Tegan and Sara - Pushing twins
Tegan and Sara have turned into more than just another lookalike girl band
by TERRY PARKER
November 7, 2002
In a circus full of naughty boys with guitars and Barbie girl singers whose thongs outlast their songs, there’s something reassuring about the sight of a pair of 22-year-old twin gals from Calgary drinking in metal bars in New York, stumbling through Halifax casinos at 3 a.m. and generally ripping up North America in a minivan. There’s something downright gritty rock ’n’ roll about that.
Sara Quin, of Tegan and Sara, calls from Los Angeles with nearly 30 shows behind her in eastern Canada and the United States. On the cover of their latest release, If It Was You—a very electric departure from their raw acoustic premier, This Business of Art—she’s the one on the right.
Now, most of what she and dauntless drummer Rob Chursinoff write in their online tour journal is true. Yes, Sara is fond of swimming when she’s had a few late-night beverages. At the Halifax casino two months ago, she and her bandmates sneaked behind the hotel’s front desk in the wee hours when staff were absent to try programming one of those card keys to gain access to the indoor pool. But no, the part about breaking the glass door, falling in the pool and barely eluding police pursuit, though laugh-out-loud funny, is pure fiction.
Webcasts, online journals, interactive e-mail, digital pictures from the tour and downloadable MP3s may take the mystery out of being a rock star, according to a quote Sara read from Beck, but Tegan and Sara, who aren’t played much on Much or mainstream radio, depend on the Web to reach their fans. “We’re not mysterious. We’re the same people who are in our audience,” Sara says, in response to superstar Beck. “It’s one of our only marketing tools, creating an online environment for our fans.”
Thrilled by Kill and Hille
Back in the mid-’90s, when she was a Calgary high school student and before she moved to Vancouver (where this inclination for tipsy bathing now takes her to the ocean with alarming regularity), she and Tegan enjoyed Our Lady Peace, Smashing Pumpkins and Sloan on the radio. But the music of L7, Bikini Kill, Veda Hille and Kinnie Starr—all big influences on the Prairie pair—was harder to come by. Word of mouth and afternoons spent scouring the indie record stores were her solution to musical monotony. “Bands I liked were not on MuchMusic,” Sara says. “I found them because I went looking.”
Daughters of a single mom who went back to university when she was 30, became a social worker and now counsels teen prostitutes, the twins grew up in a poorer, multi-racial neighbourhood that defies the white-bread Cowtown cliché. Now with a growing legion of fans, from the young Teen Beat-reading crowd to mentors like Neil Young, Chrissie Hynde and the man they’re currently touring with in the States, Ryan Adams—he even plays a song with them onstage—Tegan and Sara have made a giant leap from where they were five years ago when they first toured Canada. “We fucking camped!” says Sara incredulously. “It was so different. But it was fun. Now it’s a job. It’s for real. I’m a doctor and I’m working in a hospital. We have a whole system now. It’s a functioning business.”
The only gals on Galliano
Recorded on Galliano Island off the west coast, If It Was You was completed in about two months with production from New Pornographer Dave Carswell and John Collins, who produced the New Pornographers’ Mass Romantic. It was great having breakfast in the waterfront recording studio, watching enormous bald eagles land on the deck, Sara says, musing that she and Tegan were two women in a sea of men. “It seemed every day there was more hair and more empty beer bottles,” she recalls.
With Chursinoff, Edmonton-born bassist Chris Carlson and the ladies wailing electric, Friday’s show won’t really resemble their acoustic gig three years ago in Edmonton when they opened for Andy Stochansky at the Likwid Lounge but were too young to drink. Legally. Sure, the new album is more pop and dwells a bit heavily on love and relationships, but that’s just their age talking. The music and the grit oughta be worth the trip.