Advantage of being sisters: Tegan and Sara have been known to bring out the best and worst in each other's dry wit and sardonic observations of others.
All in good-natured fun for the 19-year-old alt-folk-rock twins from Calgary.
"We're pretty friendly people, I think, but we call ourselves obnoxious, jealous people right off the bat," the whip-smart Sara Quin says over the phone from a Toronto recording studio. "We're pretty confident about what we do. And, yeah, we have one of those ego things, at least our freinds tell us that. A lot of times our friends often get our egos mixed up with our confidence."
She then laughs, but speaking with rapid-fire, wise-beyond-her-years expressions, Sara exudes nothing short of confidence. When the two take to the stage -- as they will tonight at Zaphod Beeblebrox 2 opening for local faves Jacob Two-Two -- that confidence heats up with an intensive boil.
"That's where being sisters has helped with our music; we really seem to have a good flow on stage," Quin says. "There's just something inside me that knows that we read each other pretty well."
But in putting together the predominantly acoustic-based debut CD, Under Feet Like Ours, the disadvantage of being sisters crops up: Writing tension.
"It's a control issue," Quin says with a laugh. "We write as two single artists, then it's that musical collaboration in the middle. Sometimes it can get a bit messy. I especially have a lot of vision for my songs, so sometimes there's struggles to get
Tegan to see what I see. Whereas, Tegan is a lot more lenient on her songs. She'll come in and say, 'Do whatever you want.'
"Someone once described our writing styles as Tegan's idealism and Sara's romanticism, which is so bang-on. Tegan will make a lot of commentaries on the world. And my songs are like disgruntled pop songs, a lot more tortured."
The mighty guitar-strumming Quins rose out of the ashes of a punk outfit called Plunk, but opted for the Ani DiFranco school of music. They won a Garage Warz contest in Calgary and ventured to the New Music West conference in Vancouver.
Major record labels were interested, but they chose to go the indie route.
"It was our very first, the kind of album we'll always remember," says Sara."
Just recently, Tegan and Sara agreed to terms with U.S.-based Vapor Records, a label run by Neil Young and his manager Elliot Roberts and distributed and promoted through Warner Music. The two are also managed by the Toronto-based Panyamonium/William Tenn Management, whose other clients include Hawksley Workman, who just happens to be helping the twins out on some new recordings.
"We just started working with Hawksley," Sara says. "It should prove to be an interesting mix. -- a chunky, raw, bare feel, a lot less pretty."
Sara and Tegan Quin are two fast-talkin' teens.
And I mean, really fast-talking.
In a one-minute period, they can say close to 2,419 words between them. Approximately.
But the 17-year-old guitar-playing twins have a lot to talk about these days.
After winning Calgary's Garage Warz competition in April, the acoustic-pop duo have found themselves amidst a flurry of media interest.
"This is hard because we're, like, four weeks away from graduation and we're doing all these interviews," says the long-haired, eyebrow-pierced Sara.
"After we won (Garage Warz), we had to do all this stuff that interfered with our daily lives.... It's fine, it's really neat, but this isn't what we planned."
The plan, as Sara explains, was to bum around Australia for a year, maybe write a few more tunes in their bedroom and then emerge as a fully fledged musical outfit in about five years.
No such luck for the sisters, who have been "dragged kicking and screaming" into the Calgary music scene spotlight.
"I think all the big hype is from people seeing potential," says Sara.
"I think part of our image promotes the feeling that people have to take care of us. We're two girls who don't have a manager, who get chauffeured around by their mom because we don't want to get a license, we look like we're 13 ... and so people tend to take us under their wing.
"Most (musicians) take it step by step, but we've jumped 10 steps further than we ever thought we'd be this year, because people have been really supportive."
It really has been a whirlwind of activity for Sara & Tegan, who will have to put off studying for their finals for another weekend as they showcase their talents at the New Music West festival and conference in Vancouver this weekend.
If that's not enough, they have to rush back to Calgary to play their first big-time show, opening for Hayden Sunday at the Republik.
"He's so cool," swoons Tegan of the Toronto singer-songwriter. "We couldn't believe we got the show. His music is so great, I think he was another driving force behind our music. We thought, 'If he can put out a record with just him and a guitar, why can't we?"
Both girls say they sometimes feel fellow musicians dislike them and are jealous of all the attention Sara & Tegan have been receiving.
"I think a lot of Calgary bands who don't have success want it a lot more than we do," concurs Tegan, easily distinguished from Sara because of her short hair and stud below her lower lip.
"It's not one of our goals. We never said, 'Oh, I hope a bunch of big labels come find us.' I never even thought about it."
"We've been playing for three years," adds Sara.
"Probably just as long as other bands. We just haven't been playing bars and community centres.... But we've been struggling and breaking things to get where we are, and then went out and started playing. I think we've worked just as hard as any other band."