Date: November 11, 2004
Author: Lluvia Mulvaney-Stanak
Publication: Out in the Mountains - Vermont's voice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues
Headline: Pop Band in an Indie World
Tegan and Sara recently played the Third Annual Pop Music Fest in Montreal as they start promoting their newest release So Jealous. The young twenty-something twins sat down with Lluvia to banter through topics ranging from "selling-out" to Nov. 2.
Lluvia: So let's start with talking about your audience and all the indie rock kids, the women and the eclectic mix that you draw to your shows.
Tegan: Well... yeah, I would say our shows are really 60/40 these days, it's actually quite mixed.
Sara: Listen, when guys see us, they always think that it's all women...
Tegan: They're like in a room with 10 women and three boys and they're like "THERE'S NO MEN HERE!"
Sara: It's a really interesting societal thing about men who want to appear so straight, but when they are around a lot of women they are completely threatened. God knows if a man had a whole women audience it would be like "ah…he's a stud! He's a babe magnet." (sarcastically) But [for] us it's like shameful. It's such a shame that all those women come out all the time.
Lluvia: So you guys have been doing "this" for some time and this is the fourth disc now. So compared to the last couple, is this better - as far as musical growth, maturity?
Tegan: I think the major difference between So Jealous and If It Was You is the obvious one, that we wrote it separately on different sides of the country. It took a lot of confidence and maneuvering and crazy emailing and stuff. I think it has an intense energy on it.
I also think that we have mastered our sound. At least closer to our sound than If it Was You. I think If it Was You was really going in the right direction. But we still weren't confident enough to say "No, no don't hire your cousin to come play the organ, we can figure the chords out." I think that this record is a deliberate attempt on our part to really make a Tegan and Sara record - with some help from some amazing people, of course - but it was our choice in the end.
Lluvia: I guess that is what separates you from a lot of musicians out there.
Tegan: A lot aren't penning their lyrics or doing the production or getting involved on the level we are involved in. We are making pop music in an indie world.
Sara: Which is so hard.
Tegan: With an indie label, with some major attributes to attach to it ... but we still sleep in the van sometimes and Sara still doesn't get a per-diem yet - but we're close. We have these pop tendencies but we live in an indie world... And I am not really sure it that helps us sometimes. Sara was saying that if we were cracked out and just on the outside and people were telling us what to do, we probably would have sold a million records by now. But because we are so incredibly resistant...
Sara: ...and stubborn.
Tegan: You know?... We don't want to be on samplers with other bands that aren't setting a good example or going on tours with bands we don't respect... not just doing it for the money.
Sara: And we're not trying to be a jerk...
Tegan: ...we're just trying to stay attached to our audience, 'cause that is our major goal. Write music we like. Write music our friends like. Write music our family likes. Write music our fans like. Write music our label likes. We do believe that our label believes in us - they have proved it by not dropping us when they really could have. So it is our job, Tegan and Sara, to make sure we don't alienate everyone who is with us right now. We are a pop band in an indie world and we want to grow out of that, eventually, but not right now.
Sara: You know... even if this just blew up tomorrow...
Tegan: ...there would be a lot of strangers in the audience. Now at the same time, we run into people that say "I never want you to get big and famous." And I say, "You are basically saying 'I want you to be poor and live in a 400-square-foot apartment.' Please let us get bigger than that!" But that doesn't mean millions of records and that doesn't mean Tegan and Sarah with boob jobs on the cover of Maxim, even if we are giving the finger.
Lluvia: What about the "pressure" of that cliche of "selling out" - what do you think about that possibility of really "hitting it big" and the bands that do?
Tegan: They just get massive and just do everything because you're basically on a train. Even on our level, you sell a few records and get a few interviews and everything starts piling up... It is really tough to say no to anything. And when you do say no, people start getting mad at you. They tell you, "do you know what you're doing?" "You're cutting your own throat." "Look at all the work I've done." "Do you know how hard I've worked on this?" ...and you really start to think, "Oh fuck, it's easier to just do it..."
And so bands like that, absolutely, they get caught in the whirlwind of major success and they'll do anything and everything, they get over saturated and over-played and you just don't ever want to see them again. We just don't want to be like that. We want to pick and choose where we extend ourselves and who we group up with. It might seem incredibly controlling, but I don't care enough about success and money to compromise... I just want to be able to leave every day feeling good. There are going to be days when you just feel crappy. But when you're at a show and you have 200 fans smiling at you... And you think, "I could cry right now, I'm so happy," and they're all looking at you and they're so happy, and you say, "You don't understand - somebody called us "Taygan and Erin" today," and the audience laughs, and you know they're going to buy your record and your next record, too, because they know that you're just like them and that you just got lucky and got this really great deal.
Lluvia: Talk a little bit more about being on separate sides of the country. What is it like as a band to live on two different coasts?
Sara: When we were living in Vancouver together, we wrote independently of each other anyway, so when I moved to Montreal the only thing that really changed was that instead of Tegan walking over and knocking on my door and me ignoring her and her leaving a package on my doorstep, she would send it to me and I'd pick it up at the post office. We are really two different songwriters and we eventually come together in pre-production, where we really try to fill in the gaps with that Tegan and Sara glue, trying to make something cohesive. From a personal standpoint, living in different places was a statement of where we were at - Tegan was very much rooted in Vancouver and had her whole thing set up there; I was much more transitional, trying to step out on my own. I think that there is a bit of a concept on this record about being insecure and jealous and transitional.
DJ Llu: Favorite tracks off the new record?
Sara: To sing live, I really like "So Jealous" and "You Wouldn't Like Me."
Lluvia: Nov. 2nd is coming up what sort of inspiration, advice, or rant to have to say to [Americans] about the election?
Sara: It's an incredible opportunity to get out and actually do something. People don't think it's exciting, but it's actually very cool to do the whole process, to go down there on your bike or in your car and find your name on the list, and get the ballot... You count! You are on a list. When you are there, that's when you actually feel like you are making a difference. Every time I vote, I get an adrenaline rush. You want to tell people.
Tegan: If you think your vote doesn't count, there are millions of people who think that, too. What if all of you got up and made a choice, think about the difference you could make. Being complacent about who runs your country is like saying that you don't care about your life. There are people around the world who would do anything to live with a fraction of the freedoms we have, and I don't mean television and name brands and fast food... I mean things we take for granted, like being able to get up in the morning and take a shower. Voting is one of our biggest freedoms, because it allows us to live the way we do. And I think it's terrible, it's sick how little people care, how few people vote.
Sara: Well that's not very positive...
Tegan: (sarcastically) Idiots!... That went downhill fast! (Laughter)