"I'LL BE FRIENDS WITH YOU"
by Chris Dingwall
Thanks to Kelly for providing the article.
I don’t know if you remember, but two years ago you played at Richards on Richards. I was eighteen, so I got my roommate’s older sister to go in my place and bring my [This Business of Art] CD and got both of you to sign it.
Tegan: I remember that situation, but it happens so often because so many of our fans are underage. Especially in the US. We get fourteen year-old girls outside who are like, “We want to come in!” And we’re like, “Sorry, you can’t.” So we end up signing stuff for them. We like to go hang out outside. We just did a gig six months ago in Chicago, and they advertised it as an all-ages show, but when we got there we found out it was only twenty-one and up and there were a hundred people outside. So they opened the doors for them and they all sat on the pavement, and we went out and hung out with them all night. We signed autographs and took pictures and stuff. It was very fun. I felt very “rockstar:” there were more people outside than inside.
You have a lot of underage fans, like Swollen Members.
T: I think that there are parents like ours that opened us up to music when we were really young. We might not’ve been able to go see some of the bands they were letting us listen to. I think it’s the same case: we’re getting a younger audience because we’re aiming towards that younger audience now, but beforehand parents would hear us and bring the CD home to their kid. In lots of cities we get to do all ages stuff, but sometimes the promoters won’t pay you any money if you do all ages because they can’t sell liquor and stuff.
Was it weird when you were just a kid playing at clubs?
T: The only time it ever became an issue was when we were in the US. When we did the Rufus Wainwright tour, on numerous occasions they ushered us in and then ushered us out right away. [Sara arrives late]. Sara, do you want to come do an interview?
You’re sick, huh?
Sick with what?
S: Sick of life.
Is that contagious?
S: Apparently. I have a cold or something, so my voice is getting weird.
T: It’s gonna be fine. No talking. You’re just supervising the interview.
S: Ok, cool. I’m done.
T: Um… Yeah. So it’s cool to have the younger kids there. We just did a folk festival out in Comox, and there were all these young kids screaming and trying to break through backstage. And they were like nine year-olds. At first I was like, “Hmmm…” but then I was like, “It’s cool.” When I was ten and eleven, I was listening to Supertramp and Led Zeppelin and stuff. Maybe I didn’t understand what they were singing about, but I definitely enjoyed the melodies.
You played the Vancouver Folk Fest a while ago. Do you consider yourself folk musicians?
T: Well I don’t know. I think maybe considered us folk musicians. I think that our image is definitely changing with this record [their newest, If It Was You]. Sara and I do play acoustic in the set and we can pull off acoustic shows if we have to. I don’t know if they’d invite us back. But I think that the Folk Fest is pretty up-and-coming; they have lots of different acts. But even when I’m playing an acoustic guitar, in my head I’m playing a big black shiny ax.
Do you have your own big black shiny ax?
Did you name it?
T: No. I don’t know why. I do think fondly of it, though.
Not fondly enough to name it. It’s like an orphaned puppy.
T: Ok, you made me feel bad. Maybe I’ll
call it… I’ll call it Sara. Isn’t that weird? Me holding Sara in my arms.
That’s kinda strange.
T: [laughs] I don’t know. Maybe I’ll name it “Underground.”
That’d be awesome!
T: I’ll give props to UBC.
Your new album: it’s been two years since your last one. What have you been doing, exactly, besides touring?
T: Up until the summertime we toured. Then [last] September we took the whole month off and bought a Mac and a ProTools system. Basically we committed three or four days a week for just hanging out and writing, and we put together all these demos. Then we picked up with Rob, who was playing in the Be Goods when we met him and he was also playing with Kinnie Star and some other bands that we knew. And a good friend of mine who played in a couple of bands-
This is all in Vancouver?
T: Yeah. Just a couple of people came together-a drummer and a bass player, and they were like, “We’ll play those songs with you. We love your demo, we’ll play them with you.” So we got a rehearsal space and started rehearsing. We rehearsed until the end of November, and then we approached John Collins and David Carswell to produce us. And that was amazing because we love the New Pornographers, and it [Mass Romantic] was our favourite record of last year. It was like asking them out on a date and they said yes. So there was some making out and heavy petting the next time we saw them, and they agreed to do our album. We did some demoes with them in December. And kept writing and kept recording at home through January. In February we did pre-production so we rehearsed every day. And in March and April we recorded.
What’s it like working, as twins? Do you finish each other’s sentences?
T: No. I think we compliment each other well because we’re so different. But that sometimes makes us very feisty and makes us aggravated, quickly, at one another. I think that we’re growing up. We’re almost twenty-two. When we put out our last record [This Business of Art] we were nineteen, and the record before that [Under Feet Like Ours] we had just turned eighteen. We’ve definitely grown up a bit. And I think that in growing up, we’ve toned it down a bit-a little of the sister shtick has definitely been cut out of the set. Now we’re too annoyed and bored at one another: we’ve called each other every name and took every cut we could, so now it’s like when I look over at her, “I could say something funny but I’m not.”
I heard in the last tour there was a lot of back-and forth. That’s all gone now?
T: It became really shticky. It wasn’t just Tegan and Sara: it was The Twins and Dueling Guitars-and all they gayest things you’ve every heard-“and their funny Canadian banter!” Sisterly love and shit like that. I’d rather be looked at as a band than as a duo.
Is the press really lame most of the time?
T: It’s lame because we’ve had so many reviewers who’ve written such funny stuff and really captured our humour-not to say that we’re funny, but they captured us in a moment of funniness, and molded it into funniness. So often you get really good highlights, like the cover of the Westender. But the article is just… It states the truth, it’s honest, it talks about our music and it talks about us, but it certainly isn’t funny. It doesn’t draw you in like, “Wow, this is an amazing article.” Sometimes the press is kinda boring.
I wouldn’t call your music very funny.
T: No. But that’s kinda the best part, that we’re really funny when we write this really serious music. Any situation that you face in life can be really serious but also really funny.
Do you stick close to your own lives when you write your music?
T: Definitely. We’re much too self-centered to focus on anyone else.
What was “Superstar” about?
S: According to the Globe and Mail we were writing out of our own diaries [“they’re still singing to their diaries,” says Robert Everett-Green in his lame and prissy review of If It Was You, August 22]. We got a bad review in the Globe and Mail.
T: It was almost funny because we couldn’t understand half of it. There were really big words, and we were like, “Are we stupid because we didn’t go to university?”
S: No, it has nothing to do with going to university. I had to get a thesaurus out because I didn’t understand some of the words. It was stupid. It seems like too much work to use big words.
T: When people spend a lot of time writing emails like, “I hate your live show, I hate your record…” And it’s like, “Poor guy, had to see us twenty-five times. Why don’t you stop buying our records and reading our press and stop turning on the television when we’re on.” I think it’s hilarious. When I read bad press I want to put it on our website. Everybody says no, but I think it’d be great. I forgot what the question was.
T: “Superstar” was still in high school, actually. We had only played a couple shows. At the time we were opening for Kinnie Starr and Veda Hille, and they are very cool, very empowered woman and they talked a lot about the industry because they were both up-and-coming at that point. I liked their approach. I liked how funny they were about it. So “Superstar” turned out to be this very serious [sings] “Hardcore Superstar” but it was very funny when I wrote it. So it was a funny song, in some ways. But I guess I’m not that good of a comedian because it comes off as really serious. It was just a parody, less about the industry, less about musicians, and how they counter situations in the industry.
I thought it was the best song on the album. My favourite, anyway. Um, however… I haven’t listened to the new one yet. Universal was supposed to give me one but they’re on 73rd and I’m on 10th, etc.
T: That’s alright. It’s really good.
I’ve downloaded some tracks, though. Is that alright with you guys?
T: Yes. People are going to do it whether we say so or not, so it’s best to go along with it. To be honest with you, I like the idea of people who like our shows and trade our songs online. I’ve read so many emails and met so many people who’ve heard of us because someone sent them a song. So there are pluses to downloading and getting free shit off the internet. I think it’s really shitty to download a whole album and not go buy it. And I think everyone knows that, even the people that download the whole album and don’t go buy it. First of all, people are just downloading songs because they’ve never heard the rest of the album, so, definitely, I think people should give it a shot. If they hear something on the internet or download a bunch of songs that they like, they should go give it a chance. Sara and I don’t do one-song albums. We put a lot into the whole album. I would hate to think someone is missing out on it. Sara did the artwork herself: all the handwriting, all the lyrics were written out by her. We pay special attention to it and it costs us money, and we lose money. But if you can’t afford to buy the album, then download it. Or come to our show. Spend the ten bucks to come see us play instead, because that’s important too and we do make more money off live shows and artwork. [Sara tosses me a special press-only advance of If It Was You]
S: Well, if you haven’t heard it you can hear it.
I’ve also heard that these posters [double-sided LP-sized placards of the new album’s cover art] are being sold on E-Bay.
T: We were just giving them away at the first show and a friend of ours who was on the tour with [and handing out the posters] was like, “We only have one left,” and this one girl was like, “I will pay you anything for it.” And she threw down a ten dollar bill, and our friend gave her the last one. We were like, “Yeah.” We get them from Universal for free, so we’re going to try to scam some and sell them to people.
S: I signed all of the ones on E-Bay. They’re all signed “Tegan.” I know the girl who was doing it, putting them out on E-Bay-
T: Sara wrote “E-Bay” on hers.
S: So all the ones on E-Bay that I know of say “Tegan” and “E-Bay.” I refused to sign my name on them because I knew she was going to sell them on E-Bay.
T: Well, she had a big pack of them. And you know what? That’s cheating. We said one for everybody and she took ten. That’s very unfair. But now she’s got a product that only worth half, because it’s only me.
What’s up with the album cover?
S: My friend took the pictures. It’s two separate pictures, Photoshop’d together. I thought they were funny-they were cheeky and funny.
T: Kinda suggestive too. You know, it’ll hopefully help us sell some records.
T: Have you seen it really up close?
S: I thought it was funny.
T: It’s a little suggestive.
T: I think it’s suggestive in a way like Sara’s making this punk-ass face and I’m all like…
Oh! [It finally dawns on me] Oh, I see.
T: No no! I didn’t mean it to be-at first we didn’t but then a few people came back and I’m like, “I didn’t agree to that.” But you know what? I think the title’s suggestive. Tegan and Sara are suggestive. We suggest a lot of things. In our show, I think we do. Our albums are up for interpretation, and could be taken out of context. The guy in the Globe and Mail took it out of context, so his article therefore was way off the mark. And I think our title is-
S: That’s sorta dumb to say, though, too because now you’re critiquing his critique. Who cares what he thought? Who cares if that’s what he thinks?
T: No no. I know the album, I’ve listened to it, and it didn’t sound like he really listened to it. And-who cares? You’re editing me! Why are you editing me? I’m a free spirit.
S: I’m not editing you, I’m challenging your idea.
T: But “If It Was You” has suggestive connotations.
But you’re so young. You’re breaking my heart.
I had the biggest crush on you guys when your first album [sic] came out. I saw “The First” video on MuchMusic and the next day I went to A&B Sound and picked it [This Business of Art] up.
T: Good for you for going to A&B Sound. Sara worked at A&B Sound.
S: In Calgary, I worked at A&B Sound for eight months when I got out of high school.
I was in Calgary a couple of weeks ago. At the A&B Sound, all the guys had the Rivers Cuomo glasses. I was considering getting some at the time, but I was like, “If A&B Sound clerks in Calgary are wearing them, maybe it’s not such a good idea.”
T: You kinda have a likeness to him in some ways.
T: Yeah, a little bit.
T: You have this-you have this Rivers Cuomo look. Don’t you think he does?
S: Oh yeah.
My friends and I were going to do this Weezer cover band called “Geezer.” It never really materialized.
T: That’s fantastic.
I was talking with Blackalicious last week. I dunno if you guys-
S: Good new record.
It’s fantastic. And they’re fun guys. In the Georgia Straight it said that Chief Xcel thinks of music in terms of colour, so I asked Chief Xcel about that. Do you guys think of music in colour? Words in colour?
T: Our music is numbers to me.
S: There’s something definitely mathematical about it. I see it as being like charts or something.
T: I never really thought about it like that until ProTools. Seeing music perform in front of you, seeing the layers, seeing everything come in and editing things together has made things very mathematical. Not the way that I write. But when I think about music in its finished form, like when I listen to other people, I can only listen to highly produced albums. I want to hear it: I want to hear the production, not the music even.
Is Tegan and Sara going to do a Hip-Hop album soon? Will you start spinning house at the Lotus Lounge?
S: I’d like to do more of a Metal record, actually. I’m talking with one of my friends. Not Metal, but Heavy.
Norwegian Death Metal? Like Opeth?
S: No, like… like Deftones. Something heavy. No rapping.
T: No rapping in our band.
S: What are you doing at your school?
English and History. Along with newspaper stuff, and improv.
S: And those guys on your shirt: are those penises? Are they naked?
S: Are those guys naked on your shirt?
Yup! Two naked men skiing. I got it at the VICE store in Toronto.
S: Sweet. Do you ever get comments on it?
Sometimes. People will walk by and stare at me and give me weird looks. My job right now is to guide first-years around campus and one person, at the end of the day, asked me, “What is that?” Everybody else pretended not to see it.
S: What year of school are you in?
It’s my third year.
S: You’re third year? Like, this is your third year?
I’m going into my third year in September.
S: Ah. How old are you?
T: Very exciting.
Yes. Two years ago I couldn’t come to your show. I was just telling Tegan-Tegan?
T: Tegan [long ‘e’].
I always think “Megan.”
T: It’s ok.
Anyway, two years ago I wanted to see your show at Richard’s but couldn’t. But I’m here now.
S: If it makes you feel better, this is the first year we can see our own show in the States.
T: That’s what I was talking about. When we did the Rufus Wainwright dates, before and after the show we could not be in the club. We got ushered in ten minutes before the show, then we played the show, then we had five minutes in the dressing room, and then they’d make us leave the club. It was pretty fun, actually. Like we were Hanson.
Like how the Supremes couldn’t actually go into any clubs when they played in the South. Except you’re just young, and not black.
T: We’re not black.
It’s a big difference.
S: I guess they were both flaws: being a woman and being black. That was probably a real big no-no back then.
I heard some chatter before the interview. Gold stars? What’s this all about?
T: We told our band we’d be here at 3:00pm to set up, and they were already here and set up-that was cool. Sometimes we complain that our drummer’s a little bit…ah…he’s the drummer and can be little bit high maintenance. Chris, our bass player, is amazing though. He’s very prompt.
S: Rob’s amazing.
T: No, no. He is.
Rob: [Walking by] What?
T: We’re just making fun of you for being a drummer and always being late. We were going to give you a present for being early, and being set up. You’re amazing!
[Chris Nelson, host of MuchMusic’s Going Coastal walks up and starts talking to Sara. Tegan tries to talk over them]
T: Yeah. These guys are great. We’re trying to make them feel-we’re the band, and we hire out musicians-Hey! [to Chris Nelson] We’re trying to do an interview here. If you could bring your voice down a couple of levels?
Chris Nelson: Excuse us.
T: Chris Nelson from MuchMusic thinks he can talk really loud.
Those MuchMusic boys think they’re such hot stuff.
T: Because they aren’t actually Tegan and Sara-their names are Rob and Chris-we’re trying to make them feel apart of it. So when we do a line of pins, we’re going to have “Tegan” and “Sara,” but we’re also doing “Chris” and “Rob.” We’re trying to be good and open up our world. We’ve been judged as being a little bit closed to letting people in. We’re trying to let people in.
I got a question for both of you guys.
T: Make it good. Be a man!
What’s your favourite episode of Who’s the Boss?
S: I like the one where he-I just saw it recently, actually. It’s not my favourite. It’s probably one of the only ones I can actually remember. Tony is going to be a model for-what’s her name?
S: For Angela, for this soap thing. So he’s all in the ad and he showers with the stuff and breaks out into a rash-
T: I remember that one.
S: Something about watching it now makes me so creeped out. The mom and the-it’s just creepy.
T: Sara always gets told that she looks like Alyssa Milano.
S: It’s true.
A little bit.
Alright. Last question. And if I don’t say this now, I will regret it forever. Would one of you ladies like to escort me to a movie?
T: I don’t watch movies or television.
S: I go to movies. You mean as a friend?
I don’t care.
S: You can be friends with us. I’ll be friends with you.