Author: FFWD Staff
Publication: FFWD Weekly
Tegan and Sara
with Hawksley Workman
Saturday, April 8
Leacock Theatre (MRC)
It’s impossible not to smile, sitting with sisters Tegan and Sara Quin and watching them talk – you’re never actually a part of the conversation – about the last few months of their already extraordinary careers.
They casually tag-team their way through anecdotes that, to most people, would be life-altering experiences, but to them are little more than things that just kind of happened: signing to Neil Young’s record label, Vapor Records; dining with "Neil," his wife and his manager after the girls showcased at the prestigious Austin, Texas music festival South By Southwest ("He’s totally really nice – he reminded me of my grandpa," Sara laughs); and recording a new album with respected Toronto musician Hawksley Workman.
"You know," Sara says at one point in the interview, "it’s weird to be us."
Weird doesn’t even come close to covering it. It’s been exactly two years since the pair burst onto the Calgary music scene (after only a handful of shows) winning the U of C-sponsored Garage Warz with the highest score in the history of the event. What followed was intense interest from media – including MuchMusic, and daily and weekly newspapers – and major record labels, as well as high-profile shows including a Lilith Fair appearance in Edmonton. Frankly, it was more than any 17-year-olds should be expected to endure.
But they did endure, taking it all in stride and with more class, humility and maturity than imaginable, always eager to learn and genuinely surprised and appreciative of whatever interest or help they received.
Drinking water in a local lounge mid-afternoon, the only thing that appears to have changed – other than the fact the pair are now almost 20 – is that now their vocabulary is inhabited by words such as "managers" and "lawyers" and "contract negotiations."
"We’re trying not to be disgruntled musicians because there’s nothing for us to be disgruntled about – yet," Tegan says, alluding to the deal they’ve signed with Vapor which allows the Quins creative control as well as the rights to control Canadian distribution, while offering an international support system from a record company with clout.
"We’re really lucky," Tegan says. "There’s no pressure. We got exactly what we wanted, which was a development deal with a cool company that wants to support us. How many people can say that?"
"But we’re not under any illusion that at some point we won’t be happy with it," says Sara. "We know that, and they know that, too.
"It’s cool that they’re up front with us. They said everything that we wanted to hear and then they told us they were saying everything we wanted to hear. At least they admitted it."
So, while the duo’s character was never in doubt, it remained to be seen how their music would stand up. Anyone who saw one of their early shows couldn’t help but be struck by the natural talent and innocence the two brought onstage, and awed by the unnerving vocal gymnastics they effortlessly performed. As they matured and were offered advice and direction from all sides of the music industry, one wondered which way they would be pulled.
The first disappointment came last year with the release of their debut indie CD, Under Feet Like Ours. While not a bad album by any means, it failed to capture any of the intangibles that make them one of the most appealing live acts you’ll ever see. It was perhaps as close to failure as the duo had come since their careers unexpectedly began.
All of that should be remedied with the June 6 release of their as-yet-unnamed sophomore release. Containing a half-dozen reworked songs from Under Feet Like Ours as well as five new ones, the second album – recorded almost as an afterthought at the encouragement of their managers – is a remarkably brash and enthusiastic folk pop album that approximates and improves on the magic of their live show. The songwriting, the vocals, the instrumentation – everything clicks.
While the CD reveals an amazing growth in the young artists, both Tegan and Sara give much of the credit to producer Workman, who recorded the album quickly and painlessly in his basement studio, filling in the extra instruments where needed.
"What we gained with Hawksley is that he understands what we’re trying to do live. That’s the whole difference between the two albums. I think Under Feet Like Ours was good, but I think this one is way closer to what we really are," Tegan says.
So now the pair are looking ahead to the album’s release, eventual tours in the U.S. and Europe, an appearance on the YTV Achievement Awards and, on the personal side of things, a move to Vancouver. Though never really a part of the local music scene, the decision to relocate wasn’t made because of any ill-will or bad feelings about Calgary – or any positive feelings about the Vancouver community for that matter – but instead as yet another opportunity for growth as individuals and artists.
"We need to get out of mom’s house and learn how to do our own thing," says Sara. "We tried to get through customs for the first time, and I almost cried. They kept sending us back because we were filling out all the forms wrong.
"I think it will just be a good experience – it will help us mature even more."