Date: February 29, 2008
Author: Charlotte Cooper
Publication: rainbownetwork.com, GayDarNation
Headline: Tegan and Sara: The Con
They're Canadian, they're twins, they're dykes and they're taking the UK by storm with their album, The Con. With a sell-out tour about to take off and clamouring fans at the ready, Tegan and Sara have finally made it over to this side of the pond.
We caught up with them to find out more.
The instore gig you played at Fopp was a mob scene, how was it for you?
Tegan: Really great actually, we're used to that kind of craziness, we've done lots of instores in the US and we end up playing these crazy, big, giant events, like in LA where thousands of people turned up and they had to turn hundreds away and it was insane.
I actually felt that the Fopp one was great because it felt really contained and well-handled and the kids all seemed really excited but not overly crazy. They did not act insane and I did not have to die at the hands of English fans! We're going to be on tour for a few months and it was a great way to ease ourselves in.
How surprised are you by your popularity here in the UK?
Tegan: I think we were initially very surprised. We put our first tour on and it all sold out and even the promoters were all like, "Woah!" Then we got here and our label, which had yet to confirm they were even going to release our record, were like, "Okay! I guess we have to get this band here!"
I think we're always a little surprised when we go somewhere, but then we have to remind ourselves we've been doing this for ten years on the internet. Basically the business that we used to rely on with the internet is now done in tandem with the record company. It feels that you can take on a whole career online before you even go to market and physically do that work. So I think we're surprised but probably on reflection not that surprised.
Why has it taken so long to release The Con in the UK and do a full promotional tour?
Sara: As artists we tend to be hurry-hurry-hurry about everything and I think, because of the state of the industry, that Warner in the UK wanted to set up the record properly and give it a long lead time instead of trying to rush it out. Obviously the record, for us, has already been out for seven months internationally and in other territories and we were worried that it was already available to people who really wanted it anyway.
I definitely respect the label's position, that the album should have been released properly and we really feel devoted to coming back over here and working this record.
We're hoping that we'll be able to develop a new fan-base, we certainly have a good infrastructure already and we're really ready to take it to a different level. We're really willing to come over and work a lot more over here, we've devoted a ton of time to the United States, because they are our most direct listeners, and that was a monster, it took us seven years to develop the audience that we have now.
We're patient people and we really see this as a career, we're not saying, "Okay, we have ten years, we've got to make this work," we want to be making music until we're old.
What's the best thing about Canada, apart from Tim Hortons?
Tegan: There's nothing better than Tim Hortons! I think it's probably hard for us to see because we spend so much time traveling internationally, but there's something very interesting about Canada because it's such a new country, it's so young and unpopulated, there's not as much crowding, there aren't as many issues like poverty and destruction, crazy falling-down buildings and sewer-system problems. Like, every time you go to Boston they've been building this underground road to go all around the city for decades and you're stuck in traffic, these people are dead in their cars from waiting. When you compared Boston to somewhere like Vancouver, which is where I live, it's like another world, it's so new, so vibrant and so young.
I think there's something very exciting about Canada as very much a developing country still. I think that because we're so close to the United States we're very influenced by the United States but we're still part of the Commonwealth and that we pull in so many influences from other places as well. It's an exciting place to live right now.
People go on about you being lesbian twins, but do you consider what you do to be lesbian music?
Tegan: As far as the evolution of Tegan and Sara has gone, the gay part has kind of concluded now. First we embraced it, then we felt kind of uncomfortable, then we were kind of annoyed that it was so much of a focus. I think now we're back at a place, and I think it's full circle, where we'll be for the rest of our career, which is that we're very confident and comfortable with who we are and we've seen how positive an influence we've been on people, because we're such good-natured people, and we live a healthy lifestyle and I think we're great queer role models, although I think we're good role models in general.
As our audience, our demographic, our popularity has grown, especially in the mainstream, it's become less and less relevant, but in every way it is relevant because as the mainstream embraces us it is almost a barometer that shows that change is happening in the world in terms of accepting queer culture.
My friend thinks that 'Like O, Like H' is about accidentally swallowing hydrogen peroxide, is she right?
Sara: I wrote 'Like O, Like H' about being a kid and the struggles I had with my parents. 'Like O, Like H' was kind of like a punch to the gut, you know? Like the kind of sensation of that abrupt sort of loss of air.
Are twins God's mistake?
Sara: Ha ha ha! I think it's very fascinating for sure. I think that as twins, through our evolution as people, I think we've never been fascinated by being twins so much as now after ten years of being asked about being twins we've started to go, "Are we weird? Are we God's mistake?!"
Why don't you have any girls in your band?
Sara: Well there are lots of girls in the band, there's Tegan and there's Sara! It's circumstantial for us, I think. We started our music career in Vancouver, it's really about who you know. You meet someone and start playing with them and then they recommend someone. Like I have one friend who's a girl and she's in three bands - there's not that many of us out there!
So we didn't know anyone, and then we met this guy Rob and he introduced us to our bass player, and through him we got our management, it's just a kind of domino effect. It's not Rob's fault, they're only boys, we should call him right now and ask him why he doesn't know any women!
It really is difficult to find women working in sound, women working in lighting. We do look. On another level, Tegan is right about having two girls in the band already, but our manager is female, our lighting director is female, we have a female assistant, I swear it feels like 8,000 girls are involved.
In the forward to Kate Bornstein's book Hello Cruel World, Sara writes about the childhood games she used to play. So how did games like Jail or Orphanage actually go?
Sara: That's very controversial! I think that there was a point in therapy about five years ago when I was talking about the games I played when I was a kid. My therapist really saw it as part of these divorced kid, isolated, depressed, lower middle class issues and I was like, "Listen! I may just like being confined in a small space!" Like I was born in a womb that was way too small for both me and Tegan and there's some sort of a desire to be back in some kind of tiny, uncomfortable space. I don't really know who really thought about those ideas first, and I feel kind of upset at the idea that Tegan and I were the ones that encouraged it. There are probably a load of adults that we grew up with in therapy right now going, "And then there was Tegan and Sara and they made us play Jail and Orphanage and it was terrifying!"
What's next for you?
Tegan: We have a rehearsal day today, then we're on tour in Europe for the next month, in North America for a couple of months, and we've got another record coming out in America, so there's a new single from that. We're continuing to develop the record in a bunch of countries. We've just had some time off, we had two months, our summer vacation was in winter and Sara and I did some writing for the new record, we've tentatively put Chris Walla to produce with us again.
I've just started dating recently and the girl I'm dating can't believe I know what I'm doing for the next two years. It's like we're planning our whole lives and I'm going to die on 13 December 2099, it's all scheduled in there!