Tegan and Sara

What’s better than Tegan and Sara? Why, Tegan and Sara squared of course. The Canadian indie darlings have doubled the fun by planning not one, but two headlining tours. Throughout the summer, the duo will take their band to intimate theatre venues and then finish off with a two and a half month North American theatre tour in the fall. All three of their hometowns—Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal—will be visited with room to spare. It’s often that two strong-willed individual personalities can transfer their emotions so well into their music without clashing and eventually breaking up. It could be the twin connection they share that keeps them united but it could also be simply that they know a good thing when they see it.

Although this tour is long overdue, Tegan and Sara have been working non-stop since their 2004 breakout album So Jealous. The Quin sisters each contributed backing vocals on a variety of albums for artists like The Reason and Kinnie Starr. They were also bitten by the acting bug and appeared in an episode of the hit television show The L Word. But even when they weren’t touring, their songs were still getting heard as a little known band named The White Stripes recorded their own version of “Walking with a Ghost.” With their fifth studio album The Con, the twins break out of the normal recording routine by recruiting a few “Cuties” to help out on this latest project. On the forefront are the duo’s intense lyrics and piercing harmonies. “Are You Ten Years Ago” hints at the group’s electro rock side while the piano riff in “Back in Your Head” won’t leave your head. The Con doesn’t settle into one genre; the only letdown is when the playful and cyclical “Soil, Soil” ends too soon. So don’t sweat it if the new disc isn’t entirely memorized yet; fans will have twice the opportunities to hear the Quins’ quirky stage stories and hear the entire new album live.

 

I had a moment to chat with Sara Quin, following their Vancouver shows, to see if they were able to put The Con back into Cancon.

 

So you two played two small theatre shows in Vancouver last night. How was it?
It was great. It’s really great to play smaller venues and keep people engaged. So far we’ve only played Victoria and Vancouver but the crowd has been really great. We’ve been playing our entire new album so it’s a lot to expect from people who haven’t heard the material before. But they’ve been very attentive and excited.

 

What’s the reward in playing two tours of different sized venues for you?
We haven’t played live in almost a year and a half. We started putting together tour ideas and brainstorming exactly what we thought we should do. We thought we’d just start with smaller venues, that way we knew it’d just be diehard fans. You know, and basically just be able to get our sea legs again. But also know that the people who are there are there to listen and were excited and weren’t necessarily there to hear just one song. That’s what’s exciting for us artistically. But then to do the big shows is always exciting as well.

 

You mentioned your diehard fans. I would think most of your fans, in Canada at least, are pretty diehard.
I think I agree with that, definitely. It is a whole other thing when you start playing the bigger rooms, because there is definitely a contingent of people who come out and are there for the event rather than there to listen and participate. Well they participate but it’s in a way that’s more detached. Which is great, which can be really fun especially if you just want to get lost in the music and just play a show. What’s great about the small shows we’ve been doing is everyone’s very quiet and attentive. It’s a whole different momentum. I love both styles. It’s two different things that are really amazing.

 

How has the long distance writing relationship been? Because you’re in Montreal and Tegan’s in Vancouver.
Since we started writing songs when we were 15 we’ve never collaborated. That’s never really been our thing. We think of ourselves as individual songwriters. So to be honest, I have to say it doesn’t really play a role. When we were living in Vancouver together we’d do the same thing that we do now 3,000 miles apart. We write the songs and then we record them and I send her an MP3. She’ll give feedback and add a couple guitars or a background vocal or something. Our writing collaborative process is very similar when we’re next door to each other or across the country. It’s awesome and it’s great for us because it allows us to live in different cities and keep our own schedules.

 

How did two members of Death Cab for Cutie end up helping out on The Con?
Chris Walla was one of the potential engineer/ producers. He also had a studio so he sort of set the criteria. Once we started talking to him about the potential of him getting involved in the record, we just knew he was the right guy. We wanted to use different musicians to work on the album and he suggested Jason [McGeer]. Obviously, they have a long-standing relationship. We knew really early on that we were gonna wanna take a different approach to recording this album. We wanted to basically record at home. We wanted to put the keyboards and guitars and vocals or anything that we would normally do and then have drums and bass added in later in the record. Chris’s opinion was that working with someone like Jason McGeer, who’s so competent, wonderful and amazing and talented and had a relationship with Chris Walla, he just thought it that it’d be the easiest person to bring in on the project. So it was a really easy decision.

Did you learn anything about Chris Walla that people probably don’t know?

We probably learned a lot about him that people don’t know. He’s really an amazing person. I think he’s very humble and very very talented and smart and gifted and kind. He just lives a very humble life and is very good at what he does. He’s very gifted and a really nice person.

 

Commitment-phobes might get a little scared off by The Con. A lot of relationship issues are put out there like commitment, marriage, being faithful. Are you at the point in your life where you wanna settle down?
I don’t think so.

 

How old are you right now?
Twenty-six. I think that I have moments where I think that I’m ready. Then I have moments where I’m not. It’s a battle based on the way that I grew up. I see relationships as being fluid and they change. Sometimes you’re feeling it and sometimes you’re not. To meet someone, marry them and stay with them forever till the end, I don’t necessarily feel that way. Even if I did I think that way, I always like to analyze and turn things over in my mind. I think that, especially with songwriting and art, sometimes the things that you feel and say, those are the late night thoughts that go away when you get up in the morning. They’re not necessarily the things that you live or stand by.

Did you experience a quarter-life crisis at 25?

I don’t think I experienced a quarter-life crisis but I definitely feel an intensifying sense of responsibility, realizing that I was entering my late-20s.

It’s all over now.

It’s all downhill now.

 

“Back in Your Head.” I wanted to ask about the lyric “I’m not unfaithful but I’ll stray.” What are you trying to say there?
It’s funny. I’m not trying to be purposely vague. Part of what I like to do when I’m writing lyrics is leaving things open for interpretation. A lot of people hear that song and think it must be about cheating. I think that when I was writing the line it was more from a psychological standpoint. When you first start dating someone you’re very intense with them. Little or nothing else matters. It’s my own personal thought about when you’re in a long term relationship you reach a point psychologically, at least for me, where my thoughts, my brain and my intensity will stray to other things, not necessarily even to a person.

 

The last song on The Con is a faint reminder to your former acoustic folk-pop days. Do Tegan and Sara still perform unplugged?
We pretty much always have played indoor shows and sit down shows. We don’t think in terms of genre. We’ve never felt comfortable classifying ourselves as a rock band or a pop band or a folk band. We really think of ourselves as just songwriters who use whatever sort of instrumentation that is attractive at the time for when we’re building these songs up. Sometimes I guess our songs can be described as one of these genre titles or whatever. We still love to play acoustically, I also love to play with a band, we love to play in theaters. I would hate to ever only do one thing or the other or only play one way. I love being capable of doing a huge rock show and then being able to pick up three acoustic guitars and go do an instore and sit in front of a bunch of kids and play 20 songs acoustically and have them sound just as good. I think it challenges our brains. To me, always, for our project anyway, I feel like if a song can’t fascinate people with just one guitar acoustically then it’s probably not a good song. We always have tried to make sure that all the songs are strong enough to be stripped down to just the bare bones. But then also be able to play them confidently with a big group of people and yell and scream and have guitars and bass. I still love to play acoustically and we’re always looking for opportunities to do that.

 

I wanted to ask about a unique piece of Tegan and Sara merch. It’s a Tegan and Sara gym bag. I was curious if you’re planning on giving Lululemon a run for their money?
No, God no. The gym bag wasn’t a big seller, sadly. People don’t go to the gym. I guess our fans aren’t gym people. It’s funny, we try to stick to the staples, shirts, hoodies, posters, that sort of thing. But occasionally we’ll branch out and do a specialty run of something. The gym bag, it was alright. But it didn’t fly.

So I guess it’s safe to conclude that there aren’t a lot of Tegan and Sara fans running around in Lululemon pants?

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