Author: Alan Sculley
Publication: Sun-Sentinel.com, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Headline: Twin ambitions :: Tegan and Sara say they've grown into a full pop-rock band.
Tegan Quin likes to think of So Jealous as the first album by Tegan and Sara, the group she co-fronts with her twin sister, Sara -- never mind that So Jealous is actually Tegan and Sara's fourth.
"The first three records we made, we had low budgets, we had limited time, we had limited skills in the studio. So we did what we could," says Quin.
A bigger recording budget made their latest really the first, then, to achieve the sound and style they had in mind all along. With So Jealous, "I think we finally entered the game," says Quin.
The sisters, 25, started out 10 years ago playing in a high school punk band in their hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia. They signed at 17 with an independent label, Vapor Records, and released their first CD, Under Feet Like Ours, in 1999. This Business of Art followed in 2000, by which time the music press had taken an interest and a small fan base had emerged.
One thing the Quins disliked about their early notices was being called "folk" -- owing to a lean, acoustic-oriented sound that was partly a product of limited finances and studio time.
"I always thought we were kind of a pop-rock act. I never understood the folk [label]," says Quin, who has no shortage of opinions to share in a recent telephone interview. "Listening to even This Business of Art, there are so many keyboards and weird stuff on it, I just can't imagine why people called it folk. I really just don't understand. I think it's because we're female. I think people are sexist. I think because we are girls and we played acoustic guitar on that record, people called us folk. But they don't call Coldplay folk."
In any case, the beefed-up, full-band sound of the third album, If It Was You, should have obliterated the word "folk" as a modifier for Tegan and Sara. So Jealous, released in fall 2004, picks up stylistically where If It Was You left off. One major difference was the budget, which allowed Tegan and Sara more time than ever (six months) just to write songs and record demos.
Those rough drafts, as it turned out, would guide the Quins through the more formal studio sessions. Because they wanted the finished product to have an immediate, home-grown quality, says Quin, "Once we went into pre-production, we stuck very true to the dynamics of the demos because we saw them as the blueprint. We saw them as the heart and soul of the record."
The progress from album three to album four is audible. So Jealous songs such as I Know I Know I Know, I Won't Be Left and You Wouldn't Like Me reaffirm the sisters' talent for disarming pop. But their growth as songwriters is evident, too, in the edgier, more adventurous melodies and song structures of the title track and We Didn't Do It.
Tegan and Sara also sound like a duo in the truest sense: They sing and play interchangeably, with neither having a telltale signature a la Simon and Garfunkel. That blurring is exactly what Quin likes about the music she makes with her sister.
"We complement each other well because we're not doing the same thing [in our lives]" she says; she and Sara write separately and don't spend much time together unless they are working on a CD or touring.
"I don't think you can go through a Tegan and Sara record necessarily and pick out what's mine and what's hers and whose strengths and weaknesses," says Quin. "I think each song has its strengths and weaknesses, and I think it will always be that way because I think both of us aren't a complete picture. I'm a firm believer, as a twin for 25 years, that we are missing parts of ourselves because we were supposed to be one and we are two. I believe in music we will always have [that]."
Alan Sculley is a freelance writer in St. Louis.