Date: September 6, 2003
Author: Graeme McElheran
Publication: Calgary Herald
Headline: Calgary catches up with Tegan & Sara
Tegan & Sara perform tonight at the University of Calgary's MacEwan Hall. (Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets: $26, available at all TicketMaster outlets.
Phone 777-0000 or order online at

The prodigal daughters return.

Back in Canada from their Australian tour, the pop duo of Tegan and Sara, who come from Calgary, are on a path that's leading them back to where it all began.

Well, maybe not exactly. The sisters are headed for MacEwan Hall, not Sara's bedroom, where they first taped their songs on a ghetto blaster.

They're playing the old Mac Hall Ballroom tonight, not Crescent Heights High School, where they first recorded as Plunk in 1998.

The U of C is one venue they've played before in a city they used to call home and still holds a natural appeal for the Quin twins.

"Tegan and I have always loved Calgary," Sara says Thursday from her Montreal apartment.

"Last time we were in Calgary we actually played the new room (at Mac Hall)," she said. "I don't know if we've been demoted back into the old Mac Hall, which I kind of feel more of a fond liking for, just because the new room I find a little intimidating."

Nice timing, too, since they turn 23 on Sept. 19.

"A lot of my family's birthdays are in September," says Sara. "We only play shows maybe once or twice a year now in Calgary, but all our family and friends are there."

The Australian gig brought a new kind of fame to the twins, different from their experiences in Europe and Japan.

On the international circuit for the first time, Tegan and Sara found they were considered mainstream and, for a change, not vying for a spot on radio and TV playlists.

"In Australia, it was the first time we got added to mainstream radio stations and getting played on their mainstream music channels.

"I don't know if that's necessarily how we want our career to go in every country, but it's kind of fun," Sara admits.

"It's not a novelty, but it's sort of fun to experience what it would be like to get added to a radio station, to have a little bit more of a mainstream success.

"But Australia is so much like Canada. Everybody's so laid back at night."

The duo's latest album, If It Was You, was released last year by Vapor Records. Produced by John Collins of The New Pornographers and David Carswell, the album is a return to fundamentals, reminiscent of the band's earlier roots in rock and roll.

"I don't think it's more of a mainstream record, I think it's a more accessible record. It was kind of the first time Tegan and I flexed our own muscles in the studio," Sara says.

"It allowed us to open up our audience a lot more. We charted on the college music chart in the United States, and that really helped us with our fan base in the U.S."

After the Canadian tour finishes in November, Sara says she and Tegan will put their heads together again, likely in Vancouver, and pound out a new album. They've set aside 10 months to do it and they have 25 new songs they're currently doing demos for.

"I love to tour, but it's been a year now that we've been on the road, and I'm happy to take some time off and demo, and play songs, and get back to writing some new material," says Sara.

The twins haven't lost their sense of perspective during the six years they have been recording.

"I don't think that we ever were waiting for a break," Sara says.

"We were playing music and all of a sudden we started playing gigs, and it just sort of turned into a career.

"When you are actually in the industry and you actually educate yourself about it you realize that there aren't really any big breaks.

"One thing can happen to start a chain of events, but you're not suddenly an overnight success. Nobody is."

Behind them lie the landmarks: their "discovery" by Neil Young, three albums, the international venues and performing at festivals like Lillith Fare.

Ahead: the Calgary show. A new album. The Montreal scene. Possibilities.

"I was just waiting for a day I could start paying my rent and move out of my mom's basement," Sara recalls.

"And all of a sudden you're doing that and you're living in Vancouver or living in Montreal or flying to Australia," says Sara.

"That to me is an upswing. We're really lucky. We get to play shows and pay our rent."