Date: June 8, 2005
Interviewed By: Barney Rebel
Transcription: Sara Wagner
Headline: Interview with Tegan & Sara
Wonder-Twin powers are activated as the fabulous Canadian duo known as Tegan and Sara (yes, they are twin sisters too!!!) sits down (literally) with kevchino.com’s Barney Rebel for a tell all account of touring the United States in a van, eating late at night and the disorders of such mannerisms and if they have ever been booed onstage. This interview took place on November 12, 2004 in a Small Post office in Santa Barbara, California.
Sara: (pointing to locker) This is ours 92058. We have a key in a small yellow envelope and we don’t ever tell anybody what the key is for.
Tegan: We’re going to hand it down to our grandkids. It’s a surprise what’s in there.
Tegan: Okay, it’s blow.
Sara: I was commenting on the football game because every hotel we’ve been staying in has the USA Today on the door and Hawaii was on the cover of USA Today a couple of days ago. When I came into the bar I saw that they were playing against Fresco . . .
Sara: Fresno or whatever. Fresco…
Tegan: What a lamo!
Sara: How embarrassing! Anyway – they are getting whooped! They are getting spanked . . .
Tegan: We’ve been watching other sports because hockey’s not happening this year and we are severely depressed as a band – as a whole. So, we’re watching other sports like we’re playing golf in the van cause we have an X-Box.
Sara: Shoot hoops…
Tegan: We shoot hoops, yeah and we…
Sara: Play ping-pong…
Tegan: And we’re getting into football. I mean what the hell else are we going to do with every Sunday night, really?
Sara: Yeah, there was a rugby team at our show last night.
Tegan: They were loud and they were fun. We liked them a lot.
Sara: We didn’t like them.
Sara: Um, if I was a coach my policy would be like…I don’t know the back story. All I know is that I once heard that it’s really bad to eat before you sleep because you have bad dreams - and it’s bad to digest . . .
Tegan: Well, your metabolism changes if you believe like in ying and yang right, like if your body runs in 12 hour cycles so, basically, when you switch over your metabolism slows down and your body heats up and you’re not going to be burning food as much so it’s just not good to eat after a certain time anyway cause basically it just means that your body is like . . The reason you have nightmares is that your body is kinda freaking out it’s like “what are we going to do with all this food?” and you just get backed up and wake up bloated. Our advice to that team would be . . . (to Sara) It’s not Fresno.
A Male Voice: Fresco.
Sara: No it’s Fresno.
Tegan: I don’t even know what’s happening. No, our advice to the team would be come a couple of days early.
Sara: Yeah, work out a little more.
Tegan: Get adjusted.
Barney: If you were the coach, do you think you’d be there on time?
Tegan: To be honest with you, we are… well, I’d say we are pretty well known, but of the people we work with we’re generally an on time, clean, early, like always diligently like friendly and nice and complimentary and we try to leave everyone with a good taste in our mouths . .
Sara: In their mouths…
Tegan: In their mouths. Eww! Eww! No, we try to leave people feeling happy that they’ve seen us and met us but today yeah, there were a few things that went wrong. We could go into it, but it would only make people confrontational and angry, but really, I mean if it takes forty-five minutes at every rest stop, you’re going to end up being late and if someone isn’t calling the shots and telling the girls when to shut up then we’re going to run three hours late at a radio show. Don’t stop for lunch at a fast food place. Oh, no! Let’s stop at a Chinese Wok restaurant where it takes forty-five minutes to get served and, um, don’t gas up the van even though you’ve been waiting in the parking lot for four hours for us. Let’s wait and do that when we’re running late so, basically everything’s going to crap and we do need a coach who can slap us in shape. We had this tour manager before, like a couple weeks ago, who we let go just because of personality again. He was like a really great sound man, but too much work. It was like you got to tone it down a little bit. I mean, you are touring with us, so… We can be really politically incorrect but generally, especially in front of opening bands, promoters, our parents, our friends and generally, if we’re in a bad mood you gotta keep it on the down low. So, he was always . . No, actually, he was late all the time too. Basically, we’re having a tough time here.
Sara: A rough time. If somebody says eleven o’clock the entire band will be in the band at 10:50 p.m. like this (looks at watch impatiently).
Tegan: But that doesn’t really happen with everybody else because (whispering) adults are like kids and adults don’t listen to the rules. No, it doesn’t happen.
Sara: They’re grounded.
Sara: No, we’re from Calgary, Alberta.
Tegan: But Sara lives in Quebec.
Sara: I live in Quebec. I live in Montreal and Tegan lives in…
Tegan: I live in Vancouver.
Barney: And so, coming from Canada you mentioned the wide open spaces. How do you feel about coming to Southern California and all that? The ensuing chaos and freeways and people . . .
Tegan: It can be a bit panicky sometimes actually like when we (Sara struggles for the microphone) No, I’m holding it. I’m holding it.
Sara: Please (taking the microphone) It’s beautiful in California - everywhere in Californina. As soon as you cross into California, it’s a gorgeous place to live but, I do feel like the amount of people and the amount of cars is outrageous.
Tegan : (taking the microphone back) But we like it here. It’s just like why would you want to live somewhere where it takes you like 45 minutes to go three or four miles – like it doesn’t make very much sense. Like in Canada in 45 minutes you go 45 kilometers. It’s basically a kilometer an hour if you’re going 45 kilometers an hour, but if you’re going 100 kilometers an hour than you could do 45 kilometers in like 25 or 30 minutes. Why? I don’t know.
Tegan: What we need to do is get a really good train system. We need a go-train. This is what they have in Toronto to connect the megatropolis. We need a mega train. We need a go train. We need an okay train.
Barney: What about a no train?
Tegan: And we need buses and we need cars and we need more…
Tegan: No. We need more carpooling and we need more bikes and bike paths – in California. I’m going to move here and we’re going to make some changes.
Sara: Did you just say there were 20 million people in California?
Barney: Well, there at least, like 10 million in L.A.
Sara: Yeah. There’s 33 million people in Canada.
Tegan: Did you know our country is bigger than yours? Did you know that? Land masses . . . Yeah, that’s what I’m saying that we have practically as many people as you do in California just all over Canada. I mean, it doesn’t take any time to go anywhere. Well, it takes a long time to go everywhere, but not because of traffic. Because of all the polar bear crossings and all …
Barney: How, if it all, do things in America effect your life in Canada?
Sara: Well …
Tegan: A lot because just like every other country in the world. I mean, we’re influenced greatly by the media and the entertainment business and Hollywood and politics. I think, just like everyone else, we’re talking a lot about the election and, like you know, people get involved in… I mean, like there’s still really great Canadian things and like there’s a great Canadian culture and pride and nationalism and all that stuff, but we don’t say that. We just say “I’m proud to be Canadian.” We don’t say “I’m proud to be a citizen of Canada and my nation is the best in the whole world.” I mean, we’re kind of passive almost. I think it’s from living next to an aggressive place - an aggressive country with aggressive politics and aggressive foreign policies and stuff like that – you end up being passive. Sometimes, I think with Canadians we play it up that we’re sarcastic and a little bit passive-aggressive and we kind of make fun of ourselves, but you have to, living next to, in a sense, a giant! We’re the mouse.
Barney: Did you always feel that way about America or is it just in the past four years or so that you’ve felt that way?
Sara: I think growing up, there’s an intimidation. We were born in 1980 and I remember the Olympics and I remember that any visibility of the United States was like this very strong, powerful, proud nation and it’s very intimidating for anybody outside. It’s hard when you’re an American – when you step outside of America. I’m dating someone who’s American and even when you step outside of America, it doesn’t matter how long you’re gone – there’s something if you’re not American, if you grew up outside of America . . . It’s hard to explain to somebody how intimidating America truly is and I have to say I have lots of people I love very deeply that live in the United States . .
Tegan: A lot of our family …
Sara: Family. Yeah, like and we really, really, really love the United States, but foreign policy or even relations between Canada and America and there’s some bullying. I know a lot of people are scared to say that, but there’s just some straight out bullying going on and it’s hard . . .
Tegan: A lot of that has to do with just the general size. How many people live in the U.S. It’s like 240 million or something like that.
Sara: But India’s got billions and they’re not walking around doing that.
Tegan: That’s what I was going to say. I know I’m just comparing Canada and the U.S. I can’t speak for the rest of the world or whatever but as a Canadian, we always say there’s bands in Canada like Sloan or Tragically Hip or these bands that people have thought “why didn’t they get massive in America” or “why didn’t they sell millions of records”. It’s because there’s a million bands just like them in the states. You know for every one thing they have in Canada, they have a 100 of them in the U.S. There’s just so much going on here and I think that can influence a lot of the dynamic. Like, when I come into America, I feel sometimes very overwhelmed by how much there is and how much choice and how many options. I spent a week looking for these plastic zip lock bags. They’re called space savers.
Sara: I’m talking about foreign policy and like …
Tegan: It took me week to find them …
Sara: And you’re talking about plastic bags.
Tegan: But, this is like, an analogy for everything about America. (Sara cringes) I look for weeks and here the first gas station I went into when we crossed the border. We stopped in Bellingham and I saw a space saver., but I looked for over a week in Vancouver for it. I’m just saying, when you have everything at your fingertips – you think you should always have everything at your fingertips. It’s hard. You get caught up in your world. You’ve got TVs and movies and entertainment. This president . . . and you start getting really overwhelmed and you start getting a different way . . . you just live differently.
Sara: I have a suggestion though. I’ve been hearing all this about how we connect the left and the right again. How do we make this a strong nation again? I just saw this documentary called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Have you seen this documentary? It’s so incredible. It’s about Venezuela – the president Hugo Chavez and about when there was the coup and they took him out of power and the people revolted and they had to put him back into power. It’s this documentary that these two Irish guys caught on tape. They just happened to be in the country, but he goes on TV once a week and people will call in and be like – “We live in this little town and there’s this dispute on land and what do we do?” I think President George Bush or whoever’s in power should have a radio show – and I’m not just joking around. I think it would be really interesting to hear . . .
Tegan: But not planned out questions.
Sara: No, people actually, literally calling in.
Tegan: People actually calling him on stuff and like really having to say. There’s this guy in Canada who has a show on Much Music. His name is Nardwuar. He’s totally crazy. He’s like the Ali G of Canada in the sense that he gets these crazy, crazy interviews with like musicians, but he also gets interviews with politicians a lot and he got the head of the liberal party and the head of the NDP party , which is our National Democratic Party and then the New Conservative Party, as well. He asked them to play this game called the Hip Flip. It’s like a plastic hand and then a plastic rod and another plastic hand and you put it on my hip and your hip and there’s a little dangly thing and we have to move our hips to make the dangly thing flip. He got the Prime Minister (a.k.a the President of Canada) to do this with him. It was absolutely hysterical. The fact that he could even get close enough to the Prime Minister to say that says that there’s a little more freedom in America and that we’re not that much far behind Americans.
Sara: We’re not scared. The point I’m trying to make is there’s a fear right now in America to just say . . . I feel it. Like when I come into the country, when I’m at a border crossing or whatever – I’m scared. I feel like a criminal and when I’m in Canada or certain countries, I feel like I could walk up to the head of our country and say “dude, you wanna play Hip Flip with me” and he’d be like “I don’t have time.”, but with President Bush, you might ask and pull out the plastic thing and then get shot.
Tegan: You wouldn’t even be able to get close to him that’s the thing.
Sara: Yeah, it’s crazy.
Tegan: The fact that Nordwar got close to him is unbelievable to me and I don’t think that necessarily people are calling in to . . . well, Paul Martin doesn’t have a radio show so no one’s going to call in and talk to him but, I guess maybe we still have the illusion in Canada that you can make change with your vote and you can make change with your emotion or sign a petition and get something changed and get on the local news or you can be . . You can get the Hip Flip and I think Nordwar subtly proved that you can get close to these people.
Sara: You can ask the scary questions and have them answer from their hearts.
Tegan: You can catch them off guard. It’s not all premeditated
Barney: Instead of like Bush where questions are subject to approval before …
Tegan: Yeah, well someone said he had an ear bud too feeding him answers too. That would never happen in Canada
Sara: During the election the same issues that were relevant in your elections somebody asked, Paul Martin, who eventually became our Prime Minister, about being homophobic. Like, I remember when you didn’t wanna promote civil unions or gay marriage and now you’re promoting this liberal center view. What’s changed? And he was so honest, you could tell he thought about his answer and he said, “I grew up in a generation where this was how I felt. People can change and I believe this now.” I believed him! He just answered from his heart. He’s not worried about . . .
Tegan: He didn’t avoid the … well, sometimes he avoids the answers. He was a little annoying in the debate.
Tegan: That he did avoid answering some direct questions from the NDP leader, Jack Layton and he’s a bit of a flea. He can be a bit pushy but . . . to have someone like that answering those questions. Jack Layton never thought he was going to be the head of Canada. No one seriously believed that the National Democratic Party, who are like severe left, were ever going to run our country. But, having someone like that standing so close to someone who was going to be the head, asking questions like that on national television, where they had to give straight answers. I think that’s the difference . . .
Sara: Where was Ralph Nader in the debates in America? It’s confusing to me. You wanna see the kooky left guy asking the liberal Prime Minister.
Tegan: The kooky left guy represents a percentage of the population and …
Tegan: And in Canada, that is maybe the major difference that we are a smaller country, we are more like a family in a sense that you do have representation. When I went to vote, I could vote for those three parties or I could vote for the Green Party, the Marijuana Party, the Communist Party, the Christian Right. I could vote for who I want. My vote would go to crap if I don’t vote for the major three parties, but I can say what I wanna say and I feel that still in Canada and I do feel like your voice is still being heard in Canada. In the states I feel that maybe there’s some complacency about it all.
Sara: Things are gonna change though.
Tegan: I think they are gonna change. I feel it’s an amazing time being in the U.S. We came in to the U.S. the day after the election and everyday I’m seeing more spirit and I’m seeing people go from being kind of sad and blue to being feisty and excited again. I really think this could be a great thing for America.
Barney: Like get on with your lives …
Tegan: Yeah, figure something out. Don’t make that mistake again. We should be working very hard always to make sure the right person is in power, you know. And maybe we need to stop putting white, rich males in power. Maybe we need to start thinking about a different way to go about it because that’s not the majority anymore. You know what I mean and so, I think in America there’s some really great people comin up. I know there’s some. I don’t know their names by heart but, we’ve read articles. We’ve been talking about them in the van. There’s some up and coming “stars” of the Democratic Party that I think are going to make change and represent a wider diversity. I think things will change. I think America is a great country and it would be sad to see them continue down a path of complacency and feeling sad and the world getting further and further apart from them.
Sara: Putting up so many fences and security …
Tegan: It doesn’t make anyone safer. We have to be …
Sara: You could hit a bump in the van going into the next lane and that would be it anyway.
Tegan: We saw that happen today. We saw a Semi kind of clip the back of a little car and (makes crashing sounds) . . .
Tegan: I’m totally serious. The car didn’t get smashed or anything. It just spun and hit the side and everyone stopped and
Barney: That’s an everyday occurrence in Southern California.
Tegan: Really? Well, we need to get the hell out of here. I mean we are this fucking close. I told our managers you keep us with the same operation we’ve got going and we are dead.
Sara: We did one in New York City – in Soho and it was so much fun and we totally thought that it wouldn’t be fun and it ended up being really cool because it was kind of in one of those little theatres where you do the power point demonstrations and that kind of stuff. They have a great sound system and so it’s a great opportunity in a lot of cities where we can’t do all ages gigs cause if it’s all ages, it’s free. It’s like a nice stripped down sort of thing so, we’re just gonna do one in L.A. too.
Tegan: I think it’s because they’ve done it a few times with other people.
Sara: Wilco. Liz Phair, I think, did it. I didn’t wanna do it, but then it was like, who else has done it? Is this going to be bad. And they were like – “Wilco just did it.” So, I said okay. It was really fun. It was really good. Mr. Big from Sex and the City came.
Tegan: Yeah, that was cool.
Sara: That was awesome!
Barney: How did you guys like playing a place like Soho?
Sara: It’s fine. We know that if you do a good show like the El Ray or It’s Been A Long Time Coming in L.A. We played in L.A. for like five years and have gone from playing for five people, to opening for people, to doing our own shows and it’s really rewarding. We see the work. We’ve never been here before, so to have a bunch of people be eating and watching us play and sing and whatever – it’s great for us.
Tegan: It’s been really good.
Sara: As long as people don’t boo us, we’re pretty …
Tegan: Okay with it.
Sara: We’ve never been booed
Tegan: We’ve had some people say …
Sara: “You suck”
Tegan: Well, not yell …
Sara: “You’re boring.”
Tegan: One time when we opened for Rufus Wainwright, I told this story about how my Mom said I talked to much and that I was a bit boring and someone yelled, “You are boring!” and I was like whatever. But we’ve been lucky. We’ve heard some horror stories. We toured with Hot, Hot, Heat and someone threw a tampon at them apparently, once. That would have been the end of it for me.
Sara: People have told us about people whipping plastic bottles at them. I think we’re girls so people don’t want to be violent. They might say something nasty but . . .
Tegan: They’re probably saying lots of rude things, but we just can’t hear them. Generally, our opening slots have gone really well and we have a good time so . . .
Sara: Yeah. We generally, don’t complain too too much about shows. Only if there’s no sound …
Tegan: Not when there’s cameras around anyway.
Sara: We do it in the van.
Barney: Do you write separately?
Sara: Write separately, yeah.
Tegan: We don’t live near each other so we just write separate. But it’s good. It’s kind of like being in your own band and then you get to bring it to someone who you trust and you know has good taste in music.
Barney: Are you identical twin sisters?
Tegan: Yeah, we are. We are identical twin sisters.
Sara: Do we look the same? Yeah, we’re identical twins – eight minutes apart. Same egg.
Barney: Is there a lot of music in your family?
Sara: Not really, but my grandparents, all my cousins really dabbled in playing music, loved music. Always like hundreds of tapes to records to CDs.
Tegan: A big music fan – my grandfather.
Sara: He rebuilds juke boxes and stuff.
Tegan: We use to listen to music and have parties every weekend. We really loved music in our family so we grew up with it – with so much of it that it was inevitable.
Sara: We always wanted to be in bands. We were lipsynching.
Tegan: We would either have been in band or stalked a band. We did sleep in a parking lot to see Smashing Pumpkins once.
Sara: I was obsessed with Smashing Pumpkins.
Tegan: And I loved Hole. I just met Courtney Love a couple of months back and that was pretty intense. We’re just music fans like I would never want to meet Bruce Springsteen or U2 because we grew up listening to them.
Sara: We’d probably throw up on ourselves.
Tegan: Yeah, it would kill me. That would be a lot. Or Phil Collins! Oh, my god when I was eight I loved Phil Collins. I know that seems weird but whatever. Take away some of the synth – it’s good songwriting man.
Sara: The Bridge School [Benefit] that Neil Young puts on every year.
Tegan: You guys have done it twice right?
Sara: Twice yeah. Well, we’ve done it twice now.
Barney: How has that been?
Sara: It’s good. We opened for Neil Young once for five weeks and it’s always incredible to play in a stadium or an amphitheatre. I mean, you kind of have this fantasy that it’s you doing it. It is weird seeing that many people . .
Tegan: Sitting all next to each other in rows. It’s kind of trippy like it’s really weird to think of all those people in those little plastic seats all sitting in rows together. So, standing in front of 10,000 people starring at you is a weird sensation for sure.
Sara: But it’s not as weird if you’re more like Neil Young. You kind of see people watching and then you see people with their pizza telling other people to get out of their seats and stuff. It’s a little bit strange. It’s kind of like playing in a movie theatre.
Tegan: I think that they went well. My Mom is pretty honest with us and she came out to Bridge School and said it was really good. We played as a three-piece and it was totally fine. Our roots are sort of in that acoustic setting. That’s where we’ve come from. You know, playing guitar for our friends or playing at parties, playing at coffee shops . . .
Sara: It helps to that at Bridge School everyone plays acoustic so we were flanked by …You know, Neil started the show acoustically. Then we played. Then Los Lonely Boys played acoustically, which was great. Then Harper and Sonic Youth. Red Hot Chili Peppers. (Tegan tries to talk – then to Tegan) I have the microphone. I’m talking. It’s okay. I know when you don’t talk you think that I’m boring but …
Tegan: It’s not that I think you’re boring. I mean you can just say all the other bands played acoustically – then name the bands. You don’t need to say, “Neil played acoustically and then we played acoustically and then Los Lonely Boys acoustically”.
Sara: It takes everything inside me not to punch you in the face.
Barney: Do you guys ever slap each other?
Sara: (laughing): No!
Tegan: We do get violent once every couple of years.
Sara: Not slapping or punching.
Tegan: No, no … We wrestle a bit. Once very two years or something …
Sara: It’s been awhile. We’re due for one. And if we keep up with the way things have been going, it’s going to happen.
Tegan: Yeah, (coyly) We might be wrestling with someone else though.
Sara: You know, honestly, someone came up to me in Olympia, Washington. It was always kind of like a childhood, well not a childhood, but a teenage fantasy to go to Olympia cause I really liked the K-Rock Stars and K-Record Labels. These two girls came up to me and they were like “you know the one thing we really like about you guys is that you don’t really fit into a scene. You are kind of like outside a couple of different scenes”. I really liked that when she said that to me cause it’s true we’ve never been part of a movement of music or been friends with like a bunch of different bands that all kind of work together and so I think that we’re kind of . . .
Tegan: We’re losers!
Sara: No, no don’t make it negative …sister. I think in this kind of geeky way we’re a people’s band. We really relate to our fans. The people that I look out at in the audience, I hope that they’re people I would want to hang out with or whatever. So, I hope people that listen to our music – even if they go home and listen to the Blood Brothers or if they go home and listen to like Celine Dion – I hope that they just like us. I hope they can see past whatever kind of music they’re really into and see that what we’re doing is probably something they could get into.
Tegan: Sure. Sure.
Sara: We’re not losers!
Tegan: I was just kidding around.
Tegan: I love Salt Spring! Do you go to SaltSpring? Unbelievable! It’s expensive. There’s other islands. Have you been to any of the other ones? We hang out on Galiano. It’s really beautiful cause it’s like a mini-Salt Spring and there is really nothing. There’s like a corner store and you’re really out there. There’s a white sand beach.
Sara: We recorded one of our records over there.
Barney: At Salt Spring?
Tegan: No, Galiano. But Salt Spring when I went over . . . I just went over and my lawyer, he vacations there with his family, and there was this place that was on an inlet. No, what’s the opposite of an inlet?
Barney: An outlet?
Tegan: But that’s not what they’re really called is it? Whatever. One of those things (draws an inlet in the air) and the house was out on the edge of it . .
Sara: A peninsula.
Tegan: Peninsula! So, you’re out in the middle of nowhere basically so, me and my girlfriend went over there and it was unbelievable. There was a storm the first night and I swear to God, I thought we were gonna get blown off the island. It was like we were in an extra edition of the house so it was the original structure and then this badly put together false structure and the whole time I was being told that this was how the island was and it was to be expected that every night there would be a big storm like this cause it was just out on this peninsula or whatever . . . The next morning, the people who rented us this place came by and were like “Pretty big storm last night, hey.” I was ready to pack it up. I was like “I can’t do eight more nights like this”. It was the most intense thing. I was sitting up in bed and my hair was blowing around. It was not a safe building. But apparently, that was like a one in a million storm like it’s never like that.
Sara: It’s pretty incredible out there though like . . .
Tegan: It’s very beautiful
Sara: The first time I went up there I was standing on this house that was on the edge of a cliff and a friggin bald eagle landed on the deck next to me.
Tegan: It was almost the same size as us. It was unbelievable!
Sara: Like if I would have had a tale …
Tegan: You could have rode it …
Sara: It would have picked me up and carried me away.
Tegan: Or if you had had a saddle you could have thrown it on and flew away with it. It was cool, but yeah, it was great!