label in the States and have really cool A&R people, one who signed pretty much every amazing band in the '90s, bands like Pearl Jam. It was the first time writing when I didn't have to get up at 6am and go to a day job. It was also the first time that I was able to bounce my music off people at a demo stage. In the past I haven't been comfortable enough to do that. I felt really nervous sending music to people who have signed really awesome bands, but they were saying 'this is what we're here for'.”

Having friends scattered across Canada doesn't just give Cooper a place to party and crash during her weeks off, it also supplies her with a rich source of inspiration for songwriting. “I think I rip a lot of things off,” she laughs. “My friends are very wise, intelligent people so I steal a lot of stuff they write to me in emails. I read a lot of books. That's a big thing for me, books. Inspiration from reading – that's always been the case.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

“My sister is an editor of books and she always argues about correct grammar,” Cooper adds, explaining how taking inspiration from friends and family has been a theme from the start. “She gave me a jumper with An Horse written on it as a joke because we used to argue about the grammar of it. People used to see the jumper and ask if it was a band, so when we needed a band name it just made sense.”

A year after the release of their second album Walls, An Horse is still riding the waves of success it created for them, and while the duo haven't been doing much in Australia lately, it doesn't mean they haven't been working their arses off elsewhere. Cooper living in Montreal has given them more opportunities to tour the US, as she explains touring outside Australia fresh off a nine-week US tour. “Touring in the US is awesome. It's very different to touring at home in Australia. I find touring at home quite difficult because you have to catch a plane every day. It's exhausting. In North America you get in a van and you get into a rhythm that can't be stopped. Our shows in the US are great. We have people turning up to shows who have driven six hours to see us. I would say our following is fairly similar all over the world. It's pretty awesome,” Cooper explains, showing a part of her still calls Australia home.

And while having each member in a different country may seem like a hard factor to work around, the internet and the fact there are only the two of them means they are able to make it work to their advantage. “There's less cooks in the kitchen and it means I can live wherever I want. It means we can do a lot more touring. It means when we tour in a good sized van, I get two seats to myself,” she laughs. “I don't think that this situation would work with more people in the band. But because there are only two of us we do have a lot more luxury than a band with three or four or five people in it... We're at the point where we play 280 or something shows a year, so we're so good at playing with each other now and it's not a challenge to keep our performance tight. It's not like I'm walking into a room with someone I've never played with before. It's someone I know how to read musically.

“Me and Damon still write like we did when we lived five minutes from each other. Basically I spend a lot of time over here working on demos by myself, getting them to a point where I'm happy to let other people hear them and then I send them to Damon and he listens to them and then we meet somewhere and finish them. That's pretty much how we did it when we worked in a record store together.”

The dynamics of a duo has helped to keep their professional relationship and friendship intact whilst living so far away from one another. But while it has numerous pros, it also has some cons that may eventually see Cooper and Cox expand. “Live, it's definitely a challenge just having the two of us. Maybe one day we'll have someone else in the band, someone hired on to tour with us. I don't want to ever say we wouldn't, because we might. I mean, there are two of us and we can drive each other crazy, but that's no different to a band with five members.

“When we started the band we were expecting something to do after work,” she says. “And then the rest is all an accident – a happy, happy accident. We didn't expect anything. I certainly didn't expect to be living in Montreal. I wished that I could. We just got really lucky. Anything that happens at this point, we feel blown away that we're able to do what we do.”