Date: October 22, 2007
Author: Jason Estopinal
Publication: The Land Salmon
Headline: Interview with Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara's mid-summer release of their fifth album "The Con" delivered a much needed heat wave to this season's releases. But don't let the "Twin-Girl-Canadian-Lesbian" label fool you, this is no novelty act, these talented sisters have plenty to offer up on their stellar new album. In the midst of their extensive touring, I got the chance to chat with the anti-Olsen indie rockers, Tegan and Sara Quinn, about cover songs, Halloween costumes and mullets.
JE: I know you've been very busy and recently shot a new music video, may I ask which song it's for?
Sara: The video is for "The Con." It's very intense.
JE: What is the concept of video?
Sara: At first I had no idea what was happening (laughs), but then when I saw it come together, I got it. It was mostly Tegan's idea. We're in this building, actually it's almost like an apartment building and she (Tegan) is seeing a therapist and I'm trying to find her. I eventually find her and we try and escape.
Tegan: The song is really just about anxiety. Living with it. Basically I'm in the therapist's office, their trying to make me talk about things I don't want to. Creating anxiety. It's difficult to watch.
JE: Chris Walla (of Death Cab for Cutie) co-produced "The Con" what did he bring to the table?
Sara: He's a great guy. We spent a lot of time in his guest bedroom playing and he had us record keyboard first...
Tegan: The biggest gift he gave to us was for us to really see the record as a whole. He had already listened to the record prior to recording...Having someone with such confidence and knowledge gave us a purpose to get up in the morning. It wasn't like 'Oh, I don't want to go to the studio today, it's a fucking mess I don't know whats going on.' It was like 'OK today were working on this song, and yesterday we went in this direction so today we should probably take it in a different direction.' I think that was his biggest contribution, being able to step back and just listen. We tried to recreate all the noise, and drive and intensities and melodies we had created on the demos. Technically he's pretty much a genius; he just has this real comprehensive knowledge of all the different things going on in the studio. He's a pretty amazing musician with an incredible ear for music. He's just really amazing.
JE: You have an eclectic range of guest musicians including, Jason McGerr (Death Cab for Cutie), Hunter Burgan (AFI), Matt Sharp (The Rentals) and (the Amazing) Kaki King all appear on "The Con." Was it a conscious decision when you were writing to have such a diverse group of musicians collaborate on the album?
Sara: Not really. We knew that we weren't good enough drummers and bass players (laughs) so we would need them. Tegan is really good friends with Hunter (Burgan) and I'm really good friends with Matt (Sharp), so it was a natural decision to have them play on the album. Chris had obviously worked with Jason (McGerr) on projects before...It was fun having our friends on play on the album.
Tegan: When I was demo-ing for this record I was recording my own bass and drums and keyboards and pianos, we didn't know who was going to be playing on the record. I wasn't really thinking about it, it was pretty much the least of my concerns... I just wanted to give clear direction. Once we hired Chris (Walla) he suggested Jason McGerr and we had met with Jason as well and he seemed to really understand the demo. He formed perfectly with what we wanted to recreate with the record and he really followed the direction we were going and fit within those sort of boundaries. Hunter and I have a side project we've been working on for like a year, and I really loved the energy he was bringing to that stuff so I thought that it was really important to have him on my songs. I didn't want to get just anybody.
JE: The White Stripes and The Rentals, among others have done covers of your music. Is it weird for you to hear other people singing your songs?
Sara: Yeah, for sure, it is weird. I remember the first time was when we were touring with Ryan Adams and he preformed one of our songs during sound checks and then eventually live, it was a really cool feeling. I love hearing people play our music, even if it's little local bands who send in crappy recordings of our songs; it’s very cool.
Tegan: It's kind of cool, its exciting. I mean me and Sara have never been boastful, ego-filled artists, I'm sure we have our moments, but in general we're pretty modest about what we do. When other people play our music or really like us, I'm like 'Yeah! That's sweet!'
JE: What is your favorite part of the creative process, that you look forward to the most, from writing to performing?
Tegan: I like writing a lot and I love the process of recording but that can all be very stressful. I like doing the stuff at home and demo-ing, ‘cause when you go into the studio I mean your just recreating what you already did six moths ago and touring is just recreating the record too. We've always been very creative, even being on the road, we like being our selves, the stories, the banter and all that stuff. I can't just play songs, I have to tell stories, I have to keep myself interested. Each moment of what we do I love it. I love putting words together. But, I think my favorite thing to do is get up in the morning and write music.
JE: Do you ever get tired of people bringing up the fact that you're twins? Or do you feel it has helped contribute to recognition?
Sara: It used to bother me people labeling us as twins, or girls, or gay or from Canada. It was like come on, we have so much to offer were musicians, and talented and business savvy... The older I get the less it bothers me.
Tegan: I think as I get older and meet more twins, especially girl twins, it doesn't really bother me. But it is creepy, I mean it's creepy, we look just like each other, its really weird! (Laughs). But I understand, I guess being a twin is weird it's like a freak show, but it gets old reading about the "twin girls from Canada" its like ugh! That makes us sound so lame. But I don't get tired of it I mean the fact that we're twins, we're in a band together its kind of interesting that we can make it work and we get along, but the fact that we don't write together and we live in different cities, I mean it's totally interesting.
JE: Have you ever been called the Anti-Olsens? How do you feel about the term?
Sara: No, I don't think so. I mean all we have in common is we’re genetically both similar. I mean they’re actresses, we're musicians. There's not a lot to compare. I mean they’re girls too I guess.
JE: Will you be dressing up for Halloween, and if so what will you be?
Sara: I'm not a big Halloween-y person.
Tegan: Maybe, probably not, I haven't dressed up in a few years, I'm not really sold on the whole Halloween thing. We'll see, we'll see.
JE: You've been touring extensively, what's the most memorable experience you've had on this tour?
Tegan: Yesterday we went to the Edmonton Mall and road the roller coasters...and all got in swim suits together for the first time which was hilarious and we took our opening band so there was like 16 of us. It's moments like that, that I remember that our job is pretty awesome. I mean I miss home and I miss my friends and I miss my girlfriend, but its nice when you're on the road and you have a moment together and you remember, oh my God, my job rules!
JE: What is the one thing you make sure to take on tour with you?
Sara: I bring my own bedding, it makes it feel more like home.
Tegan: I take bedding with me cause we sleep on the bus 90 percent of the time.
JE: Tegan-you contributed vocals on Against Me!'s "Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart," how did that come about?
Tegan: I interviewed them last summer at Warped Tour and joked to them that I would be available to work with them on their album, and they laughed, (laughs), but then three months later they called and and said they were recording in L.A. in December and would love for me to come down and record, and of course I said absolutely. I then emailed Tom (Gabel) and said I had spent a year writing 30 songs which were trying to capture what he wrote in one song. It has absolute crazy, mind crushing, soul searching, feeling about being in a relationship. I thought he did an incredible, incredible job.
JE: So I have to ask about the haircuts. You've made quite an impression with your mullet-like coifs. Do you feel like you had a pivotal role in the rebirth of the mullet revolution?
Sara: (Laughs) I never thought so, but I love the mullet. I always had pretty conservative hair but when I moved to Montreal, I guess almost five years ago, everyone had the raddest hair. I immediately found a hairdresser that I liked and got braver and let them kind of do what they wanted with it.
Tegan: (Laughs too) It's not like we came up with it ourselves. I mean we had mullets when we were kids. I think fashion cycles.
JE: What is next for you?
Tegan: I'm gonna take a shower in about half an hour and that's exciting! (laughs). We'll we have the new video coming out and I'm excited about that, and were touring and touring and touring...