Date: March 2005
Author: Brad Walsh
Publication: JUNK Magazine
Headline: Interview: Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara are queer Canadian twin sisters! And now that you've gotten over that, listen to their latest recording So Jealous and marvel at the truly extraordinary thing about the singer/songwriter pair: they write incredible songs. Bet a friend that they can't listen to "Walking With A Ghost" just once in a sitting; it's a sure thing. Infectious, haunting, fun, poppy, and moving are just some of the many words that can be used to describe Tegan and Sara's songs, but not one word can sufficiently sum up their oeuvre. The ladies speak about their music, their history, and the confines of today's pop world.
Brad Walsh: When did you first start playing together, and what did your parents think of your rock star dreams?
Tegan Quin: We never laid it out like a rock star dream, we just said we wanted to play music and travel and had not picked a career path or major for university. We thought it would be better to get some life experience before we settled in for the adult long haul. They agreed and are very supportive.
Sara Quin: Our parents were always supportive of our music. They bought us our first PA to put in our garage. But when we disclosed our plans to skip university, there were some intense discussions that followed. Now all of our family supports us and is proud and excited by what we are doing. I think the main thing is that we’re happy and challenging ourselves everyday.
BW: Are there any other musicians in your family?
TQ: A few people play, mostly classical and for fun, but we have a lot of music lovers in our family. Even my grandparents were having parties and dancing and buying CDs in the last few years. We grew up as fans.
SQ: Mom says she played drums in high school, but I haven't seen photo proof of this. Our grandparents used to have bands play in their basement bar, and our parents were almost fanatical with their record collection. We were encouraged to dance in our basement; funny that we don't move more on stage. Perhaps they were responsible for burning us out before we turned five.
BW: Do you both like to dance?
TQ: Sure, who doesn’t?
BW: Sara, you’ve said that Tegan is the typical single-writer (until “Walking With A Ghost”). What are the major differences between your individual songwriting styles?
SQ: Tegan generally writes songs quite quickly, and I will refine and guard my songs for months. I think we have different equations, our song writing is done quite privately, so I'm not totally confident she doesn't set up in her bedroom and dance herself into a guitar vocal frenzy like I do.
TQ: Sara just takes more time and patience when it comes to writing. I want a song to evolve quickly and be able to record it and listen to it right away. It has only been luck to this point that my songs have been used as singles.
BW: What’s the biggest fight you’ve had with each other?
TQ: When we were kids we fought over dumb things like the phone and clothes. As adults we have more career and personality based problems. We have very different approaches, mostly the same goals for our lives and career but different ways of expressing it, and it causes problems here and there.
SQ: We have the same blow-outs with our band as we do with each other. You spend hours together in a room or months in a van and there comes a day or a moment where something unleashes in you and you take it out on everyone around you. I find that communication breaks down and you end up fighting to be heard or understood. It’s hard not to take everything very personally when you are dealing with art and your heart.
BW: Are you wary of being pigeonholed into a category of music based on your sexuality rather than your recordings?
TQ: More wary of being pigeonholed based on our gender, as the world still seems very sexist in rock, but either way a hole is a hole and we would rather have our music be listened to without concern for our gender, race, nationality or sexual preference.
SQ: Absolutely. But we are not in control of that. We are who we are, and ultimately our strongest protest will be to continue to make music and expand and challenge both the public and the media.
BW: Do you listen to much music similar to your own? Many musicians I’ve talked to tend to listen to more music outside their own genre.
SQ: I am not sure what kind of music is similar to us. I listen to all types of music; my passion is rock and roll and pop music. Bruce Springsteen is a huge influence, but these days I find myself attracted to a lot of indie rock. I love Joanna Newsom and singer/songwriters who are quirky. I also really loved the Blood Brothers record. I don't get turned off of music very often based on genre. It’s a relief sometimes to hear something that is clearly different from you.
TQ: [I like] a wide mixture of all kinds of music. We listen to a lot of rock, but also alternative and pop and folk and dance. A big hodge-podge.
BW: Where do you find you have the biggest audience?
TQ: Right now, still Canada, but the buzz is growing in the US and the shows are doing almost as well there as here at home.
SQ: Officially, based on sales, Edmonton, Alberta. I even stole a pair of shoes from a fan and wasn't arrested. I’ve finally made it!
BW: Is there anyone you’d kill to work with?
TQ: No, not that I can think of. We respect a lot of artists and producers but it is almost always better to admire from a distance rather than be forced into a collaborative environment with someone who you adore or look up to, in our experience.
SQ: I have ideas for a side project I want to start. I’d like to try and write with someone. I want to try and play a different instrument live within the band. Our drummer Rob Chrusinoff says I have good rhythm and I could be a drummer.
BW: Now with several albums under your belts, do you have any plans or hopes for taking on a project record, like a covers album or a rock opera?
TQ: Nothing comes to mind, but I am sure we will dip into other areas of music or our industry independently, eventually.
SQ: All I can say is: double album. And there is a versus involved.
Tegan and Sara's So Jealous is in stores now.