Date: November 7, 2007
Author: Wade Tatangelo
Publication: Creative Loafing
Headline: Queens of the indie world
Tegan Quin likes to talk -- both to her adoring fans from on stage and to music writers over the phone. The singer/songwriter answers each question candidly and thoroughly, sounding genuinely interested in offering thoughtful answers as opposed to glib sound bites. She's funny. And humble.
Earlier this year, Tegan and her identical twin sister Sara released The Con, a collection of detailed, poignant folk songs that are brilliantly augmented by subtle electronic touches courtesy of producer Christopher Walla (Death Cab For Cutie). It's the album that has finally introduced the Canadian duo, who started performing nearly a decade ago while still in their teens, to a wider audience. Tegan and Sara had previously never cracked the Billboard 200 album chart, but The Con reached No. 34 and produced a pair of hit singles: the title-track and "Back in Your Head."
Tegan answers the phone at her home in Vancouver during a brief break in their tour. She has just gotten back from the road and has already completed a couple phoners prior to ours -- but she sounds perky all the same.
"Starting tomorrow I'm going to relax," she says cheerfully." "I'm in need of some time off and excited to spend some time with my friends."
Tegan also says she needs to find a place to live, get her stuff out of storage, do some banking and laundry and spend time with Mom, who also lives in Vancouver, during her two-week vacation. (Sara Quin lives in Montreal. The sisters tour and record together but they live and write their songs independently.)
"I also need to see some movies," Tegan adds.
Tegan and Sara have toured through Florida before, but Tegan has little memory of the jaunt. The 27-year-old sisters spent much of their down time drinking during that tour -- something they've mostly ruled out for their return to the Sunshine State, which brings them to Jannus Landing on Wed., Nov. 14.
"That was our last tour where we drank," Tegan says with a giggle. "We never drank. And then one tour we drank like all the time."
So, no drinking this tour?
"Nope," she says. "I don't really drink, period. When I'm working, it's so exhausting on the road. I could never play with a hangover. ... But it's not like I never would. I'm just a total baby when it comes to drinking."
The Con came out in July and was met with nearly universal critical acclaim and brisk sales. Whereas past tours would have found them playing small clubs, they are now selling out venues such as the Roxy Theater in Atlanta, which they did weeks in advance of the show.
"Every year, with every record, things just grow so much," Tegan enthuses. "I just think it's another great year -- to see the fan base and tours grow, to be able to play more countries, it's amazing.
"And everything is more comfortable for us now," she continues. "Things are getting easier. I'm happy for us to be headlining now more than opening. We're making videos. It's all great."
When speaking of her current success, Tegan is quick to point out that she and her sister spent many years playing small folk festivals in front of occasionally indifferent crowds. And she agrees with me that the reason The Con has been their best-selling CD is because it's their strongest effort to date.
"We're finally at that place," she says. "It could be a lot worse, and we know it because we have been there. We got to choose our record deal and are at a point where we feel like we've earned a lot of respect. And responses we're getting on the road are great. I've never had so much fun playing a record start to finish. I never put out a record where I loved playing every song. It's really a jolt to play [The Con] on stage."
Before ending the interview, I decide to ask Tegan about an album review of The Con published by Rolling Stone magazine. Robert Christgau started his article by writing, "As lesbians who never reference their oppression or even their sexuality ..." I mention the piece to Tegan and ask her why, if she and he sister are open lesbians, do they often use gender-neutral pronouns?
"I don't know why it seems it has to be so blatant -- I'm writing about relationships," she says. "I often write about relationships happening around me, and they're not all gay. And using [gender-neutral pronouns] keeps it universal.
"When I'm having a fight with a past girlfriend, I don't think about them in those terms, and I don't stand on stage and talk about my relationships," she continues. "It's easy to say a Tegan and Sara [record] is all about their relationships. But it's about the state of my relationship and how it affects me.
"Someone asked me the other day if I worried if people dated me because they wanted a song written about them," she continues with a laugh. "And I said I didn't worry about it because most people that know my music, know I'm always writing songs about me [laughs]. Songs about what is happening to me. Someone else might inspire me to write about me, but it's still only about how they affected me. So it's about Tegan. I'm gay -- it's what's happening in my gay old life. But I don't think that makes me off limits to people who aren't gay. I think anyone who has felt anxiety in a relationship can relate."
We share a laugh, and I ask her if she has anything else to add.
"No," she says with another little laugh. "I feel like I blathered on long enough."