Author: Sony Connect Inc.
Headline: So Jealous, Exclusive Track by Track Interview
One of 2004's best-albums-that-you-might-not-have-heard came from twenty-something Canadian twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin. (Come on now, didn't you check our list of T&S's So Jealous was number 20 - get with it!) The duo began their career as acclaimed teenage folk-rockers and signed with indie Vapor Records, a label partly owned by Neil Young, who soon took them on tour. So Jealous moves further away from their initial Lilith Fair-friendly feel towards a hook-heavy power pop sound melding folk aesthetics with '80s new wave. Giving us a look into the making of this dynamic album, and the affairs and heartaches that inspired it, Tegan goes track by track through So Jealous.
You Wouldn't Like Me
That was the first song I wrote for the record and I wrote it a year before we started recording [this album.] Originally we did it with this whole rock band a few times through, and then we kinda took a different approach to it and started it acoustically and then built into the full rock part. I'm really glad we ended up doing it that way and I'm glad we used it to start the record. I think it's actually a good hybrid of [what we do]; we still write the songs acoustically but having the addition of this whole band helps accentuate the melodies and the rhythm.
Take Me Anywhere
That's kind of a funny song because it almost didn't make it onto the record. We demoed all of the songs for the record prior to getting together with the band, and in some cases I got even so creative as to get a snare drum and an octave pedal and recorded my own drums and bass because I really wanted to hear what the song was gonna end up sounding like. I'm kinda obsessive compulsive that way. So when we got to the preproduction stage of the record when we got together with the band, it was really tough because in some cases we had given such a strong imprint of the song that it was tough to go away from it because everyone was like, "Oh, the demo sounds so great," and, "Don't change a thing." But as we played the song as I sort of played it on the demos, the enthusiasm and the power of the song kinda dissipated and we all kinda grew very disinterested in playing it. And then a friend of mine actually flew in from Calgary and I had given her some of the demos and she loved that song. She was really disappointed we weren't playing it and so one day we all brainstormed and really tore apart the song and started working on it. We call the drumbeat on "Take Me Anywhere" "poo-poo ca-ca". If you listen sorta like between the snare and the kick when he's hitting it, it sounds like "poopoocaca-poopoocaca-poopoocaca". And we thought that was just the funniest thing. We thought we were pretty creative actually, we thought we were the most hilarious creative geniuses ever. It stuck and we love playing the song so we ended up recording it and we owe it all to my friend Melissa.
I Bet It Stung
This is the first song that Sara wrote of the new stuff that got on the record, and she wrote it probably two or three months after we finished If It Was You, our last record which hadn't even come out yet [at that point]. It was the first time she'd really ever recorded anything on Protools and the demo of it basically sounds just like the actual recording except with drums and bass. She ran her vocals through a Sans Amp plug-in, it was really trashy, and it was Sara's ode to Smashing Pumpkins and all the hard rock bands she wishes she was in. She said that that was the type of band she wishes she was in and she wishes the whole record sounded like that, so we're gonna throw her out and see how she does on her own. But yeah, that's one of my favorite songs and it was written in a series of songs that didn't make it on the record that Sara thought were kind of personal. She was going through a breakup at the time and didn't end up wanting to put them on the record but she allowed us to put "I Bet It Stung" on because it turned out really great and we all really loved it.
I Know I Know I Know
Yeah, 'I Know I Know I Know" is weird. I only write songs generally when I'm by myself; I'm not the type of person that jams out on my guitar if anyone's in the house or hanging around. When we had lots of time off a bunch of my friends came down from Calgary and I didn't do anything. I basically just watched television and hung out with my friends. And then there was a weekend when I was all alone and I wrote "Where Does The Good Go," "Take Me Anywhere," and "I Know I Know I Know" back to back. And with "I Know I Know I Know," I thought that the bridge part - the "stick your hands in" - I thought it kinda sounded like a cheesy ballad. There was moments where I thought I sounded like Celine Dion or somebody like that, because it seemed so ballad-y and straight ahead pop. But when we were working on it, everybody wanted to keep it really quiet and it was probably like four or five BPMs slower than it is now, and it was more of a quiet song. And it was literally the third to last day we were in preproduction when Sara suggested we try a different drum beat, and everyone was like, "No, don't put in a drum beat!" But Sara really wanted to try something and so she actually just said hit that and bring the snare in on the second verse, and when we recorded the drums we did it in this really tiny room, and we made [drummer] Rob do them all separately. So we recorded the actual toms, snare, and kick, and then we recorded the cymbals afterward separately and just tried to make it sound really tight and kinda '80s. And of course, there's the keyboard line, which is just my favorite thing in the whole world, and that was Matt Sharp's contribution. We had become friends with him after he covered a song off of If It Was You, and we were just so excited to be friends with him and have him come down play with us because we're just huge fans of Weezer and The Rentals and his solo stuff is amazing. So that's a favorite of mine, I really like that song and it makes me sad when I play it, but I think it's a good song. I don't know why it makes me sad, there's just something about the song. I was really happy and was in a good relationship and feeling really strong and stable when I wrote this record, but I was sort of filtering old feelings and old stuff from past relationships. And then I spent a lot of times sort of like being a spectator to Sara's break up, and my mom had just gotten into a new relationship, and just sort of felt like, you don't even know what you have and then it's gone. At the time, I was sorta feeling like, umm - I know I've been dumped before and then every relationship you see around you, you just want to be angry at them because you're like, "Respect each other, love each other, don't lose it, it's so great what you have!" So that song was like my reminder that you have to be good to one another.
Where Does The Good Go
That was written in the same weekend - my big weekend of pop hits. "Where Does The Good Go" was along the same lines, and was definitely more written filtering my own feelings from me. There was a time, well at least for me when I was in high school, where you have crushes on a whole bunch of different people and they have crushes on you, and you just feel on top of the world. And I got out of high school and we were making a record, and I felt so good about myself. I moved to Vancouver, felt really confident and great. And then I got dumped and the person changed their phone number and broke my heart and then I had to fire like my best friend off the road with us. And the first record, when it came out everybody was talking big numbers and big sales, but it didn't really do that. People liked it critically and we got some cool tours but nothing really big happened. I was all in the dumps and I wrote If It Was You and it was more of a sarcastic record for me. I was kinda making fun of myself, whereas with this record I feel like I was still filtering a lot of those emotions and feelings, but this time I was being more sympathetic toward myself and maybe a little more trying to influence myself and anyone listening to be wary and be careful. In high school, you feel all on top of the world and then something like that happens in your life and you realize that you're never gonna be the same. And now all of a sudden you have all these issues you have to deal with and it brings up all these issues from when you were a kid and things completely change, you know?
That's a Sara song and, again, almost didn't make it on the record. Our manager said he was gonna quit working with our project if we didn't put "Where Does The Good Go" and "Downtown" on the record. We demoed it when we demoed a few songs to send to the record company. When we were ready to start doing the record, it turned out identical to the demo and we just didn't feel like we could change it enough, and so we were really struggling with the actual like open guitar sounds and stuff. So that was the song that almost didn't make it, but it's definitely a favorite for me when we play it live. Sara moved to Montreal about six months into our last record. She went there, didn't know anybody there, it was like middle of winter, minus gazillion, and she's stuck in this big old apartment with no furniture and she sent me all these really sad pictures of just like her bed on the floor and her computer. And she wrote songs like "Downtown" when she first moved there. She had a crush on someone and they were in another relationship and she said she kinda felt like a stalker when she'd see them out and about. I know that that song and "Walking With A Ghost" were sorta themed around the idea of wanting to be with somebody you couldn't be with. I can just picture her sitting in her big open window staring out at the ice and snow and wishing that person was there. And I don't know, it makes me depressed. Actually, most of her songs on the record can make me feel depressed.
CONNECT: But in a good way, right?
In a really good way. I love that! I mean, that's the best, right? You gotta have those records where you can turn it on and at least one other person is more sad than you.
CONNECT: And you two have a lot of them!
We sure do! We're actually really fun people and we're not really all that sad, but we write sad songs.
I Won't Be Left
Again, I'm sorta self-absorbed in that I filter all the emotions from my past relationships into those songs and lyrics. I've never really written a song for anybody before, but I wrote that for my dad; my step dad and my mom had been together for 15 years and they broke up when we graduated high school and they've been apart for five years or whatever. And just the way they still talk about each other, not even necessarily like I think they wanna be together - most times it's not even positive - there's just something about losing 15 years of somebody's company. There's music [they used to listen to] from that time from when I was a kid, and one night I was on the phone talking to him and he was listening to a song that I remember listening to on the way to Vancouver on a family vacation, and I just thought, god, to lose something that big and then still be listening to that music - because you know music can really drag you back - and I was so distracted the whole time on the phone. I was like, why is he listening to that? That is so depressing! And I wrote that song right away.
Walking With A Ghost
It's definitely right around the same theme as "Downtown." I mean, it's not my song so I can't say directly, but I know the first time I heard that we had flown into London and Sara pulled her laptop out and played it for me. It was the first song she'd deliberately written for the record and it sounded so different to me and I thought all the contributions on the record, like Matt Sharp's keyboard parts, Rob's drum part, really threw me for a loop. I thought it was really creative and I really enjoy playing that song. I think it's a cool song. That's when I sorta got the sense that Sara was gonna write a really different record than what she'd written before.
I heard that song the first time around Christmas of 2003 and I was like, whoa, this is really different. The keyboard sound is this air organ she found on the street walking home from the bar drunk one night, and it was this tiny plastic air organ and she ended up using it on "So Jealous" and "We Didn't Do It". She wrote those two songs pretty close together and when she sent those songs down at Christmas I was really freaked out, like, this is really weird. It actually made me just feel really insecure and I felt competitive and wanted to write something cool as well. But I love that song and I love that idea that she's writing about, missing the West and missing home and being jealous - I think that's obviously an emotion every single person deals with and I think it's a really good universal theme for our band and our record and I thought it was great.
I don't remember writing that song, I'm not sure I did. So I think I stole it from somebody else, so I have nothing to say about it except that I don't remember writing it. Isn't that the weirdest thing? Maybe you don't think that's weird, but I think it's really weird. I swear to god. I don't remember where I wrote it or what I wrote it about, but I mean, when I listen to it, I can relate to it. I wrote my portion of the record really quickly, so it's just a blur. I demo everything at home and I was looking through my old files looking for the actual demo version of it and I couldn't even find it. But I have it on CD, I just don't even have a date of when exactly I wrote it. But I really enjoy playing it, it's a fun song, and it's kinda supposed to be cheeky, in my interpretation of it anyway. I must have been thinking, wow, this is cheeky, and that's why I wrote it. I remember writing the bridge though. We were in preproduction and Sara thought the song was too repetitive so I wrote the bridge to break it up. I remember writing that! I think a big theme in our lives is that you create a life and a stable environment and then you pack up and leave it. And then you're just gone and you have to sorta roll with it and try to keep your environment safe and secure and stable and it's hard to do sometimes. Sometimes you get bullheaded and stubborn and self-sabotage and that sort of stuff. That's definitely some of the themes I feel when I'm playing that song but god knows. You'll have to ask Tegan the next time she appears.
CONNECT: Wait, this is Tegan isn't it?
CONNECT: You two are twin sisters, so please don't confuse the interviewer like that!
Wake Up Exhausted
When I moved to Vancouver I had a couple friends that lived there and people we had known, and that's what influenced me to move there, but I also just started a relationship six months prior and they lived there, too. And I got there and went on the road almost immediately and then everything sort of fell apart. The relationship broke up and the two people I knew there had moved, and the couple of people that moved there in Vancouver that I'd known I wasn't really connected with anymore. So I felt very detached from home and I left very abruptly. I made the decision to move like, literally one day I called and said I was gonna move and a week later my friend packed up his car with all my stuff and drove me down and I was just like that was it. So when I wrote "Wake Up Exhausted", I was writing from the position of all those people in a sense, and making fun of me, like telling me to stop thinking about them, because I went through a very nostalgic period where I couldn't stop thinking about high school and old stuff, and so I sort of was picking on myself, and sort of saying get me off your mind; making fun of myself like, stop thinking about it, stop obsessing over things that were long past, and that I lost it and that was my fault and my problem, so[...]
We Didn't Do It
That's a tough one. I'm not sure what the hell Sara was writing it about. I know that when I heard it I was very excited. But I think there's some things we carried over from the last record. The line on "We Didn't Do It," "get in my car," and I know in "Not Tonight" [from If It Was You] she says, "In the back of your car I feel like I have traveled nowhere," like there's themes she carried over from the last record which I think is really cool. We both repeated a few lines from the lyrics of the old record on this new one. I love the instrumentation, I love the arrangement, and the production of that song, it's just kinda like a weird song. I appreciate its originality. Go Sara. Go team.
CONNECT: That's cool when you bring back lines and ideas from older albums.
Yeah! But it happens really accidentally. For me, I've never done it deliberately. It's like you've said it once but you just wanna say it again. It wasn't enough to say it once, you have to say it twice, so I could appreciate that.
CONNECT: And then sometimes those same lines can take on a whole new meaning.
Totally, oh absolutely. I definitely think "We Didn't Do It" has a different meaning than Not Tonight"
Fix You Up
I like that song . . . I don't even know what to say about it. I guess there was lots of time that for Sara and I, being sisters and being family and being in a band for five years, it can be exhausting and at times I felt like sort of an unknown. With Sara moving to Montreal and talking a lot about going back to school, it was tough. There were times when I was writing this record where I was pretty sure that was it. You know, like I was writing my own record and Sara was gonna be done and wasn't contributing and wasn't returning my calls or hadn't sent me new music. I thought, jeez, this is it, she's gonna quit and I'm gonna be all on my own. And there's something about that song; I guess I was trying to get that feeling like you sort of have to enjoy what you have and you have to put in a hundred percent and give everything you have or really there's nothing to give because if you're being a big whiny bag all the time then that's all you'll be.
I Can't Take It
This is another song like I was saying earlier that when Sara wrote "I Bet It Stung", she wrote several different songs in a series. There was "Under Your Arm" and "Get It While You Can", and "I Can't Take It" was right at the end. So that's another song that got on that was from that series of songs she wrote. When we were doing interviews for our bio, I described hearing that song for the first time to be like Sara was standing on my chest. I just felt really sad, and that was having heard all the other songs in order leading up to that one. I know that when Sara was writing these songs it was during the end of her relationship and it was someone she'd been friends with for almost ten years and been with for four years. It was just the psyche of it, when you've known someone for half your life, literally, and then have to leave them, and not necessarily because you want to but just because it's the right thing to do, and it's just not healthy and you're not good anymore, there's no growth and you have to have growth. And when I hear that song, the idea of that all happening just makes me sick to my stomach a little bit. But it's in an enjoyable way.
CONNECT: Of course!