Date: August 22, 2003
Author: Michael Dwyer
Publication: Entertainment Guide,
Headline: Canadian Double Trouble
Twins Tegan and Sara's fiery relationship helps forge hot punk-pop, writes Michael Dwyer.

TEGAN Quin's intimidating reputation as a conversationalist precedes her. Her twin sister and partner in rock, Sara, has posted this brief character profile on the Canadian duo's website: "Tegan enjoys long talks about things that happened 10 years ago that she `has gotten over', but still talks about them endlessly in this voice that is sort of like metal scraping against bone that is showing through your ripped flesh."

It's actually not that painful on the telephone, although even the simplest queries tend to attract a fulsome answer, delivered at a breakneck pace that would have most courtroom stenographers in tears.

A few years of shared tour buses would probably account for the sisters' reputation as feisty stage partners, let alone 22 years in each other's pockets and faces. Reports ahead of their first Australia tour suggest a kind of female equivalent of the Gallagher brothers.

"We are like the Gallagher brothers, but in the Canadian sense," Tegan responds. "That means we don't hit each other, we just passive-aggressively hate each other inside and psychologically hurt each other.

"I was arguing with Sara today about extending her trip here, to Vancouver. She lives in Montreal, and I was like, `You have to come for an extra day so we can shoot a video!'.

"She said `No', and I was like, `You f---ing bitch!'. I have to get a grip on myself. I'm 22 years old now, so it's time I started acting like an adult."

That's how old her parents were, after all, when they welcomed twins into a Calgary home dominated by the music of Bruce Springsteen, the Police and U2. The girls bore the brunt of their parents' taste immediately.

Tegan says: "Our mom just recently admitted that she used to put headphones on her stomach when we were in the womb, so we used to get a lot of Led Zeppelin, and she was really into Three Dog Night, who I don't know anything about.

"My dad was really into David Bowie. Ziggy Stardust was his favourite record, and he once slept in a parking lot and got peed on to get tickets to a David Bowie concert."

The abundance of information begins to make sense when Tegan's blow-by-blow musical journey reaches the early '90s. It seems the twins' mixture of folkie harmonies, aggressive acoustic playing and edgy power pop stems from a teenage discovery of Neil Young and Bob Dylan ! combined with the prevailing southerly from Seattle.

"Our first demos sounded pretty folkie, but we thought we were a punk band," she says with a cackle. "Our first comparisons were to folk bands, and we were like, `What the hell is everyone saying? We're punks!'. I think we were hearing ourselves in our heads differently, and that's why we're so happy with this record, because it's like we hear ourselves."

If It Was You is Tegan and Sara's second album. Tegan says she's glad we never heard their first, "unconfident" one, but this one is a bracing and headstrong affair threaded with infectious tunes. Their first Australia radio airplay came with I Hear Noises, which opens like the Go-Gos' My Lips Are Sealed before clenching its teeth and biting down in the chorus.

"Oh yeah, we get the Go-Gos, we got the Breeders a lot on this record, even PJ Harvey, which is cool," Tegan says. "These comparisons I relate to. But people do actually compare us to Avril Lavigne sometimes, and I'm like, `What are you talking about? How bored and lazy are you?'."

Hey, wait until you get quizzed for the next glossy rock magazine's "Women in Rock" issue! Actually, why wait? Apart from being drilled about it by gender-obsessed journalists, is Tegan Quin ever aware of being a woman in a man's world?

"You know what? My management recently brought it to my attention - and my mom, too - that our fans are on the website complaining that we were wearing the same outfits on stage all the time!

"I was like, `Who has to deal with this shit?' I'm a musician! I don't have money'. But from the day we started I felt guilty about what we wear and how we look, for sure. So I guess I let other people make it into an issue.

"And I agree that whenever we go somewhere for the first time there's more girls in our audience than guys, but as time's gone on in Canada our audience has become more and more mixed and equal.

"I don't think we sing like girls and I don't think we come off like! a typic al girl band, if there is such a thing. We're not strumming our guitars sweetly - although we can - and we have a lot more attitude and power behind us."

That's behind them, literally: Tegan and Sara are a proper band these days, with drummer Rob Chursinoff and bassist Chris Carlson. They even had former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp playing keyboards on their recent North American dates.

Now, the twins question.

"Oh great, I can't wait."

Do you ever know how each other's songs are going to finish the first time you hear them? Like, "Oh my God, I was about to write that one?".

"I wish I could finish Sara's songs for her. She takes so bloody long sometimes, but no, we respect the way each other writes, and that's why we don't write together, because we have very different ways of doing it.

"I don't think you can pick a Tegan or Sara song the first time. After some investigation you might work out the difference between our voices. Sara does a lot more of the sweet melodies, whereas I tend to rock out more.

"As a writer, I guess I'm more like, `Hey! I have a point! Listen to me!', and Sara's more (adopts high-pitched hamster voice) `I care, I do, I'm sad'."

Tegan and Sara play the Corner Hotel, Richmond, on Wednesday. If It Was You is out through Shock.