Publication:Arthur-Trent University's Student & Community Newspaper
Headline:An Interview With Half of Tegan and Sara
If the music business doesnít work out for Tegan Quin, half of the musical duo Tegan and Sara, she would definitely have a promising career as an auctioneer. Iím glad I brought a tape recorder to my interview with this fast-talking singer-songwriter from Calgary. In the 40 minutes we spent in the balcony of the Gordon Best theatre, we covered so many topics I realized Iím not going to be able to get away with merely a question and answer piece.
Tegan and Sara started seriously writing music at age 16. Now, six years later, they are touring to promote their third album, If It Was You. This album represents a dramatic change from their earlier sounds - itís less folky and more hard-edged. Part of this change is attributed to the additional resources they can afford as their band becomes more successful. "We invested into our company, bought some guitars. Well, okay bought one guitar and itís really heavy and itís a piece of shit..."
Even though Tegan and Sara, who are twins, were performing full-time before they were even allowed to drink, they approach their music as a job, with seriousness, intensity and passion. Part of the reason they travelled acoustically for so long was because they wanted to cut costs. "We were never starving artists but Sara and I made sacrifices...we sacrificed having a band...we travelled in a two-door car for three years. We sacrificed having our own place and it drove us almost insane." Indeed their performances are riddled with the banter of siblings who spend just a bit too much time together, but audiences really seem to enjoy their brand of on-stage humour.
Theyíve now added a drummer, Rob Chursinoff, and bassist, Chris Carlson. Travelling with a band has been good for the pair, in terms of providing variety, "Iím not bored out of my tree anymore" and enriching their sound "it just helps the music when we get on stage, I just feel so much more powerful, musically." Tegan does however feel an added sense of responsibility, "I want to be able to provide, if these guys want jobs for the next ten years, they are going to have them. Iím going to work really hard to make sure that we can afford to pay them." She welcomes this challenge.
This typifies the keen business sense with which Tegan approaches her craft, as the title of their 2000 release, This Business of Art, might suggest. These themes donít creep into their music as often as people think. Tegan tells me that sheís often asked if their songs were about the music industry or politics, which theyíre not. "All we do is write about our broken hearts and our relationships...Iíve never written anything political... itís all about my heart. Iím way too selfish and self-absorbed to write about anything but me." she jokes.
And yes, some of these relationships have been with women, but Tegan would really prefer that you not focus on that. "Sara had a good quote in the National Post the other day, she said Ďif you go on the internet, itíll take you about five seconds to find out that weíre gayí...weíre not hiding it, but I think itís an absolutely irrelevant moot point, when people focus on it, it makes me angry actually...you donít hear Tommy Orr talking about his relationships. How come Radiohead doesnít? Because people focus on the music, so when people focus on our sexuality I feel like theyíre saying weíre not good enough to talk about our music." You have to admit that she has a point.
In the beginning they spoke about their sexuality much more, when the majority of their media coverage was with queer press. Now that the press call more frequently, theyíre not as interested in talking about it. The pair also like to have some fun with interviews, especially when they are asked questions like "you guys must spend a lot of time together?í. "Sara told this interviewer the other day, actually you know we were separated until we were 15, my mom and my dad got divorced when we were really young, and each of them took one, so we just started hanging out when we were 15." They had the reporter completely convinced for the entire interview, but eventually set the record straight.
I guess I should feel lucky that she went easy on me, though she made sure I understood some of her frustrations with press. "I know that writers need an angle... but really I think that weíre so much more interesting than what people write about." So maybe you shouldnít take my word for it. Buy their album and see for yourself.
Teganís Quotable Moments:
On the Gordon Best Theatre...
"Most clubs are fuckiní holes man, theyíre disgusting, the fact that we walked in hear and it smells like food and not cigarettes and piss, itís perfect!"
On answering bad interview questions...
"Weíre the ones being quoted, so if we want to look like assholes, than answer the bad questions like assholes, but if we want to look good, always give a good answer."
On media fascination with her sexuality...
"No one ever writes about my boob size or my height, why should they write about who Iím fucking, itís nobodyís business."
On not letting success get to her head...
"My friends are really hilarious about it all, when we were playing in Calgary we had dinner in the food court and afterwards there was about 12 girls that started congregating and started chasing us...we told all our friends and were all excited and they were like "thatís so lame, you guys are the Backstreet Boys" and they were making fun of us, so they totally keep us humble."
On writing If It Was You...
"I wrote this record about moving out of home and going to Vancouver and going out on the road for two years and coming home and I had no friends and I was living in a tiny little apartment and Iím sleeping in a murphy bed that pulled out of the wall and I was alone and I really had to come to terms with the fact that I sort of distanced myself from my family and friends in order to be this rock star and really all I was, was a little kid in a big city."