An interview with Kate Cooper


I first met Kate Cooper of An Horse while shooting on tour with Tegan and Sara in Australia. At that time she was working on the band’s debut album. It’s just been a couple short years and a lot of hard work, but now An Horse has released their second full-length record and have been around the world making fans and friends in every town they visit.

Kate took the time to answer some questions about moving from Australia to Canada (for a girl!) and what she’s been listening to lately.

Photos by Lindsey Byrnes Your record had its US release — how do you feel?

Kate Cooper: I feel very happy that the record is out but I also feel exhausted, in a good way. NYC is amazing and exhausting.

AE: You have expressed that you were going through a lot when you were writing this new record, Walls. What tracks on the record are the most personal to you? Which ones do you dread having to break down and explain to people, and why?

KC: They all come from a personal place. I have tried to write from a more fictional perspective at times and those songs have never seen the light of day. I admire people who can extract themselves from their songs and write as a character. I feel like I just sound phony. Maybe I will get better at it.

I dread having to explain any songs to be honest but I know if I make songs that are personal that comes with the territory. I also really like people giving songs their own meaning. I often think songs are about one thing and then I read some press that explains what it is really about and I am always way off track. It changes the way I initially thought about the song.

But to further avoid answering this question, some of these songs were written when I was a long way from my family, my mum had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball, I was tired from touring and I was lonely. Not all the songs dwell on those things though! There is definitely some positivity in there, I promise.

AE: So all that being said, with your mother’s health improving and you not being as lonely anymore (correct me if I am just assuming), what is it like knowing that you are going to be performing these songs on tour for a long time? Are you able to separate yourself from the meaning when you are performing?

KC: You are correct — my mum is a lot better. I think at the time I was making myself feel lonely and because I kind of became fixated on the fact that everyone dies. I was convinced I wasting all this time not being around my family and the people I loved.

It was a very frustrating feeling. I am able to separate myself to a point. I don’t dwell on the songs or the feelings I was feeling when I wrote them. But I can go to a healthy place where I can remember how awful a time I was having but walk off stage and drop it. I actually kind of feel victorious when I play some of these songs because at the time I felt so awful and I thought I would never feel normal again but lo and behold I feel pretty good.

AE: Are you touring with Alkaline Trio now?

KC: Yes just for three shows. Now Manchester. AK3 were so lovely. Now Manchester [Orchestra].

AE: Oh man, that sounds awesome! Do you have a favorite Alkaline Trio song?

KC: It was awesome. They are nice guys. I don’t have a favorite song, per s, but I did really get into “Crimson” when I worked at the record store. Damon and I would listen to that a lot.

AE: Manchester Orchestra, are they label mates?

KC: With us? No they aren’t. I am really excited to see them play. Their last album was so good. I can’t wait to hear the new one.

AE: How long will you be on the road for?

KC: You know I can’t tell you for sure. I try to stay away from the list of shows because it can get a little overwhelming. I am pretty sure we are on the road until the first week of July. We are in the states for this month. Then we are playing some shows at home in Australia. These will be a lot of fun. Then we head back to Europe and then we finish up in Canada. After that I think we have some time off. By some time off I mean two weeks.

AE: What was the first concert you ever went to?

KC: My mum and dad took me out of school early to go see the Rolling Stones in Brisbane. It was on their Voodoo Lounge tour. The show was in a huge stadium; it had a huge effect on me. I suspect my now parents wish they hadn’t taken me. I remember watching Keith Richards play and thinking I want to do that. Keith Richards? [Laughs] It was a month or so after that that I bought my first guitar.

AE: What was the first album you remember owning?

KC: Thriller by Michael Jackson. I remember hugging the vinyl sleeve for days. There are photos of me dancing and holding the cover when I was 2 or 3. When I look at those photos I remember how big the cover felt back then.

AE: Did you have a person that you wanted to be when you were a child? Superheros count.

KC: Probably my brother. He is three years older than me. I used to dress up in his scout uniform or school uniform when I was little (probably around the same time I was hugging Michael Jackson’s head). I thought he was the coolest. I still do.

AE: Did you think that being in a band and making/playing music was going to be like this?

KC: I never really thought about what it was going to be like. It’s not easy but it is fun. I only ever thought about what working in an office would be like. In my teens, my dad used to get my sister and I to work in the photocopy room of his office. It was Hell. Time dragged so slowly. I remember thinking that I wasn’t made for it.

Making music is one of the best things in the world. I get to be by myself, in a very quiet room with my guitar. It’s the best.

AE: You have moved your home base to Toronto to be with your girlfriend. Has the moved challenged your ability to be in a band with Damon who lives in Melbourne? How do you guys deal with the distance? Or is it more of a challenge to be on the road away from your partners?

KC: You know, the more we tour with other touring bands, the more I hear that a lot of them don’t live in the same place. It surprises me that we get asked about it so much. I think the longest Damon and I haven’t seen each other in the last year has been six weeks despite living on other sides of the earth. We are writing in the same way as we did when we lived five minutes from each other — 10 in traffic.

It is definitely more of a challenge for us to be away from our partners. This is half of the reason I live in Toronto. My girlfriend loves Australia and would love to live there but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s a lot easier for her to fly out for the weekend to see me. It’s obviously harder for Damon’s girlfriend to come out for a weekend. She is going to come out for a couple of weeks later in the tour. So we just make it work. It is hard though but we are both very good Skype-ers. I am sure you know all about it!

AE: Yep! What does the next two years look like for you and your band?

KC: At this point it looks busy but this is a very good thing. I think we will be working and touring Walls for the rest of this year that is for sure. We have some really fun things coming up such as festivals here in the US and Europe.

AE: What are you most looking forward to right now?

KC: My best friend in Australia just texted me this morning and said she was so excited to see me in under three weeks. That blew my mind! I know we are heading to Australia early June, I just didn’t realize it was so soon. I am really excited to play some shows at home and see my family and friends. I am also really looking forward to playing shows on the West Coast. We haven’t been there nearly enough in the last 12 months but this is all about to change. This also means I can hang out with you and talk about the time you got into a car accident when you were trying to meet Anvil.

AE: What are you listening to on your iPod right now?

KC: I have been listening to the new PJ Harvey record, Lykke Li and, of course, the new Manchester Orchestra record. They are blowing my mind every night live. Such a huge sound and such wonderful songs!

AE: What are your upcoming plans?

KC: I just got told that our lobby call is 7 a.m. tomorrow, so my plan tonight is to lay low in the hotel room, read and sleep. I guess my other plans are to just have fun and enjoy playing this new record. What are your plans?

AE: Maybe I will try to meet Anvil again!