Date: September 11, 2003
Author: Michael Bodey
Publication: The Daily Telegraph
Headline: Twin some
When the pop world is full of Madonna wannabes, tarty teens and faux rockers, Canadian twins Tegan and Sara are a revelation.
These "fresh" 22-year-old singersongwriters have already had a career, in pop terms, and now their five years of writing, playing and touring have paid off.
Their new album, If I Was You, their third, is a major surprise - an eclectic and mature mix of altcountry, folk and rock.
"We have short attention spans," smiles Sara.
"We're the sitcom generation, right," adds Tegan. "And with two writers too, we write very differently, very separately and only co-operate when we're near the end, so it's very fresh and gives the record a lot of different flavours."
But as 22-year-olds and despite the variety on the album, the Quin sisters are invariably compared to other acts. Their public identity, seemingly, is not yet formed, even if they appear as confident, ambitious and focused as any other musicians you'd meet. Initially, it was Ani DiFranco comparisons and then everyone between her and Avril Lavigne. Now they've separated themselves from the whole young rock chick thing.
"Not on purpose," Tegan says, straight-faced. "We tried [to be part of it] but it just didn't work out for us."
They both laugh before explaining their label boss, Elliot Roberts, Neil Young's manager and co-founder of Vapor Records, has no time for any Avril knock-offs.
"His impression of that kind of music is negative," says Sara. "The label likes to do things the old way, which is really grassroots."
"So it's easier for us to be ourselves and not be some sort of put together thing," adds Tegan.
"We just don't want to feel like we did when we first came out; people did this whole folk-acoustic-Ani DiFranco-duo type thing and part of our apprehension with that kind of label is we don't know what we really want to do and a lot of our influences were rock bands and punk bands," says Sara.
"Some of the acoustic music I was listening to was like The Violent Femmes and nobody calls them folk.
"It seems there is a tendency to write off women musicians as 'folk' or as 'women musicians' and I'm not trying to be a hippy here but at some point I hope it becomes less about men and women musicians."
Besides, the new female popettes such as Lavigne have stylists, writers and millions of dollars behind them.
"It's not even comparable to what we do," Tegan adds.
They might also argue If I Was You is not comparable to their previous two albums. Where the comparisons to Ani DiFranco and other angsty rockers may have been true previously, this album shows a quantifiable shift to a poppier sound, while retaining the best of their rock influences.
They still scream a little.
It's a mature album that separates itself distinctively from the tweenie rock set.
"I think a lot of bands, no matter how much touring they do, they're still young," says Tegan.
"It's more just about who we are because we've always been writing and our music has always been serious. We've had a lot of life experience even though we're young."
In fact, the girls have been touring since they were 17 and, as songwriters, they've been heavily influenced by those that have gone before them.
As for Avril Lavigne's missteps when asked if she was a feminist or if she knew David Bowie's music, Tegan laughs disparagingly.
"Everyone was like, 'Oh she's just a kid and she's just 18,' but I was like 'We weren't like that when we were 17 or 18'.
"It could be from where she came from - she had a really religious family and didn't listen to music but it had nothing to do with her age."
Tegan continues, "In Canada, you graduate when you're 17 and if you go to university, fine, and if not, like us, we got jobs, we paid rent, we " grew up. The music we were writing immediately was about love, about growing up, about paying rent and stress and passion. So we were able to develop a more mature sound based on the fact we weren't from a really controlled environment."
As Sara adds, there's always been the burden of being dubbed new or special "and we get compared to anybody out there who's doing bigger than we are".
"You can't let it get you down.
We're just going to keep putting out records and I don't think they're the records people are going to expect us to put out. That's the biggest statement we can make."
tegan and sara's album if i was you is out now