(Tegan and Sara Quin, twin singers from Canada)

(Brief Article)

Authors: Steve Gdula

The Advocate
Nov 21, 2000


Twin performers Tegan and Sara sing out against the messed-up messages of Eminem and Britney Spears

One night last spring Tegan and Sara Quin, better known as the acoustic duo Tegan and Sara, made a statement that changed their young lives. In a taped interview that ran after their performance at the televised ceremony for Canada's Youth Television Awards, the Quin twins said, "We don't need to look like Britney Spears or act like Britney Spears to influence the Britney Spears crowd."

"We got a barrage of E-mails from kids between the ages of 12 and 17 saying things like `I like Britney Spears, but I relate to you better,'" says Tegan, still somewhat amazed. "Half of me thought, Great! We're gonna sell lots of CDs! and the other half said, Now we're role models!"

"I didn't start writing music to become a role model!" Sara says, laughing about the situation in which the sisters are finding themselves. Tegan and Sara barely out of their teens, are at an age when most people young people are still looking for mentors whom they can turn to for guidance or inspiration.

Born and raised in Calgary--which is in Alberta, the same Canadian province that gave the world k.d. lang--the twins grew up in a family that Sara says taught them to be "open-minded, strong, and empowered." The open-mindedness, Tegan says, made it a lot easier for the lesbian sisters to come out.

"Our mom said, `Couldn't you both have come out at the same time?'" Tegan recalls of the conversation when she informed her mother that she too was gay (Sara had come out earlier). "She handled it with a lot of humor. She's always been supportive."

Indeed, the twins have always received encouragement from their family. "We were told we could do whatever we want with our lives," Sara says, adding that she and Tegan, despite being "really poor," summoned their confidence, got guitars, took lessons, and started writing their own songs at age 15. After two years of hard work and relentless practice, Tegan and Sara won Garage Warz, a "battle of the bands"-type contest in Calgary, and the exposure from that enabled them to record their first CD, Under Feet Like Ours, which they began selling at their shows. Eventually their independent release not only helped Tegan and Sara win the YTV Award but also enabled them to land their first record deal--and the same manager as Neil Young.

The twins are clear about their goals, which include being a positive influence in people's lives, as demonstrated by the message in their songs. "You can't walk through life feeling negative," Tegan says, regarding the uplifting subject matter of the songs on their new CD, This Business of Art. She acknowledges that songs by Kid Rock and Eminem can be harmful to youthful listeners, but she says the same of Britney Spears's music. "I don't think there's anything as dark as `My loneliness is killing me,'" she says of the line from Spears's "... Baby, One More Time." "You've got these songs where the girls are so desperate for these guys, they're ready to kill themselves! Then they put a pop beat behind it and everything's A-OK? I disagree."

Tegan believes parents have the ultimate responsibility to filter what comes out of the household stereo. "When I have a kid and they wanna buy [an album with offensive lyrics], I'll put the brakes on," she says. Motherhood is probably a long way off for Tegan, however, with touring taking up much of the sisters' time. This past summer they were the opening act on a tour headlined by Neil Young and the Pretenders. "They were very supportive," Tegan says of Young and the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. "It's not like they felt territorial over some 19-year-old kids!"

This fall the twins, who recently celebrated their 20th birthday, are touring the East Coast of the United States and some other North American locations, after settling into apartments they set up not long ago with their respective partners. While Tegan only recently came out, Sara has been with her partner for over two years. Both twins seem very happy with their lives and their loves at the moment. As Tegan says, "When something as hard as love comes this easy, then it really doesn't matter who they are or what they look like or what sex they are."

Find more on Tegan and Sara and links to related Internet sites at www.advocate.com

Gdula is a freelance writer who has written for The Washington Post.


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