The Divine Nine: Q and A with Tegan and Sara
Author: Adam McKibbin
Published on: October 23, 2002
22-year-old twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin have already signed to Neil Young's label (Vapor), toured with Uncle Neil and the Pretenders and are now on the road with Ryan Adams. Their sophomore album, If It Was You, is available in stores now. Look for this poppy acoustic duo to just keep getting better and better.
ADAM: Thanks for doing our interview. How's life these days?
TEGAN: Well, Adam, we are on the road right now and I think yesterday or tomorrow, whichever, is the one month mark. Last week I had a bout with a cold/flu thing that only seemed to snag me as its victim. And you know how it is when you are crammed into a tiny minivan with three other people and 19 pieces of luggage! No one minds the sniffing, coughing and incessant whining and pleas to kill you swiftly. We're all doing great.
ADAM: The recent history of music is littered with bickering brothers--Beach Boys, The Kinks, Oasis, Black Crowes, ad nauseum. I guess there's Heart, but there seems to a shortage of sisters on Behind The Music. Are you two getting enough material for an episode or has it been relatively smooth sailing?
TEGAN: Sara was a great sister, but I just couldn't have her on the road with me. We were too close to serial murder. I had her quietly removed and her lookalike replacement doesn't seem to mind not being spoken to or answered. Sara, by the way, likes her new home and thinks bridge and endless TV and field trips with the 'old folks' is neat. Hi, Sara.
ADAM: In reading past interviews with you two, I get the impression that touring isn't your favorite activity in the world. Do you prefer writing and recording to touring and performing?
TEGAN: Totally. There is something about creating that makes music so much fun. To go inot the writing process and have months to prepare and rehearse was so inspiring. Recording was a blast, too. We took a few months to really get into the songs and then by the time we got into the studio it went quickly. It was so much fun to hear our creations become fully produced songs. To play them in the car on the way home each night made up for months of sitting in a tiny car on the Interstate. We don't hate touring, by the way, we just get irritable quickly. If we could somehow get to the shows without all the work, life would be perfect.
ADAM: I've been writing stories since I was a little kid and...well, the truth is, I'm embarrassed by stuff I wrote a few years ago in college writing classes, let alone when I was a lil boy. I'll probably be embarrassed about these questions tomorrow. Since you got such an early start, are there old songs that haunt you?
TEGAN: God. Everything we did before this album I cringe when I hear. The last two records not so much, but the demos we did when we were 15 in our Broadcasting and Communications class...oh, I wish I was rich so I could buy up all copies from my friends. Any day now I know there will be 50 copies going for 100 bucks on eBay. Every day you learn and grow so much, to have proof beyond ugly pictures and your mother's stories that you were lame and wordy is just too much sometimes.
ADAM: There's a line in "City Girl" about working so hard that you miss the sun shining away and, while I'm ripping the line out of context, I was wondering whether that's part of the trade-off for becoming (and remaining) successful musicians and songwriters. Are you still able to find time to fit in some of the staples of an early-20's lifestyle (i.e. bad dates, binge drinking, leisure reading, occasional nights spent wondering what the hell you're doing with your life, etc.)?
TEGAN: I think that is a good translation of the line. But when I wrote, I was coming from the opposite place. I was actually missing life because I was at home with nothing to do. I felt so sorry for myself and so wiped out that I was working by choice. Our friends and family have supported us and when we come back to town or through old haunts we have more than enough early twenties moments to make up for all the touring and work. We love what we do. I have more time now then when I was serving up donuts and foaming up coffee.
ADAM: As you're writing and then recording new material, how much tinkering do each of you do with the other's songs?
TEGAN: Not much. At least not with this record. We both recorded separately on a Mac computer with a system called Pro Tools. It allowed us to burn copies of what we were doing immediately and so we left our daily work on the computer for each other to sing and play on alone. Most often, though, our own editing and criticism was enough. It was fun to hear Sara without being there. I became a real fan of her and what she was doing. I had little criticism for her, beyond the usual "Stop singing so quiet, I can't hear you, I hate you" stuff.
ADAM: Sizable talent aside, you've been in the presence of some pretty sexy rock and rollers out on the road. I mean, Ryan Adams and Neil Young don't necessarily flip that switch for me, but Chrissie Hynde and Rufus Wainwright? Delicious! Any rock star beauty tips you've been able to glean?
TEGAN: With a few, I would say we were well supported in our fairly clean lifestyle. The perception of drinking and drugging of superstars out there is really overdone. With some, the only advice we got was to get the fuck out of the way and stop stealing their beer.
ADAM: Apocalypse comes and Ticketmaster puts you in charge of booking the House Band for Heaven. Who do you bring on board?
TEGAN: Bruce Springsteen, Sinead O'Conner, The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins and Pink. Pink will just be there to hang out with us. She doesn't have to perform unless she wants to. Whatever she wants.
ADAM: And who do you send down to Hell?
TEGAN: Down with all fake loser ego rock guys. Bye everyone on Top Forty! Haha. Just kidding. I love over-produced expensive leather bands.