Date: January 17, 2006
Author: Jaime Wojdowski
Publication: The GSU Signal
Headline: The hottest new band you’ve never heard of
Tegan Quin will be a rock star. After a few hours and three opening acts, she will take the stage in front of an excited, adoring crowd at the Variety Playhouse with her identical twin sister Sara. The duo will rock a set list covering six years of material, including their current single, “Walking With a Ghost,” which has won a following on alternative radio stations across the country and has recently been covered by the White Stripes. Audience members will continuously yell out their devotion to the band, and a horde of fans will wait anxiously outside of the theater’s back doors in the cold November night after the show, hoping for a picture or an autograph. Tonight, Tegan and Sara will work on – and live out – a decade-old dream in progress.

Today, however, Tegan is just another customer at the Little Five Points Coin Laundry, shoveling clothes from a jam-packed rolling suitcase to a beat-up washing machine. Talking over the roar and hum in the dingy room, she describes arriving in Atlanta this morning feeling carsick because the band has rented a van instead of a bus. “We’ve been doing this for seven years and it’s only this year we’ve even had a bus,” she explains, “and only because we paid for it ourselves from some of the profit from the shows. Like, these are free pants that someone gave to me… the seams are ripping! We’re not living lavish lifestyles.” And, just like Tegan’s pants, everything about the band is a combination of old and new, making do, and breaking through.

You’ve heard Tegan and Sara, even if you haven’t heard of them. Hailing from Canada, the twenty-five year old twins released their first album, Under Feet Like Ours, in 1999, and soon went on to perform at Lilith Fair and tour with rock icons Neil Young and The Pretenders. They’ll begin 2006 by opening for the All American Rejects in Japan, touring with Cake in the United States, and headlining a string of their own shows in Australia; this, of course, after opening for The Killers last summer and touring the globe to promote their current album, the critically acclaimed So Jealous, throughout all of 2005. The songs from So Jealous – as well as 2002’s If It Was You – have been everywhere lately, from 99X and the White Stripes’ set list to the hit TV series Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill; MTV and VH1 shows like Pimp My Ride, Newlyweds, and All Access; TV and radio commercials; and even the music video playlist at American Eagle and The Gap.

Despite all of this, Tegan and Sara are still working for name recognition, fighting against stereotypes, and yes, even doing their own laundry. “People think we’re folk artists” Tegan says. “Our first album was more acoustic, but a woman touches an acoustic guitar and everybody’s like, ‘Oh, it’s folk;’ but Chris Martin [of Coldplay] plays acoustic, and that’s alternative! We’ve been undoing that perception of ourselves for a long time. We’re pop writers. I think we’re edgier and more alternative than mainstream pop, but we’re pop writers. People hear ‘Tegan and Sara’ and they think we’re gonna show up with two people. Then we show up with a five piece band and we rip your ears out, it’s like, oh… wow.”

In addition to managing the band’s evolving sound and success, exciting critics, and correcting reporters, Tegan and Sara often face an even more formidable challenge: their fans. Since their early days, the band has maintained a zealously loyal fan base that loves older material and the infamous sibling banter of the twins’ live shows. (Fan favorite: Tegan: “What’s that, back up singer?” Sara: “That’s not nice.” Tegan: “You could be so easily replaced.”) Meanwhile, the success of So Jealous has attracted new fans not as interested in the twins’ stories, but more excited to hear the singles from the radio. “Which is cool too,” Tegan is quick to say, “but we do cut our sets short when people are talking. It’s just too bad for the people who want a longer set and us talking more. Unfortunately, there is a price.” The dilemma even plays itself out that night at the Variety Playhouse, when one fan, repeatedly yelling to the girls on stage, prompts another to shout, “would you shut up?!?” With typical poise and humor, Tegan breaks the tension with a mock-therapist voice: “Now everybody just calm down,” she soothes, “we’re going to get through this together.”

The paradoxes that run through Tegan and Sara’s music seem to run through the girls themselves: humorous, yet serious; mature, but vulnerable; experienced, but still learning; personable while caustically sarcastic; successful and struggling; accommodating and impatient; detached and raw; and pieces of punk, rock, pop, folk, and electronica thrown together in odd, interesting, and unavoidably addictive combinations. While the band’s adolescence pulls at the twins from all sides, these qualities will hold them together to see how far they can possibly go. “We were always made to be responsible for our own actions,” says Tegan as she pulls clothes from the dryer, “and I think that’s carried over to our career, and why I think we have a totally good reputation and a long career ahead of us. It’s because we’re extremely responsible; there’s nobody that’s responsible for my career but me.” But as she stuffs her suitcase full again and runs through the traffic back to the Variety Playhouse, it’s time to forget about carsickness and money and struggle and responsibility. It’s time to be a rock star.

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