Tegan Quin is calling on a cellphone as she pulls into New York City, where she and her 19-year-old twin sister Sara will open another show on the Neil Young/Pretenders tour. The Quins have several reasons to count their blessings: the new album, This Business of Art, is much more raw and vivid than their indie debut; it's out on Young's Vapor imprint (via Universal); and they're launching it by crossing the continent on one of the summer's biggest and most respectable tours.
"I thought it was going to be a nightmare, that this was so not our audience," says Tegan of the tour. "But the first night we sold 37 CDs or something, and we said, 'OK, I guess this won't be as bad as we thought!' They basically open the gate and put us on. We're the token girl act. Sometimes there's only 400 people there when we start, but they're obviously really into music. A lot of people respect the fact that we're on the Neil Young tour, and they figure, 'Well, if Neil let you on the tour you must be all right.'"
After this jaunt, Tegan and Sara start their first Canadian solo tour -- which hits Lee's Palace September 14 -- and then it's off to Europe. The duo, from Calgary, moved to Vancouver in July -- although it's not like they've even had time to settle into their new apartments. No matter, as Tegan explains that it's not where you live, it's what you do that's most important for the music.
"Why we moved had nothing to do with music," she says. "It's a big myth that you have to move to Toronto or L.A. to become a big rock star. That's a crock of shit. You'll just burn out faster and probably waste a lot more money than you have to. What you have to do is tour, put out a product, work hard, all that stuff. You don't have to show your driver's licence saying 'Toronto' on it to get a record deal. You have to have a record that people really like. We're lucky. Some people have to move to those cities to be inspired, but I found it more inspiring to go home. Home is definitely West Coast for us."
Their Calgary locale might have been one more novelty for media who were looking for an angle on the twins, something Tegan doesn't have time for. "The first time we did an interview in Toronto, the interviewer asked, 'How did your music come from Calgary? If you're not in the rodeo or on a sports team...' Our music doesn't have anything to do with the specifics of a city. My music is about my family and my life, about passion and all of that stuff.
"I'm pulling into New York right now, and a city is a city, man. When I got asked that question, I was blown away! Because if I came to Toronto, what would I be writing about? Traffic and smog? That's not fair, and it's not fair to think I should be writing about cowboys and sports teams because I'm from Calgary. I watch the same TV that you do and that the people in New York do. We all come from the same place, and that's the bottom, and we try and work our way up."
In doing so, they have succeeded in keeping their heads above water in the industry world, maintaining a healthy skepticism while hanging on to their youthful naiveté on the wave of their early success. "I don't know if it's just us or what," Tegan marvels, talking about the freedom the pair had to make their major-label debut the way they wanted, with producer Hawksley Workman. "People tell us stories about the industry, and I think they're on acid. I say, 'What are you talking about? The industry's not like that!' I know it is, but I don't know what it is about us -- maybe because we're nice, I don't know. We played at South by Southwest and everyone was trying to schmooze us and get us a record deal, and we already had one! With a company we already trusted and really liked. We didn't feel a pressure to perform."
Without stopping for breath, Tegan soldiers on. "I'm 19 years old. I'm not going to be No. 1. I don't want to sell a billion albums yet. I'm still growing. I don't know what I want to sound like. I like my album. I have a good apartment. I have a great family. I think I listen to good music. And that's where it ends, you know?
"People say, 'Oh, the industry sucks, and this happened to me, and we were all doing coke!' And I'm like, 'Where were we?' After the shows, me and Sara are in our hotel room watching VH1 and going to bed or eating fruit. I don't know where the other industry is. I might want to take a little adventure over there because it's a little more interesting."