Date: August 20 2003
Author: Christie Eliezer
Publication: Beat (Australia)
Headline: Tegan & Sara
Tegan & Sara are twin sisters, 22, from Canada, gay, shaggy dark haired,
stand about 5' 3" and their album "If It Was You" (Shock) is one of those
records whose popularity spreads by word of mouth. They're intelligent,
obnoxious, nice by nature and sarcastic, and have no problem showing off
their sibling rivalry. At their feisty live shows, which they hope to bring
to Australia in September, they chat about everything from their grandmum's
New Years Eve mohawk to J.Lo's rider, they bitch at each other and at the
band, say totally inappropriate things, and occasionally break into a song.
"When we started out, we only had five songs and were booked to do
45-minute sets," Tegan explains. "So we'd chat about everything. Nowadays,
we gotta do two and a half our sets. My God, that'd be 30 songs if we
didn't talk! The audiences still demand the chat. I think Sara and I are
both very funny, but the crowds don't always seem to think so.
"Ya know, Neil (Young) and his manager Elliott (Roberts, who signed the
twins to their Vapor Records) say that we won't make our great album until
we're 28. So, hey, no pressure! It's about having fun and making sure the
people are entertained. I don't like being onstage for too long. After
awhile, I'm telling the crowd, Hey, wanna go for dinner? Bruce Springsteen
and those three hour shows? C'mon!"
The music is guitar pop/rock-centred, but can depend on their whims fly off into bluegrass ("Living Room about purving into someone else's window") to the folky "Underwater" (Sara tries to write a children's book and realises it's too tortured for tots) to punky Pixies/Breeders edge ("Monday Monday Monday" about Sara's mood swings and "Time Running"). The quieter Sara's songs are quite cinematic, with lines like "Pulling tangles out of your hair in the back seat."
They deliberately made the record with a lo-fi basement feel says Tegan. After all that's where they used to rehearse with a series of snotty nosed punk bands, before they tired of blowing up their cheap amps and became a duo instead.
But a highlight is the closing "Don't Confess (This Thing That Breaks My Heart"), an epic by their standards. "It was a very quiet song when I wrote it," Tigan recalls. "I remember I was talking to Sarah, and I wrote it virtually in front of her. That really annoyed her. It was about my moving to Vancouver from Calgary where we grew up, and missing the snow, which I never thought I was. We did the song live a couple of times, and it grew into an epic. When we were recording it, we were torn whether to make it quiet or make it all cheesy with violins and cellos. We went midway."
Nothing like writing a song AND annoying a sister at the same time... "Yeah, it was great! But she lives 3,000 miles away on the other side of Canada, so we don't see each other except when we're on the road. But we really don't have any issues. We have that annoying sister rivalry, I guess, but that's fading away 'cos we are getting older. If we do have a fight, it's not so much a screaming row but just sulkily ignoring each other. But I know my mum gets a bit concerned about some of our comments to each other. She thinks she let us down."
What does mum think of the show? "She and dad, and our grandparents read our articles on the Internet, they're right into it. We always loved music, and played music, and think they're glad we could make it into a job. My stepdad called the other day asking if we needed money. It's exciting for him that after five years of doing this, we don't need money. They were probably terrified we'd end up slacker musicians, living in the basement and living off our parents until we were middle aged." How autobiographical is "Living Room"? :"It's straight out of real life. I moved in one night into my apartment. In the morning, I looked out through the window next door, and no one seemed to be living there. So I'd walk around my apartment almost naked. Six months later I realised there were people next door and I was horrified."
The kids of "hippie" parents Stephen Quinn, a housing developer, and Sonia Clement, a therapist. Tigan recalls how casually they took the news that their two daughters were gay. (That didn't stop Ryan Adams from developing a crush on Sara when they opened for him recently). When they started out playing after graduating from high school and got signed at 18 to Vapor Records, Tegan & Sara were compared to Ani DiFranco. Their first album, "This Business Of Art" certainly took that route. But their love for U2 and Bruce Springsteen emerges on the new album. The single "Monday Monday Monday" is getting college radio airplay in the U.S. There's radio airplay in Canada too but they reckon they don't really fit into there between Nickelback and No Doubt.
"We toured with Ben Folds through America a few months ago, that brought us to a lot of new audiences. We love the way he travels around the world and plays. He had so many nice things to say about Australia, and we've got relations in Australia too. I'd rather be big in Australia or Japan, than big in Canada or America. It's where people are discovering our music through word of mouth, which is kinda more cool."