Date: September 23rd, 2004
Author: Tabassum Siddiqui
Publication: Eye Magazine
Headline: Sibling Revelry
It's hard not to be just a wee bit envious of Tegan and Sara. The 23-year-old Quin sisters are cute, funny, whip-smart and know their way around a good tune. And there's that whole twin thing to boot. So it's always a bit surprising to put on a new Tegan and Sara record and hear all that angst come tumbling out of the speakers.
Though they've had nothing but success since starting out as teenage folkies at home in Calgary, there's always been something a bit rueful about the duo's songs: eyes cast downward, heart in hand. While the lyrics may be tentative, the music is anything but. Their latest, So Jealous (Superclose/Universal), is hooky, brash and supremely confident -- not unlike the sisters themselves. While So Jealous continues their association with Vancouver super-producers John Collins and David Carswell (The New Pornographers), those who assumed that 2002's If it Was You bore the indelible JC/DC indie-rawk stamp clearly discounted the musical progression of Tegan and Sara, who decided to co-produce for the first time on the new record.
"Tegan and I were really confident that we were going to be able to finally give ourselves the sound that we really wanted," Sara says on the phone from Vancouver, her words tumbling out fast and furious over the line. "John and Dave are kind of almost like big brothers or something. Every time we would want to wimp out and give up, they would always be like, 'You guys can do this.'
"It's interesting, we talked a lot before this record about 'What do we do? What are we?' I really honestly believe that we could put out a hardcore record and people would still be like, 'Folk-acoustic duo Tegan and Sara!' If people are surprised, then I think they're going to be happily surprised. We get lots of 'Can't you just play acoustically and talk?' and we're like, 'Oh, god, can't we not do that anymore?' I think people like [the new stuff] and understand it. I could be wrong and delusional, I don't know."
Not so delusional, judging by their effusive press. Though being signed to Neil Young's small Vapor Records imprint in the US meant criss-crossing the country endlessly in a beat-up car for years, Tegan and Sara managed to carve out a sizable fan base on their own before the likes of Seventeen magazine and Teen Vogue came calling. A recent New York Times feature oddly fixated on their supposed lesbian cachet, but still managed to declare that "the timing is right for this kind of girl-rock manifesto."
"I believe I just saw what is going to be printed in SPIN this week, and they referenced our last records as being 'folk-Wiccan nightmares,'" snickers Sara. "So apparently now we're cool enough to be dissed in SPIN magazine. I guess people just like this record more -- so we see more mainstream press, or see more offers to do this or that. But it's cool because I still know that the people who are coming out to see our shows -- we built that audience by playing and opening for people and going to college radio stations and basically trying to get people to listen to what we do."
What they do has changed not only musically, but personally and logistically as well -- the girls who were once rarely apart now live in different cities, with Tegan staying put in their recording base of Vancouver and Sara uprooted to Montreal. It means more crappy early-morning flights for Sara, but she says the twins' unspoken connection helps to bridge the gap.
"I like that I live somewhere else and I have different friends and a different life," Sara says. "So it's kind of like we get to do what normal people do, but we also get to do what Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen do. So that's hot, too. Sans coke -- no cocaine or eating disorder, but basically pretty much what they do. Just to set the record straight."