TEGAN AND SARA
by Mary-Lynn McEwen
Thursday, November 7
"I never let my mom read us bad reviews, but she’s like, ‘I really want to read you this one.’ And I hope you go to bed tonight and feel terrible that my mom read it to me."
The voice on the other end of the line is that of Sara (of Tegan and Sara), and the interview is my date with destiny. Perhaps it’s divine retribution, or maybe my editor taking sadistic revenge for all those stretchy deadlines, but now, caught in Karma’s sites, I have to explain to the 22-year-old songstress my less-than-lukewarm review of If It Was You, Tegan and Sara’s freshly released album.
"When we got the press sheet, I’m like, ‘I think this is who wrote that review,’ so I made sure I would talk to you."
Gulp! Shudder. My take on the album was that it’s a reflection of two young women caught up in the hungry maw of an industry that turns music into car ads.
"Actually, it was really interesting that you said these things because everything about this record was about the most organic we’ve done. Doing Business (This Business of Art, their 2000 debut) was the total record company thing.... The pictures we did were so uncomfortable because they made us go out shopping. We did this photo shoot with this fucking dickhead who does Playboy. It was so uncomfortable, it was awful," the singer says from Los Angeles, where she is getting ready to perform an opening set for Ryan Adams.
For If It Was You, the twins kept the record company out of it until the mastering stage, and added Kinnie Starr’s drummer and bass player to the mix.
"I think what we are doing now is way more relevant. The thought of getting up onstage and playing strictly with Tegan made me want to slit my wrists. I love you Tegan, but some nights I don’t want that to be the only vibe onstage, and now we have these funny guys and we’re jamming and rocking out and it's fun and not serious.
"And the pictures for this record we did with my friend, who’s an amateur photographer. He was like, ‘You guys are hot girls and why do you always look so nasty in your pictures?’ And I thought ‘Maybe he’s right, maybe we’ve never felt confident enough to look good.’ I think we look good (now) because we were comfortable. So it was such an organic process for us, so (the review) was like, ‘No, she’s getting it wrong, it’s not like that.’"
And who has the last laugh, really, when the evil deliverer of unkind thoughts is stuck in snow-kissed Calgary while our heroines are personally invited by young god Ryan Adams to the Golden State to play their tunes while they give him feedback on his body odour and mullet? The innocent sandaled duo who played Lilith Fair a few years ago, living in a tent while they toured, is now a cursing, high-powered, high-maintenance unit.
"We’re not camping anymore, but we need non-smoking hotel rooms. I get why people romanticized these little girls who were not jaded and who were sweet and whatever, but lots of people found that really annoying. They were like ‘Fuck these bitches, they don’t know anything!’"
But somehow, even with all the swearing, Sara sounds far more spirited than jaded.
"Tegan was saying as hard as touring gets, it’s not as hard as getting up in the middle of winter and riding the Edmonton Trail bus downtown to go work at Grabba Jabba – that’s hard."
But surely the hardest thing is knowing how many stars are mere comets, flashing for a glorious moment before fading away, perhaps to turn up on the shopping network in 10 years time.
"There’s not a lot of women who get careers like Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen. If someone said to me I can have a 50-year career and be successful, I don’t know if I’d take that. There’s a part of me that thinks when I’m 30 I would like to own a house and have a kid and go back to school, and when I’m 40 maybe I’ll be in another band."
We part agreeing to disagree on the album, but the last word goes to Sara.
"This record means so much to me because it’s the first year of our lives we’ve ever really done what we wanted to do, so any bad review we get we're like, ‘Wow, really?’ A couple of days later, we’re playing the songs and we’re screaming ‘Fuck them! Fuck them!’"