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Date: February, 2006
Author: Mark Neilsen
Headline: Alive and Awake
Mark Neilsen talks to Tegan Quin, one half of Tegan and Sara, about music and politics.
Tegan and Sara Quin grew up in a political family with outspoken parents, so they have been politically aware from a young age, although they don't necessarily agree politically with their parents (Tegan says her father is a Conservative, which is the equivalent of Australia's Liberal Party, while Canada's Liberal Party would probably be akin to, say, The Democrats here).
"This election has come up so quickly," Tegan says. "For a while there it felt like the Liberals were coasting even though they had a minority government and to be in a position here where we're even fighting to even have a minority conservative government, the fact that it might be a landslide for the conservatives is awful. It's really gotten Sara and I really upset." Tegan's probably more upset now as it turns out the Conservatives were indeed voted in to power, their first time in 13 years.
"We support a different organisation every time we go out on the road. We raise money and we match whatever we raise and we've always done a lot of fundraisers and supported groups like PETA and Get Your Vote One, Warchild, that sort of thing. But I don't think our music is politically minded, or I don't think that the way we market ourselves is coming from a mandate of strict political beliefs, but certainly in our private lives or whenever we can use our 'celebrity,' if you can call what we have celebrity, whenever we can join up forces and try to make a difference we are happy to get involved."
As Tegan states, it's not exactly like their music is politically minded. Midnight Oil of Rage Against the Machine they ain't. I mean most of their current album 'So Jealous' dealt with the subject of love, so much so, in fact, that on first hearing it, the record company sent the band a note wondering if they could sing about something other than love.
"It's about emotion. It's about bein involved," Tegan says of the album. "Songs like 'Where Does The Good Go' and 'Take Me Anywhere,' 'I Won't Be Left,' those are notices to myself and to anyone else who's listening out there. They're reminders to stay involved in your life, don't fall asleep at the wheel, don't go 50 years with someone you don't love and then wake up and you're 68 years old and you've wasted your whole life and you're going to die and have nothing.
"These are like pleas. They're not love songs so much as they're love ... reminders, to not waste your life, to not waste your time. A song like 'I Bet It Stung' or 'Walking With A Ghost,' there's some desperate message underneath it. Whatever that message is for anyone, for each person there are personal reasons why people connect to the songs, but for me I think our record is pretty desperate, very emotional. I think that's the one common link between our feelings about politics or about economic reform and music and the music industry, it's that we're very passionate people. We're very involved, we're very much alive and awake and we really want to be here. I don't go to a show and stand idle like it's television, I get involved and I clap and I cheer and I put my freakin' drink down to clap."
We here in Australia will soon get the opportunity to put our drinks down and clap when Tegan and Sara return for another tour. When the band was here is August, Tegan expressed delight at coming down to an Australian winter, stating on their website, "I am excited to get to Australia and wear layers again." But it will be very different this time when they come during summer. How does she feel about that?
"I'm feeling scared," Tegan admits. "We have an Australian tour manager and he keeps emailing us about bringing our bathing suits. What do you guys call them?" Um ... swimming costumes? "I think that's so funny. That's so formal. Anyway, he was emailing and I'm like, 'I am a musician. I don't swim.' Certainly not in a bathing suit and we keep complaining about all the shark attacks and so every time there's a shark attack or a near shark attack he forwards us the news clippings. I'm really excited. I love Australia. We have family there."
The last tour for Tegan and Sara was full of mixed emotions. They were coming out in support of Little Birdy, but a few dates into the tour Little Birdy vocalist Katy Steele came down with a virus and had to pull out, leaving Tegan and Sara to headline the rest of the shows. So how was it stepping up to the bigger venues when they unexpectedly called up to headline?
"Nervewracking," Tegan admits. "I felt really emotional because the tour got cancelled and it cost 20 grand to fly six people there and I was joking that I was ready to pull us all into the bathtub and douse us al in gasoline. Our tour manager was like, 'Calm down, let's go for a walk, the agents are working on it, we'll see what happens.' And by evening's end we had a tour. It was like 'okay, it's fine. We'll go and play the big cities and we'll have some days off but we'll cut coss, we'll go to the cheaper hotels, it won't be a big deal.'"
"Then we'd get to the venue and it would seem massive. We'd played those sized venues in America but to go Australia I was like, 'Oh my god, they're going to be empty, everyone's going to leave' and someone suggested to go outto the crowd that's lining up and talk to them, ask them to stay. I was like, 'What?' So the first night we did it, I was going to the audience in Brisbane. It was like, 'Please stay and see the show, our names are Tegan and Sara and we come from Canada and what else do you have to do on a Tuesday night?' So many people stayed. It was unbelievable and the shows were actually quite fun and we did well on CD sales and T-shirts and stuff. I as glad we fot through it. I'm really glad we didn't just pack it in and go home and get real jobs and try and pay off that big debt. It was worth it and now I feel really confident."
Tegan and Sara play the Corner Hotel on Wednesday 15th February, plus a special in-store performance at JB Hi Fi Bourke St on Tuesday 14th (from 5pm). 'So Jealous' is available through Shock.