O, Canada. Home to the Toronto Maple Leaves, a multitude of French-speaking natives and the edgy, pop-rock twin sister duo, Tegan and Sara.
The pair recently kicked off their final stateside tour in promotion of its latest record, "The Con," with supporting act City and Colour, an acoustic side project commanded by Alexisonfire's Dallas Green, and a trio of new chicks on the block - ethereal punk-rock band, Girl in a Coma.
Sara, one half of the duo, sat down with The Daily Collegian via telephone, in Baltimore to discuss a slew of topics including "The Con," their tour and the recent progression of the independent music scene.
Daily Collegian: So, you have done quite a few tours for your and Tegan's latest album, "The Con." How will this one be different from the last?
Sara: We've been touring since July for this record, so they all sort of bleed together. This is actually the fourth time we've been in the states on this record. We've only done one real show so far in a proper venue. We sort of intentionally spent some time trying to figure out what songs we could play that we don't generally gravitate towards. We wanted to make sure we were still going back to old material to keep the show interesting.
DC: You are touring with the incredible Dallas Green [of City and Colour]. How has that been?
S: He's a sweetheart. He's a really sweet guy. We're super stoked to have him out. It's nice to be able to bring a fellow Canadian on board with us. I like that we can relate to each other, and we have all toured around the world and had success in our own worlds.
DC: "The Con" was your fifth studio release. Did you have anything specific in mind when you sat down to write the record?
S: Not really. You know, we've taken a bunch of time off. Tegan and I don't live in the same city, so we were doing all of our writing on our own, independently.
We started talking with Chris Walla [producer/guitarist of Death Cab for Cutie], although we were writing from different perspectives. Tegan was having this unrequited love affair, and I was practically married and feeling middle-aged, thinking about life and money and love. I wasn't suffocating, but I was contemplating: what is this all about?
Tegan was in this explosive, volatile place so I wasn't sure if [the album] would be cohesive, but it actually gave it a sort of call and answer. We don't necessarily go in with a concept, but it's nice when it works together, probably because our voices are so dramatically similar.
DC: Did you have any intentions of making "The Con" different from "So Jealous," which was also a big success?
S: For "So Jealous," we worked with Jon and Dave out of Vancouver, who had worked with The New Pornographers, and they really have a style and preference for equipment. So, we've been working with people that can really give this album a sound. And we knew we were going to work with all different players. So just form a sound perspective, we knew it was going to sound different. You kind of grow out of certain things. "The Con" was the first time we did things ourselves.
DC: What is your favorite track off of "The Con?"
S: "Burn Your Life Down." It is such great middle of the road. I like that it's sort of subtle, and you don't get sick of it.
DC: I feel like it's that way for "Nineteen," too. I would sit on my bed with my friends last summer and just listen to it over and over on repeat for hours.
S: The thing about "Nineteen" is - God, well we were always a little bit weird. Our parents had us listening to stuff that most kids were not listening to. It was really in junior high and middle school when we started to make deep connections with our friends in music.
Tegan and I and all of our friends used to lay on our beds for weekends just listening to the same songs over and over again. We used to lay down and listen to Nirvana and Guns N' Roses and Smashing Pumpkins, and my parents probably thought we were so depressed. And that shared experience, all cheesiness aside, that's what our music is for. We're writing music for the teenage soul.
DC: At fifteen, you won a garage band competition. That was sort of your "big break" right?
S: You know, it was actually when we got out of high school. It was like the first kind of push in the right direction. At that point, we had been in punk bands and played in garage bands and this was in the late 1990s. And I know I'm dating myself but we just did not have the Internet. So, the idea of having a MySpace or iTunes - this stuff was not even in our vocabulary yet.
So, in order to have a band, you had to tour and have a record deal. I honestly didn't know the next step. My friend was in college, and she was like, 'You guys are talented musicians. You should do this contest!' But we were the only band that was not from the university. So I think we really stood out because we were these super green precocious 17-year-olds playing acoustic punk songs, so we won. Which, all it meant was we got to play a bar, and we got $500 to record a demo.
It wasn't a break in the sense that we won the contest, and off we went. It was one of those things where the first real professional thing we did inspired us to start making packages and sending them to promoters in other cities. It took two years.
Everything is hard. Nothing is easy. It's like any job. The music industry is very much the same. Everyday, you work. You work because it fills your soul, but it's also how you support your family and your lifestyle. So much of the music industry is about working. It's not necessarily about how many people listen to your songs. Can you fund a tour and finance a trip to Europe? I think that people either manage to do it and make it work or branch out.
DC: A multitude of independent artists are starting to be featured in the mainstream media. How do you feel about the independent music scene inching its way to a more mainstream audience?
S: You know what? I think that the real shift into TV and like promo or placement type stuff is just from lack of exposure on radio, and that's partly to do with the fact that the radio stations' playlists are so narrow.
There's also been a huge influx in bands, and now you have the world market opening up. I think it's necessary, and also adds a lot of depth to these teenybopper shows that don't have that much depth to them.
If you don't watch that show, who f***ing cares? I don't watch "Laguna Beach." But if it means that 500 people go look at our MySpace, then I really don't care.
That's the thing about "selling out." I remember hearing that Iggy Pop sold his song to Microsoft. And people were mad, and he was like 'I wrote this song in the 70s! I'm just now using it for something different!'"
If you're deeply offended, go and support something different. You can have both. You don't necessarily have to point the finger and say 'F*** you! You sold out!'
DC: If you could spend one day doing whatever you wanted to do, what would it be?
S: You know, I was lucky enough to take two months off, and I got to spend my time doing everything I wanted to do. I read. I went on a trip just to look for special books. And I like to draw. And I like to spend tons of time alone. I just hole away in my apartment being weird and being reclusive.