Date: September 11, 2003
Author: Mike Devlin
Publication: Times Colonist
Headline: Twin Powers: Tegan and Sara have collected a faithful following across North America, particularly in Canada, where they routinely play to sell-out crowds
Twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin are just weeks away from ending the tour behind their third album, last year's If It Was You, but the Calgary-born siblings aren't finished finding unique ways to promote it.
The siblings wrapped a promotion on their Web site Wednesday that allowed fans to contribute financially to the making of their new video, Living Room. For $25, a limited number of fans could purchase a T-shirt designed by director Kaare Andrews, whose storyboards from the video were used as graphics on the clothing. The shirt will not be reproduced or available anywhere else, making it a sought-after collectible for the hundreds who purchased it.
The promotion was born out of frustration. Tegan and Sara's record company wasn't interested in funding a third video in support of If It Was You, which spawned the singles Monday Monday Monday and I Hear Noises.
The sisters, however, still felt there was a demand for a clip to accompany Living Room. "It's not like we're doing a $100,000 video or anything," Sara said over the phone Tuesday, shortly after the group's tour bus stopped in Nelson.
"We're spending only a couple of thousand dollars to do the video, but we're excited for the fans to feel like they helped pay for a part of that."
Tegan and Sara, who turn 23 a week Friday, are one of the few Canadian acts who could rely on their fans for this type of support. Since the release of their indie debut, 1999's Under Feet Like Ours, the sisters have amassed a loyal following across North America, particularly on their home turf, where they routinely play before sell-out crowds.
The fact that they record for Neil Young's Vapor Records in the U.S. doesn't often factor into the equation here (they record for Universal in Canada).
As their engaging pop rock moves away from the folk-based music found on 2000's This Business of Art, the Quins and bandmates Chris Carlson (bass) and Rob Chursinoff (drums) are earning a reputation as musician's musicians.
Add to that the sisters' entertaining and now-legendary stage banter -- which often seems more like a stand-up comedy routine -- it's not surprising Tegan and Sara have been hand-picked to tour internationally with stars like Ryan Adams, Ben Folds, and Pete Yorn.
"In this industry, there's lots of different ways of getting a tour," Sara said. "But I think a lot people take their friends out on the road or bands they're really interested in. It's always great to get on someone's tour who likes you, so every night you're not up on stage thinking, 'God, I hope they don't hate me.' "
In May, the Quins turned down an offer from Lucinda Williams in order to spend two weeks in Europe with Victoria's Hot Hot Heat.
Touring seven countries with a popular overseas act such as Hot Hot Heat was an eye-opening experience to say the least.
"We were sharing a tour bus with them and the guys we work with, so me and Tegan were the only girls. Um, sometimes the hygiene standards were not high enough for us."
More than that, Sara said the jaunt uncovered one secret about Hot Hot Heat fans have been dying to know about: their hair care.
"The first time we went on the bus I swear to God I saw a hair straightener," she joked. "Our band always makes fun of us because we have straighteners, so I thought it was funny that they cared about their hair as much as we did."
Despite all the time she spends on the road with her sister, Sara needed a change halfway through the tour to promote If It Was You. In January, she moved from Vancouver, where Tegan still lives, to a new home in Montreal. The fact that she didn't know a single soul when she moved there was part of the attraction, according to Sara.
"I approached it the same way I did with Vancouver, needing a change and thinking that it would be exciting to try something new and then riding it out until you feel the need to get back up and go somewhere new."
The famously close but equally combative twins have spent more time apart than ever these days. Yet surprisingly, only once has being separated by thousands of kilometres conflicted with their performance schedule.
With flights grounded out east during the August blackout, Sara found herself stuck in Montreal and unable to make it to the duo's planned Regina Folk Festival appearance.
Tegan, facing the prospect of playing without her sister for the first time ever, improvised.
She fashioned an anatomical cardboard cutout of her twin, which she placed beside her on stage. Tegan wrote Sara's name on it with a felt pen, drew some clothes on it as well and talked to it throughout the performance like it was Sara incarnate.
Sara wasn't concerned with how well Tegan pulled it off. How her stand-in was rendered was of more importance to her.
"I didn't see it, but I can only imagine what it must have looked like."