Date: Jan/Feb 2008
Author: Catherine Plato
Following So Jealous, the lovesick, heartbroken and utterly apolitical 2004 album that thrust the Quin twins out of the lez-rocker closet and into the larger indie-rock canon, Tegan and sara bring back the politics with their latest album, The Con. While So Jealous was purely personal -- love, sex, breakups and heartache -- The Con's opening track, "I Was Married," outwardly challenges homophobia and advocates for gay rights without sacrificing the self-consciousness that make Tegan and Sara rock as songwriters.
I caught up with Sara Quin right before their show at San Francisco's Brava Theater. Sara was talkative and friendly, and seems unaffected by her rock star status. We chatted in her "lair", as she called the freezing cold, blue-cushioned tour bus where she and her band-mates would be staying for the next few months.
When your first few albums came out, the press was all, "Canadian! Lesbian! Twins!" And now it seems like people are paying less attention to the stuff and talking more about you as just musicians. Do you think that your audience is changing too?
It's really hard to say. We started touring in the U.S. and internationally eight years ago, and there was a small influx of time where I was like, "Oh my God, everybody is asking us about being gay, and it feels like all our conversations with people are becoming very political because of that." And then it went away, kind of. And it's like, OK, cool, people just know, and that's great. I'm glad to see [sexuality] sort of not be the focus, but I also don't want it to necessarily be irrelevant. I want our audience to know.
Do you read a lot of your press, like your interviews, your reviews?
No. I never read interviews, because I hate reading what I said. And I occasionally read reviews. So I read the first couple of reviews that come out of the record, then I sort of get an idea of how people are responding to the album, and in a year, I'll probably do it again, you know? See how, a year later, people are reviewing you.
What do you like best about the new album?
That is hard. We've been playing the album in sequence, exactly as it is on the record, and I feel like it's weird when we take the individual songs out of sequence, I feel like they really miss the one that comes before and after. I really see this album as being strong from start to end. And that makes me really proud. Every time we put out an album, I think, this is solid, all these songs are great. But for the first time, I really 100 percent passionately feel like this album as a whole is so good.
Do you like touring?
I have a love-hate relationship wth both being at home and touring. i'm definitely a bit of a globe-trotter and I love being with my family, my road family and being with everybody, the cameraderie of playing shows and then getting on the bus and then hanging out, being in a new city every night and the kind of adventure and mystery that happens when you're on the road. But then... I'm a bit of an introvert and there are times when I feel totally maxed out on communal living and I can't wait to go home and be by myself and do my own thing.
You guys started playing when you were 15. Was there a band or anything you were listening to that inspired you to get into music?
There was so much music I was listening to, but I think it was less the music and more we started to go see shows. I mean not concerts, we were going to see like, punk gigs and weekend, free-at-the-community center type stuff. And I remember when I started to go see those punk gigs, I suddenly knew kids who were in bands. I was like, well if they can be in a band, what would be the difference between me being in a band and them being in a band? And that was really what inspired me.
And at what point dd you decide to go for it and make it your job?
I can remember being in grade 12, everybody was flling out applications for university, and making plans for post-high school, and I just didn't want to. I loved music so much. It was tough the first couple years. I was working a job and paying rent. Deciding that you're going to make music your career and just beng a musician are two very different things.
What moments in your career have been really exciting? The White Stripes covered you a while back and I imagine that must have been great. Were there any other moments where you were just like, wow!
The White Stripes thing was really cool. Even this record. Stuff that's already happening. There were magazines that wouldn't touch us last time we put a record out. Magazines that, to me, didn't make sense. Like, why wouldn't we be able to get coverage in Rolling Stone or Spin magazine? Or Filter? What the fuck do I have to do to get these people to do something on us? And then all of a sudden it just happens and you're like, oh thank God.
I didn't realize you had such a strong fan base in Australia.
Yeah. At the beginning of [the So Jealous tour] we went over and opened for another band in Australia. We were just like, OK, let's go over there and see if we can make something work, and we went over and we were surprised at how many kids knew who we were already. We were calling our manager at home in Canada and being like, "No, they do know who we are. We should be there more often!... I know we don't sell any records but they know, they know. The kids know who we are." You know, it's not like we're superstars, but that's not really what our mandate is anyway. We always make jokes that we're like the corner store. We're not trying to be a franchise. We're just trying to be ourselves. You just know you can come in and get good service, and good chips or whatever.