Rockin' twins gritty, honest all the way.
Paul Schreiber
Imprint staff
University of Waterloo
January 26, 2001
Thanks to Kelly for submitting this article.

Tegan and Sara pose for the promo shot.

“I wouldn’t be able to handle it,” Sara confesses. “It would be like meeting Santa Claus, it’s not true, you can’t meet him.” She’s talking about Bruce Springsteen. “He’s not human.” If Sara was stuck on a desert island, the Boss’s Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ would definitely be with her.

The younger half of Tegan and Sara is on the phone from Saskatoon, talking about what gets her passionate about music. Touring with Neil Young and The Pretenders, for instance. “I was blown away every night.”

She’s passionate about writing, too. “Everything inspires me.

“I went and saw that cheesy movie Proof of Life; I’d never felt more inspired in six months. I got out of Proof of Life and I was dying to write. A cheesy love movie will make me feel like writing.”

Tegan and Sara’s latest album, This Business of Art, was produced by the eclectic Hawksley Workman, who Sara describes as a normal guy. His skill as a producer came from his strong musical background. “Instead of having to try and explain what he wanted to hear, he’ll just get on an instrument and show you.”

With Workman, what you see is never what you get. “I always thought of Hawksley as Hawksley until I found out it wasn’t his real name, and then I couldn’t stop thinking of him unless I knew his real name.”

The pseudonym illustrates the striking difference between Workman and the twins. “Part of having a fake name is sort of about what he really does. We’re about the grit and the honesty; he’s playing a game.”

The pair are very active politically and lend their talents to benefit women’s rights causes whenever possible. Sara explained that “while our music isn’t political, we try to make sure that we get it in at least on a personal basis.” Tegan and Sara have played Take Back the Night, Rock for Choice (twice), and Vancouver political festival Under the Volcano.

Sara’s a strong advocate of the pro-choice movement, due in part to her mother’s influence. Her mother works with teen girls who have been prostituting or have been sexually abused. “I’ve always been pro-choice and have gone out and stood up for the rights of women.” As for the pro-life festival, Rock for Life, and their boycott of pro-choice artists? “I think that’s garbage.”

Touring keeps the duo busy; they’ve been bussing their way around the west coast and are spending a couple of days in the States before heading up to Ontario for a week of shows. Sara’s looking forward to the gigs, but didn’t used to be that way. “I used to despise Ontario. When I first started playing there, I had such a bad vibe with it. I was so intimidated and I was so far away from home.” But time, familiarity and a move to Toronto have changed that.

“Ontario has grown on me like a bad pair of shoes.” The vibe’s a good one these days. “I like how into the music people are. It really is different than touring anywhere else.”

The singer-songwriter prefers smaller venues to larger ones. Sara explained that the biggest venue they’ve played on this tour is 500 people. “Five hundred and under, it’s heaven.” While the audiences have been at times disorderly and drunk, Sara relishes being able to look at every person in the crowd and feel the interaction.

Last year’s tour of the States with Young was different, she explained. “Americans are dumb.

“I spent a whole summer listening to them be dumb. It’s a secret, you just go ‘uh huh uh huh’ and in your head you’re thinking ‘God, we’re so much smarter than you.’”

The patriotic 20-year-old may not go around waving flags, but it’s difficult for people not to be aware of their pride. “As soon as Tegan and I start yapping, everyone knows we’re Canadian. I’m so proud to be a Canadian artist.” Tegan and Sara attract diverse a crowd to their shows, including a large gay and lesbian contingent, which she attributes to the coverage they used to get in local weeklies.

“The only press we would get would be a picture of us, and a little article, and you get the whole grrl crowd coming out.”

These days, that part of the crowd has got lost in the rest of it. Getting airplay on MuchMusic and mainstream press has created a mixed audience, something more to her liking. “I like to see diversity. I don’t want to be known as this type of act or that type of act, I like to think that we’re universal that we’re writing music that can be open to anybody.”

Music showcases aren’t Sara’s idea of a good time. She’s a harsh critic of the industry schmooze-fests.

“It’s so much not about the music.” The places are crawling with industry types and there’s a lot of pressure based on who turns up at the performance. “It’s so much about ‘sell me.’”

Sara spends a good chunk of time online, mostly using it to keep in touch with the friends she has spread across the continent. But that’s about it. She hasn’t for example, spent time on Napster.

“I never download anything. My computer is slower than a grandma in a walker.” The Calgary-born singer can see both sides of the issue. “I understand why people don’t like it and I understand why people think it’s great.” The online file-trading services isn’t a big concern, however. “I don’t lose sleep over it,” Sara added.

She hadn’t yet heard of, the online voluntary tipping service for musicians started by a pair of Waterloo students, but liked the idea. “I think it’s great.” If money was sent to her, she’d pass it on to charity. “It’s nice that people are so inspired by you; I’d donate the money to somebody who inspires me.”