By Mark Pytlik
University of Western Ontario
Although I've been warned beforehand that Calgary songwriting siblings Tegan and Sara Quin have a tendency to veer on the mouthy side, it's been 15 minutes and I've noticed nothing but perfect behaviour on Tegan's part.
"Oh really," she smiles. "Well just wait and see. I'm trying to be calm, but I'm actually in a pretty irritated mood." You wouldn't know it from talking to her. For as much as they play up the obnoxious girls angle, Tegan seems about as affable and sweet as the music she makes with her twin sister.
The formidable duo got their start in a couple of teenage punk bands, which they used as an exercise to take out some undue aggression. One night, during band practice, their amplifiers broke and eager to play, the girls pulled out acoustic guitars in lieu of electric ones. The rest, as they say, is history.
What resulted, after various talent shows and tiny gigs, was a small, independently funded debut album called Under Feet Like Ours. The album is a poignant and melodic affair showcasing the girls' natural ability to harmonize with each other. Moreover, the duo's closeness with each other resonates on every aspect of the record.
Tegan agrees wholeheartedly and notes the end musical result is nothing but a product of their friendship. "When a song's done, it's both of ours. Both of us like taking credit for the album and that is only because we both play on each other's songs," she confirms. "I may write something and Sara may come into it afterwards, but without her attention to the songs, they wouldn't be what they are."
And they are quirky and often heartfelt meditations on everything ranging from relationships, to stardom, to, of all things, saving the trees – a subject which is featured on a track that seems to be partly tongue-in-cheek and partly a sincere plea. "I think it's about half and half," Tegan explains. "When we wrote it we'd been in Vancouver for about three weeks. It's cool how much attention gets paid to trees but how much energy actually gets put into that? Is it really not all that cool?"
She stops and pauses before continuing. "We don't put a lot of energy into those things. But I think half of it was just us fucking around and making a joke out of it. Yeah – our life and our oxygen, let's make a joke out of it," she laughs.
With that in mind, Tegan notes that the band's newer material has taken on a slightly new direction. She's quick to point out that Under Feet Like Ours is old news for the 19 year-old pair. "From pre-production 'til the present day it's probably been almost a year [since we recorded it]. People are coming up and asking where the new material is and it's kinda hard because we're selling something that's already a year old," she sighs. "I think we just need some new blood in us. Our sound is maturing and we want to give people a better idea of who we are now and not who we were a year ago."
As a result, the energetic pair are heading into the studio to re-record some old tracks and lay down some new ones for an album which is slated to be released on a high-profile indie label. "We are in the process of signing with Vapour Records, Neil Young's label," Tegan proclaims.
"We're a developmental act – we need time, we're only getting started here. We need time and we need to gain some experience and maturity. This label is offering us [the opportunity for] that."