The lighter side of dark: This Business of Art

by Simon Glezos

"Teenage-angst" or "small town dark" are words that describe musical group Tegan and Sara. However, according to Sara Quin, one-half of the musical duo, these topics are quite simply "not that interesting."

"I think Elvis Costello rocks," said Sara by way of explanation. "And I think that it's cool that I don't know anything about him. I don't want to know who he's sleeping with, or who he's married to, or what his cats are named, or what kind of house he lives in... that's not interesting to me. What is interesting is that I don't know any of that, and it would be interesting if they told me. What's uninteresting about people like me is that people already know everything about us. Or at least think they do."

So, newly committed to the idea of avoiding any discussion of Tegan and Sara's background, personal lives, or history, we (I) are (am) left with the question of what the hell am I supposed to talk about. Well, I suppose their music would be the most obvious place to start.

"My dad used to let me drive his car when I was a little kid. Like in a parking lot and stuff like that. And when I'd wake up on a Sunday morning and my dad would take me back to my mom's house for the week, all week long I'd be dying to drive again... That's how I feel about music. I just started doing it, and when I woke up the next morning, all I wanted to do was keep playing... So it sort of turned into an addiction."

An addiction that was clear from the duo's performance at Lucky Bar last Saturday night. The show, the final stop on their cross-Canada tour, blew the packed house away, as they played songs off their new album This Business of Art. With only two acoustic guitars and their voices, the pair created an explosive performance, weaving folk, rock and miscellaneous music genres. Their lyrics were alternately passionate, wry, contemplative, caustic and sentimental.

The same could also be said for their on-stage banter, a meandering combination of storytelling and mock sibling rivalry. Topics included a young Tegan's trip to patroller camp, Sara's conversation with a man whose wife had died of cancer and the band's recent jettisoning of artisitic integrity. ("I don't know if you all heard, but we sold out recently, so we're all about money now," Sara quipped after informing the audience that their t-shirts were for sale).

The enthusiastic audience's reaction was indicative of the duo's rapidly rising popularity. With increased radio play and a video on MuchMusic, Tegan and Sara seem primed to become the rarest of breeds, Canadian celebrities, an idea which Sara was quick to deny.

"I'm not famous. I'm like that girl that did that car wash commercial. I'm not famous for what I do, I'm famous because someone saw me on MuchMusic. We're not really famous, we're just recognizable."

In dealing with the increased media attention, Sara expressed a certain frustration at the way in which all news articles seem to be the same.

"I have a theory on that. When the record company sends out the same picture to everybody, I feel like it creates a mood. And so all these people write about us based on that picture." One of the most common labels placed on their music is the word 'dark', something Sara spends a lot of time trying to refute.

"We were doing this interview for a teen magazine and the girl says 'So your album is really dark, you have a lot of angst, where do you think that comes from?' and Tegan was like 'You've got to be joking me! Have you actually analyzed any of Britney Spears lyrics? They're like teen suicide songs. 'Hit me baby one more time?' 'My loneliness is killing me?'... these are sad lyrics. And then you look at our music and they're about being strong and giving the middle finger to everyone."

"I think I'm just going to try to make a more positive album next time," said Sara. "Like blatantly positive... even if the album is full of depressing songs, I'm going to make all the songs named like 'High on E, had the best time of my life.'"

In the end, Sara seemed simply uninterested in her role as an emerging icon. "If there's people there and they're enjoying it, my job is done. If I get paid at the end of the night, Halle-fuckin-lujah."