Canadian indie-rock duo Tegan & Sara's snappy songwriting and intimate lyrics have found a steadily growing audience in the United States since the twin sisters started recording songs a decade ago. "The Con," the duo's 2007 album, debuted at No. 34 on the Billboard 200 and led to an opening slot on Death Cab for Cutie's 2008 U.S. tour.
"Sainthood," their sixth full-length due Oct. 27 on Vapor/Sire Records, is Tegan & Sara's most immediate album yet. The propulsive first single, "Hell," was released to iTunes Oct. 6, and with its bouncy bassline and anthemic chorus, the track may be the key to growing the pair's fan base.
"It's less of a goal to get on radio and more of a goal to not resist radio as much as we have in the past," Sara Quin says. "We've had a really comfortable arc in our career, but at this point we recognize there is a fan base we have yet to entice. With this album, I know we have a shot at it."
After writing separately throughout their careers, Tegan & Sara penned lyrics together for the first time during a writing trip to New Orleans in fall 2008. They used the concept of sainthood, inspired by a Leonard Cohen song, as a thesis for piercing songs of devotion and emotional longing.
The duo began recording in May with Howard Redekopp and Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, who advised the girls to shake up their well-worn recording process by playing each song with a full band in the studio instead of relying on overdubbing. "The nature of what Tegan and I did had always been solitary," Quin says. "I felt terrified playing the songs live because, honestly, I didn't know if I could do it. But the songs just sounded more fleshed-out...and I think they'll be stronger, especially live."
In conjunction with the album release, Tegan & Sara are issuing "On," "In" and "At," a three-book set that chronicles the sisters' past year through writings and photographs. The self-published books were the vision of Tegan, whose goal was to "make something that fans could hold in their hands -- not something to re-create on their computer screens," Quin says.
After a Nov. 2 performance on "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien," Tegan & Sara will play select dates in Europe throughout November and launch a two-month U.S. headlining tour in February. While the duo is currently spending six to seven hours per day rehearsing for the shows, the experience of recording "Sainthood" with a full band was great practice for its biggest tour yet.
"We've become a really good live band, and I say that in the most humble way possible," Quin says with a laugh. "We usually dread rehearsals, but this year they've been a breeze."