Author: Lucy Love
Headline: Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara are firmly at the helm of their career, they tell Lucy Love.
Tegan and Sara aren't your usual pop band. With an image that veers far from the plastic-blonde mould, Tegan and Sara have accumulated success by being themselves. They've amassed critical acclaim, toured the world, been covered by the White Stripes - all while remaining and independent band. But when I talk to Tegan (err, listen to Tegan, rather), it's quite clear it's not going to her head.
"Sara has a lot of ego problems, but no, not me," she declares solemnly before bursting into laughter. "No, we're pretty grounded. It's because we really didn't get in it to be popular or famous, we got into it because I loved the idea of sitting around all day playing music.
"We can get pretty emotional about things and we turn into tyrants every now and then, but it's for good reasons. Something wasn't done the way we liked, or someone didn't get what they deserve."
'Tyrants' may just be a little too strong when it comes to describing Tegan and Sara. They demand control over their career, but when Tegan explains, it doesn't sound unreasonable. "We can't control everything," Tegan concedes. "But videos, the music, our live shows, the band, the website, what goes on our MySpace, all that stuff is really genuine, it's coming straight from Sara and I. All the things like press appearances, and radio stations - we go in and see; Sara and I have final say over all of that. I want to make sure tha we're doing the right thing, and we're positioned the right way. I don't want to take advantage of innocent people that heard our song and liked it, I don't want to capitalise on anyone.
"We spend so much time putting love and care and attention into our records, you don't want to just be like 'Okay it's done! Blast it off with cheap pastic and crappy graphics!' That would be so lame, it'd just be ridiculous. So yeah, we have a lot to say and do with what happens around us, but we're kind of relaxing a bit in our old age. We're starting to calm down a bit."
It's an ethic that's being lost in the industry as more and more artists sign over their careers, but that doesn't matter to the sisters. "Well, I think to each his own. Obviously some artists don't have the capacity to be artists and be involved in the business, and that's absolutely fair and valid. In that case, you want to make sure you have the right people around you.
"In my case, I want to get where I'm going and look around and be proud of who's around me. When we look at a tour budget and have a $20,000 profit, we put a third of it into the company, Sara and I will take a third, and the last third will go back into the tour like 'Let's hire a monitor person, that'll make things easier for everyone.'"
"Some people just don't care, they're too busy drinking and doing drugs and partying, and some people just want to make art and they just want to play. That's never been out way. Our parents were like 'If you're not going to University, then this is your job. You're not going to sit in our basement and play music all the time. You need to get out there and pay rent, you need to make a CD and do this, and do that,' and that challenge turned into a lifestyle."
It's a lifestyle that's now readying them for a tour of Australia; their second in six months. "We'll take any chance we can get over there!" Tegan laughs.
The last tour wasn't as carefree though, with headliners Little Birdy falling sick and cancelling. "At the first show, we went to talk to people and were like 'Hi! We're Tegan and Sara! We're from Canada, stay for the show' and people were laughing and stayed!
"When they cancelled it was like 'Oh my God, we fucking flew to Australia, it cost $20,000 and now the fucking tour's cancelled!!' We freaked out, and then overnight everything changed. It was like 'The promoters are happy for you to play. You're going to do all the big cities, Little Birdy will keep the backline out for you, and provide transportation.' I was like 'Oh my God I love them!'"
After coming close to selling out most of the venues they played solo, it's no surprise they're coming back so soon, in support of their DVD 'It's Not Fun, Don't Do It,' and when Tegan speaks about it, it's clear she really doesn't want to capitalise off anyone. Instead of throwing together a live show and video clips they've invested serious time into it. "It has a documentary of the making of our recent record, 'So Jealous', it also has a documentary that highlights the past year and a half of touring," she begins. "There are fan contributions. Someone made a movie of us as Marionettes. There's 40 minutes of us going through photos. All of the features have a video and audio commentary track, so you can listen to us talk and explain the videos nd that sort of thing. Then it's got a 40-minute live concert as well. It's kind of like an art project for them, and a history on DVD."
But hey, let's go back to that White Stripes cover? "We were excited, then when we heard it we were really thrilled!" Tegan exclaims. "I really like the White Stripes, and no one has ever covered us - at least famous people have never covered us. So that was really interesting. Jack said that he felt it was a song he would have written for that record.
"He generally doesn't cover, his tour manager pulled us aside when we met and said 'You should feel very lucky, Jack usually just covers dead people.' I listened to it about three times in a row, and I put it in my CD collection and was like 'cool.'"
Tegan & Sara play February 15 at the Corner, with guests Sparkadia and Iron On. As an added bonus, they'll be making an in-store appearance at JB Hi-Fi Bourke Street, at 5pm Tuesday February 14. Their first full length DVD, 'It's Not Fun, Don't Do It!' is out February 21 through Vapor/Sanctuary Shock.