Recorded in January of 2007 with Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, Tegan and Sara's 5th
record 'The Con' came out in the states last summer and has finally reached our shores intact
and sounding just as good as when we were listening last year. Recorded in Portland and
accompanied by a DVD with tons of great footage from the recording process, Tegan and Sara
are letting you in, so we hope you're excited.
As we said before we had a great time talking to Tegan in London last Thursday. We hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoyed talking - say hi to Tegan kids...
LG: ‘The Con’ is your fifth record of a career spanning around ten years; do you think at this point people start to identify with either you or Sara more as songwriters?
Tegan: I think so, I mean in general I think our fans are attached to both of us but I certainly think that when it comes down to it certain people are attracted to certain songs. I’m not sure that our entire audience or our fan base actually sits at home and writes out songs like, ‘yes I’m a Tegan fan and I’m much more attracted to the way she writes’ but I think, certainly for the super fans, there’s a distinction between our writing. I like that, I think that’s really good. I mean we’re both writing from different places about different things and you know, we do our best to make it as cohesive as possible but it is two writers in one band. So certainly we don’t take offence when people…like I remember when Ryan Adams called us to ask us to tour with him, he actually called. He said, ‘I love “Underwater” and “I want to be bad” and “Monday Monday Monday”, I mean the whole record is amazing’ and I was just like, ‘yeah those are Sara’s songs, I’m going to give you to Sara’ (laughs) and he did, you know he followed Sara around the whole tour, he covered ‘Not Tonight’ and he was just…a Sara fan and there’s nothing wrong with that.
LG: There are Tegan fans…
Tegan: (laughs) There are a lot of Tegan fans. For some reason, I think because word got out quickly it seems, amongst the super fans, that I was single for the last couple years and it seemed like all of a sudden everybody was crazy about Tegan. So yeah I certainly don’t feel…there’s never been any competition between Sara and I in terms of writing or money or popularity or fans…
LG: SUVs, Hummers?
Tegan: Yeah, exactly, planes, I mean my helicopter is Sara’s helicopter so it’s all good.
LG: Mi casa es su casa.
Tegan: (Laughs) Exactly.
LG: Have you ever written stuff and thought you know what, actually, that’s too personal to share?
Tegan: Generally no, I mean I think that it’s all perception. I was actually pontificating on this last night about how there would be absolutely no way I could do what I do for a living if what I wrote the song about originally was what I was thinking about while I was playing it. So, over the years the song takes on a new meaning for me too just like how it takes on a new meaning depending on where we are and how old the audience is and what the demographic is or the type of story I tell prior to the song, it all changes. So generally when I write a song, if I don’t play it ever again or I don’t want to play it ever again it’s because I actually can’t relate to it anymore. You know? So some of our earlier stuff like literally the first two records, there is very little on it that I relate to and it’s not so much what I’m actually singing about, it’s actually more just the songs themselves, they’re very unbalanced to me. There’s a way that I think about music now that was so much in development there, that it’s very difficult for me to even try and wrap my head around learning to play them again, I literally could not do it you know?
LG: Yeah, I remember reading numerous times that you hate “Superstar”
Tegan: Yeah! It doesn’t make any sense to me, I mean I was in high school, you know 17 years old. It’s not what I’m singing about, the melody is hooky definitely and the production of it on the record is fine but when I actually sit down and try to play it, it’s just outside my box of comprehension at this point. I’m sad for all the people who want to hear it, apparently I promised everyone in Manchester that I was going to play it?
LG: Manchester can be rowdy…
Tegan: Yeah! I know, Sara told me that I’m probably going to get mauled but I don’t know how to play it and I don’t want to!
LG: There’s new stuff…people can…
Tegan: (laughs) Yeah people can get over it.
LG: I read in a previous interview that ‘Burn your life down’ was partly Sara writing and being inspired by stuff that you were going through, is it quite rare that you write about each others state of minds?
Tegan: Well, I think when Sara wrote ‘Burn your life down’ it was definitely a response to a combination of a lot of things that were happening in her life. I was going through this big change and this big break-up but I think what Sara was writing about…I think the distinction that we didn’t make early enough in our careers is that we’re not writing songs necessarily about each other or about our relationships. We’re writing about ourselves and how we feel about certain things, and so I think ‘Burn your life down’ was to do with Sara’s feeling about my break-up and my grandmother had just passed away. My grandparents were together for like 65 years, and it was devastating for our whole family. I mean she was the matriarch; she was the magnet that drew us all together. Our family has not been the same since, I mean there’s just not the same camaraderie without her and I think that song was just starting to scrape the surface of the magnitude of that loss and that represents all relationships - mine was only a 5-year relationship but it was still gigantic, I mean the core of our life was build around that relationship (with their grandmother) and when it ended it was significant for everyone.
LG: The record is pretty dark in some places, and definitely very intense. Do you feel like it’s a necessity as a songwriter to have a dark side to your personality? Or a brooding side?
Tegan: Well I certainly think it’s nice to be a musician to have an outlet for that dark side, I think that was certainly an inspiration for wanting to be what we are, for being driven and passionate about it. I certainly can’t imagine just writing poppy, happy, light songs. I’m not playing music to be rich and famous or to be popular and well liked…
LG: or to have helicopters…
Tegan: Yeah, I mean I think it’s fair that I have a helicopter and a hummer! But no, generally I feel like I’m doing this to have a vehicle to pass on this message, you know, this universal feeling. When we signed our record deal, the guy who signed us, he was a manager who had been managing for decades. He managed Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Neil Young and he said to us, ‘you’re going to be the voice of your generation’ and I did not understand, and thought that’s a lot of pressure and I’m not going to run for president ok…but I understand now what he means. We’re putting in to terms and writing songs that are universal and easily attached to, and by, people who have gone through any sort of anxiety or stressful relationship or heartbreak or loss. So, I think it does encourage our dark side for sure.
LG: Listening to ‘The Con’, I got it back in the summer of last year when it came out in the states because I refused to wait…
Tegan: Good for you, I thought it was silly that people had to wait.
LG: (cont’d) I noticed when I really thought about it that I didn’t ever hear feminine pronouns, is that a conscious decision to not use them or is that just how you write?
Tegan: Yeah, that’s just how I write. I mean I would never put someone’s name in, and I feel almost like by saying she or he I would be limiting the song. I did that on earlier records, I remember ‘My number’ was written about my best friend, who, he like had this intense emotional relationship with me and then he fell in love with me. It was so hard for me, I felt so sad for the loss, and the loss was so gigantic because I was in the midst in a kind of emotional love affair with a friend of his who was a female. The triangle between us was so sad and so hard, and I put a ‘he’ in the song and I hate playing the song now because it’s so hard to explain that to people. Where as if I has just written the song and taken that one word out, the song would make universal sense to everyone. So I think that pronouns, they really do limit the songs for me even, to be able to sing ‘Where does the good go’ you know, 5/6 years later, I can’t be overly specific or else it’s just too much. It’s like that song is about that time and I’m not there anymore so I don’t want to sing that song. Where as if you keep it somewhat general, like if I keep it about myself, it’s very easy to relate it to other things in my own life. So yeah, I don’t think it’s conscious so much as I’m just not attracted to doing it after 3 years of being on the road and playing ‘My Number’ I was like, if I have to sing ‘he’ one more time…(laughs) so I stopped saying he, and for years started saying ‘Keanu’ because ‘My number’ was in the movie he was in! So I was all like, ‘this song is for Keanu’.
LG: You could just put the mic out to the crowd and get them to fill in a word for you?
Tegan: Right exactly? They could figure it out themselves.
LG: The banter between you and Sara is becoming pretty synonymous with you guys as a band, and your fans obviously are very attached to that and to you guys. Have fans ever crossed the line?
Tegan: Sure, I mean it happens from time to time, generally it’s when people have been drinking but (laughs) certainly you don’t have to be a fan of mine to upset me while you’re drinking. You know, there’s moments where I definitely feel like people take it too far and certainly there are nights where I just feel like the audience is so over excited and screaming and crazy and then it’s like ok, great, you want a rock show, we’ll just play, no problem - we can do that. We can do that quite easily, sometimes I’m tired and I don’t want to tell stories, but then you’ve got the smattering of people who aren’t wasted and they’re like ‘Talk! Tell us stories!’ and you’re like, how?! When it’s madness we just rock out and get off the stage. But the stories are really important to us for sure and they’re funny, I mean they are funny! I don’t really know how we do it, we get on stage and we never tell the same stories and we just get up there and start riffing and talking. I like that energy that it creates with the audience for sure, I feel like it creates an intimacy.
LG: I feel like your kind of banter is quite rare but equally sort of… a complete necessity for live shows?
Tegan: I think so too.
LG: I always find it so boring when people just don’t talk at all.
Tegan: Me too, and not a lot of people do. Honestly, sometimes when bands do talk I’m like ugh, no don’t do it. Which I know we do too, we have moments or nights where we’re off too and I’m all like, ‘Ugh Sara, shut the fuck up!’ (Laughs) like stop talking, but then you know, I’ll say that and then everyone laughs and then we’re on a roll and it’s like, well Sara can keep talking because I’ll keep making fun of her!
LG: It’s a sister thing too.
Tegan: I think so…
LG: I make fun of my sister all the time.
Tegan: Right, it would be uncomfortable if it were Ted and I (their guitar player/band-mate) up there. People would probably be like ‘oh poor Ted!’ I think people have moments sometimes when they feel bad for Sara but when Sara gets me good, I mean I laugh! I’ll admit when it’s really funny.
LG: If for some reason you personally couldn’t be a working musician at a point in your life, is there anything else you would want to do?
Tegan: Well I think at this point, there are a lot of things I could do. I mean we’ve been in the industry for 10 years and we’ve managed ourselves for years and I have a high comprehension for everything that’s involved in doing what we do. I think that over the years we’ve definitely been of the school of artists that are very involved. I get cc’d on hundreds of emails everyday from my management and we approve everything, there’s nothing that doesn’t go through our business. So there’s any number of jobs I could do, I could run a merchandising company or be a manager or any of those things. I mean they would all be fine, I certainly see my future as always going to be somewhat music related. But I don’t know, if I had to create a whole new job or profession for my self I don’t know exactly what I would do, maybe write…something else?
LG: Yeah I suppose it’s probably very hard to imagine doing something else when you’ve been doing what you have for so long?
Tegan: It is hard yeah, and because I like it. You know it’s not just like; oh I’ve been at this stupid job for so long I guess ill just stay. It’s more like, I love this job and I’m not sure exactly what I could find to do that would inspire me more.
LG: Do you guys ever go into what your tattoos mean?
Tegan: You know I think the tattoos are kind of like the songs and open to interpretation? I mean certainly almost all of my tattoos have come at significant periods of my life, I generally don’t just get tattooed to get tattooed, I mean I do not get drunk and think, I’m going to get a tattoo! Put a clover on my knee! But generally they come at the ends of relationships or significant times. Sara’s seem to revolve more around records, like it’s such a big thing. It’s almost like a pilgrimage to leave home for 2 years at a time to go on tour. But the actual meanings of them, I mean, they change for me. You know what I mean? Some of my tattoos are 10 years old, I can’t remember, I’m like, why?…why did I get that! Some of the new ones are so big that I’ll probably never forget getting them done and maybe I’ll already regret them but I can’t really stop you know? I mean I just got two more…
LG: Everyone says it’s pretty addictive
Tegan: It is kind of addictive. Now I’m like, I wish I’d had the foresight to plan them out earlier so now I’m getting two at a time to balance them, like, if I’m going to get this one then I need to get one on the other side exactly the same. I wish I’d done that earlier, because the rest of me feels fucked up now…unbalanced!
LG: What’s your idea of happiness and unhappiness?
Tegan: Well I think the times in my life where I have been happiest I was busy, so I think for me, being productive and having purpose is very important to me. I constantly tell people that having a year off is not as fun as everyone thinks it would be and everyone goes, ‘yeah right’ but that’s because you only ever get 2 or 3 weeks off.
LG: Yeah I wouldn’t think a year off was fun.
Tegan: No…having a year off was very difficult, I got 18 hours a day to think about my life, myself, my purpose, my point in being here and it can be very stressful and overwhelming. So I think the idea of happiness is balance, balance of what you are and who you are and what you need specifically, and I think that part of balancing all that is to have purpose and to be doing something and being productive. I’m OCD, I’m a Virgo, I’m extremely linear and if you just give me a year like, 'have fun!' I just go 'aaahh what do I do?!'
LG: Fly the helicopter?
Tegan: Yeah! Well, I did that for like a month but you know...
LG and Tegan: Boring!