Home Straight

25 April 2012 | 9:00 am | Daniel Johnson

The story of An Horse's origins has been recounted dozens of times in this tome alone. For latecomers, here's an abridged version. Cooper – then of local indie-rock frontrunners Iron On – and drummer Damon Cox – then a member of Intercooler and Mary Trembles – were working at now-defunct indie-record store Skinny's. After bonding over their shared musical tastes, the pair began writing demos, which went on to become their debut EP Not Really Scared

They then recorded a few more tracks with producer Magoo, which were mixed by Howard Redekopp, and released their debut album, Rearrange Beds, which received almost universal critical acclaim and resulted in the band scoring coveted Australian support slots with the likes of Tegan And Sara and Death Cab For Cutie. After deciding to focus on their US fanbase, in a matter of weeks the band had snared the US tour support gig for Tegan And Sara and performed on The Late Show With David Letterman.

Since the release of their second album Walls a year ago, An Horse have been touring almost non-stop, playing festivals including Falls, Rolling Stone Weekender and Lollapalooza and sharing stages with the likes of Kevin Devine and Nada Surf. 

The band decided to work with Redekopp from the get-go with Walls, and Cooper says his approach was “very different” to Magoo's.

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“I guess Magoo was more a friend of ours and we didn't even know we were making a record then but with Howard, he mixed Rearrange Beds and he's a friend of ours now, obviously,” she says. “Pretty much from when Rearrange Beds came out he indicated that he wanted to make a new record with us and he would like to be involved, so we spoke to him a lot beforehand and leading up to the record, so there was a lot more deliberate planning with that record.

“Howard was really a producer, we let him in a little bit and had pre-production with him in Vancouver so he heard all the demos from very early on. Howard is an awesome guy and we had an awesome time with him in Vancouver. He's a good dude.”

When asked if she's been surprised by the diversity of acts she and Cox have performed with, Cooper is characteristically frank. 

“It's really funny, it doesn't surprise me, because I always thought that I played in a heavy metal punk band,” she offers, “and then people tell me it's a pop band, so I'm always surprised when people say, 'You're in a pop band'. I'm like, 'Really? I thought this was like Fugazi crossed with something else amazing,' and they say, 'No, it sounds more like Kylie Minogue crossed with someone else.'

“I've always been really interested in playing with a diverse line-up of bands because I think when I grew up my dad was always on my case about liking all sorts of music, so I would never blink an eye if we were listening to Cold Chisel one minute and Motown the next minute and then ZZ Top the next minute kind of thing… so it was a really broad spectrum of influences in music and I guess I think that a lot of musicians are kind of similar thinkers, so I don't think it's really weird for them to put us on line-ups, but I think punters find it strange.”

Cooper admits to feeling a little homesick at times while on tour, but she is equally grateful for the experiences she and Cox encounter on a daily basis while on the road.

“It's so weird. There's definitely part of me that misses Brisbane a lot… playing shows around, sometimes I'm like, 'Oh, that was pretty cool,' and then I'm over here doing this and I'm like, 'Oh my goodness, how crazy,' but then you get in the zone and you start to play these shows with these bands and be around these people and then that feels normal.

“I do occasionally say to Damon, 'Oh my goodness, we're going out with Nada Surf,' or, 'Oh my goodness, we're about to go do our laundry at Nicky from Silversun Pickups' house, how insane', but I also have those moments of missing Brisbane and missing living there for sure, too.”

An Horse recently released a new video for their track Airport Death, and as Cooper explains, the opportunity pretty much fell into their laps.

“It was graduates from the NYU film school and that was the coolest video shoot I've ever done,” she says. “They emailed us for months trying to get us to make a video and we didn't need one and didn't want to do one and they kept pursuing us and they were so awesome and professional and basically it came down to the fact that we had six hours off in New York City on one particular morning and I was kind of like, 'Do we have to do a video?  I could sleep in, I haven't slept in three weeks,' and our manager was like, 'Yep, you're going to make a video!' and our manager told the director he's got six hours. 

“Music videos usually take days and we turned up at 10am in the morning, groggy as hell at the end of a tour I think, before we were flying out to Europe and they fed us, got us dressed, sat us down, made the video in like three hours and we left. It was the best shoot I've ever been on, it was amazing. It's cool, it's a great video. We had nothing to do with it in the conception or anything, but I dig it. I don't even really remember it, it was just three hours of sitting there folding clothes.”

Despite the long periods on tour together, Cooper says there is very little conflict between her and Cox.

“It's pretty good, it's pretty fine. It's kind of a brother-sister dynamic and the thing is, we go on tour for so long together and then we don't see each other for six weeks or two months so that's kind of good – by the end of a tour you're like, 'All right... see ya later' – no-one's hit anyone yet and we get on fine so it's good.”

When asked what Brisbane audiences can expect on their forthcoming tour, Cooper promises it'll be a flaming good show.

“They can expect maximum rock'n'roll... but that's not really true because I don't even know if it's maximum rock'n'roll but I feel like we're going on tour for a month in the US and then we have ten days off and then we're back in Australia, so we'll be on fire. And if we're not on fire metaphorically maybe I'll set something on fire... maybe, I'm not sure – I'll probably get arrested by the club owner but why not, let's go with that.”