Breaking: An Horse

May 27, 2009 6:56 PM ET

Who: Aussie indie-pop duo Kate Cooper and Damon Cox, whose tunes snagged them opening spots on 2008 tours by Tegan and Sara and Death Cab for Cutie. The pair — whose debut, Rearrange Beds, came out in March — met as employees at their local record store in Brisbane. "We used to close up the store and practice," says Cooper, 29. "Damon would drop me off after work and joke, 'We're in Cincinnati tonight. Tomorrow we're in Boston!' He was just talking shit, but now it's actually happening."

Sounds like: A hooky heartbreak manifesto, with fuzzed-out riffs, snarling beats and clever shout-outs to '90s alt-rock. "Like that good Hole album, I can live through this," Cooper convinces herself on "Camp Out." She wrote the confessional tune following the breakup of an intense relationship. "It was fun, but it was brutal," she says. "I'm since in contact with the person and it's all right, but I'm pretty sure they're like, 'I'm never dating a songwriter again!' "

Vital Stats:

• Cooper decided she wanted to play guitar after seeing the Rolling Stones live when she was 14, but her parents weren't down with her musical aspirations. "They said, 'You're going to have to get a career one day,' " recalls Cooper, who ended up pursuing a journalism degree. "So I hid my guitar under my bed, and I'd sneak it out and play when I was supposed to be doing homework."

• Although Cooper and Cox tapped Brisbane-based producer Magoo (Midnight Oil) for An Horse's album, Cooper doesn't have a predilection for her fellow Aussie musicians. "The Go-Betweens are a big band for me and I love Kylie Minogue — anything that has hooks, I like — but I think I listen to more American bands," she says, ticking off her influences: Patti Smith, Fugazi, and, of course, Hole.

• Cox and Cooper have been kicking around Los Angeles since February, playing shows, visiting friends and sampling tequila. "In Australia, we have two types of tequila, but we went to a bar here that has 400," Cooper says. "Damon got ill and that's pretty much it. He puked in a plastic bag on the way to the KROQ Weenie Roast the next day."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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