Date: September 25, 2007
Author: Chad Huculak
Headline: Tegan & Sara polish their sound
Rock musicians have a nasty tendency to die at the age of 27. Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are illustrious members of the 27 club who opted to burn out rather than fade away.
Sara Quin and her identical twin Tegan, who together are the Canadian indie rock group known as Tegan and Sara, just turned 27, which was a milestone for the Juno-nominated singer-songwriters and may be the genesis of a period ripe with confidence and enough blog shout outs to set the Interwebs on fire.
The sisters are in Edmonton for two sold-out shows, tonight at the Winspear and tomorrow at the U of A's Horowitz Theatre.
"None of us feel our age," says Sara while rehearsing in Victoria, B.C. "27 is the 10 year mark of playing in the industry. It blows your mind, hits you hard. You realize how much you've done since then and how awful it was 10 years ago."
The Calgary duo has released five albums during the past decade, from which songs have graced numerous television shows and films, earning them world tours with artists like the Killers, Hot Hot Heat and Neil Young (whose Vapor Records is their current label.)
Tegan and Sara are now headliners, supporting their latest album The Con, which has the girls pushing their music to new territories with a brighter sheen provided by co-producer Chris Walla, of Death Cab for Cutie fame.
While their angst and forlorn lyrics return for The Con, the music has become a little more stylized, with pop flourishes fluttering around punchy vocals and melodies so strong they can be distinguished over the din of a noisy club crowd.
"Chris was very supportive in doing the album backwards. We did the guitars first instead of drums and bass, which is how we do it at home. We wanted it a bit messier" explains Sara, who with her sister, temporarily moved to Portland, Oregon to record.
Although you can hear Tegan and Sara are on the contemporary culture barometer known as Grey's Anatomy, they paid their dues by consistently touring Canada on low-budget outings.
After playing and recording music at home in Calgary, the sisters finally decided to hit the road with their music professionally, criss-crossing Canada on a Greyhound bus.
"In the beginning it was really horrible. At the time we didn't (and still don't) have our drivers licences, had no tour manager or sound guy, we each just had a guitar and our backpacks," says Sara. "There were times, you're sitting on a bus and thinking how you could have been going to university instead. I'm glad we stuck it out."
Word about the girls' hook-filled songs of heartbreak spread, as did their fame throughout Canada, especially the gay community. Tegan and Sara, both lesbians, have never shied away from their sexual orientation in their songs or the press.
With a large, mixed fan base, favourable reviews and sellout concerts on their resume, what else could spell out the success of Tegan and Sara?
How about the White Stripes covering their song, Walking With the Ghost for an E.P.?
"I was surprised, I didn't know what it was all about. Word from the label was that they wanted to record it," said Sara.
"We didn't hear it for a while until a couple weeks later, after we played a concert in Detroit, Meg White came backstage with the recording and we listened to it on a little boombox and then she took us bowling. It was an incredibly flattering and humbling experience."
Sara says she is more excited than ever for her stop in Edmonton, explaining Alberta has always been one of their strongest markets.
"We love playing in Edmonton, the crowds are really into it. We didn't want to play huge rooms for this tour, we picked venues that would sound good and will be an enjoyable experience. We've never been the type of band to sell out our shows in advance."
And here they have two.
Never underestimate the staying power of two Albertan girls, the truth, and a healthy dose of aspiration.