What would you give up for love? Making sacrifices have never been easy, and they shouldn't be. But that's exactly what Canadian rockers Tegan and Sara, who have been coveted as two equal halves of a very awesome whole, did when they started writing their sixth album together -for the very first time. myMag sat down with Tegan to talk about their new record, Sainthood (due out this October), her own new outlook on life and why the best things can often come from the worst places.
Burning The Midnight Owl and (my personal favorite) Fish Lips were once on the list of possible titles for your sixth album, according to a late night brainstorming session you posted on your website. How did you pass by those gems and finally settle on Sainthood?
Sara and I wrote together for the first time in our career. One of the first songs that we wrote was called "Sainthood." It didn't get on the record, but the idea was giving up everything to be with one person. We were exploring a lot of ideas about love at first sight and how when a relationship fails, you talk about it in this way that a crowd gathers like you're preaching. It can almost be like a religious experience when you meet someone.
When something profound changes your life like a relationship, it's like you can't go back. When you look at how saints are perceived, they're often seen as martyrs - someone who would rather die than give up their faith. They would be willing to strip their life to have nothing but just this one thing. Love, in a weird way, is like that.
After never writing together before, what made you want to now?
For ten years I've been asked why we don't write together and I've always said, "It's a private experience. I don't want to share. We kill each other..."
This is our sixth record. We wanted to challenge ourselves, so we thought we'd sit in a room and force each other to write together. Sometimes it's when you're at your worst that you write your best music. Isolating Sara and I alone in a city where we knew no one after a big, long tour where we really just wanted to be at home, it put us really off guard. It was really complicated and difficult. The music that came out of it was really complicated and difficult.
Also, for the last three years I've been writing with Hunter (Burgan) from AFI. We're going to release a side project, and the songs sound a lot like Tegan and Sara. I took a few to Sara and Sara loved them, and Hunter was stoked at the thought of that collaboration on the record.
Has writing together changed your relationship with Sara?
Sara and I feel more intense about the whole package rather than just our part of it. We've always behaved as band mates, but as if we have two songwriters in the band because we did. Now we're writing everything together, we're collaborating so happily. I can say confidently that every single song that's on this record I love.
This record captures the live essence of Tegan and Sara. Year after year people always say, "I love your records, but seeing you live - that's the true Tegan and Sara experience." I think this captures that because we're actually playing on each other's songs. Usually, it's the Tegan and Sara lie that we perform with each other on record, we never did.
After working on The Con with Chris Walla from Death Cab For Cutie, you invited him back to produce Sainthood. How do you feel he helps shape your sound?
I just love Chris. I really respect him as a producer. When we got to know him, I was a fan of Death Cab. Then when we started making records I was like, wow, this guy gets it. Sara and I are old school; we believe that you should go in and pour your heart out. Every track should be 100 percent awesome. I believe he puts as much energy, effort, work, and passion into his music as we do. We have a synergy together that I haven't found with other producers.
Howard Redekopp also produced this record and Howard co-produced So Jealous. I think the fan favorites in terms of records have been our last two. So we brought in the production teams from both and made a hybrid of sound. I just love Howard and Chris. They're crazy and awesome and also very calming and adult. I feel in good hands when I'm with them.
And from the pictures on your site, it looks like you all share a love of cheese puffs.
Definitely. I think we like cheese puffs, and Chris loves cheese puffs. Chris was the only one who put cheese puffs in his dinner. That was disgusting. When he put cheese puffs in vegan chili I was like, "OK, too far, too far...These are going in the garbage. You're going to die."
You know, making records, everyone always looks in from the outside and says, "That's so fun! You have the best life." And it's like, look, it's like everybody else's job. You go to the same fucking place with the same people 14 hours a day, six days a week. Trust me, halfway through you start eating like crap, hating your life, crying when you have to get up in the morning, and questioning everything about who you are and everything you've done in your life. It's just like everything else in life. The allure and the excitement wear off, so cheese puffs come out. You have to find things to look forward to.
After questioning yourself during the making of Sainthood, how do you feel you've changed and grown as an artist?
This last year of my life has changed the way I look at everything. I'm not a woe-is-me kind of person, but it's hard. It's hard being in a band with your sister when you want to be your own person. It's hard being in a band. I'm a contract worker. I don't know when the next money is coming in.
Sometimes, I feel responsible for everybody. We have this great band, management and crew, and they want to tour all the time because that's how they make their living. I make money other places so I don't want to tour all the time, so there's this struggle to balance how creative I can be with how much work I have to do. Combine all of this with taking these songs out of you and presenting them to the world, then not feeling crazy about being judged, critiqued and rated in a magazine after someone listens to something once. This is the first year that I recognize all those things, but I also feel so blessed. I'm not even 30 and I own my place and have this great family of people around me who love making music.
There was something in the middle of the record where I had an epiphany - I really do love this. I do want to do this, and I'm willing to do anything to do it. At the same time, I'm getting old. So I want to balance that with holidays. I don't want to tour 10 months, and then my holiday is just going home and lying on my couch. I want to make sure my life is full, full of just everything it possibly can be full of.
This record, it's like a step back in a way that I haven't taken before. I think that's partly because I was collaborating with Sara. I didn't need to protect my songs in the way that I used to. I didn't need to fight to be heard, or fight for my space. It was just such a loving experience. It wasn't me against the world. This is going to sound cheesy, but I feel like this record was a gift and we're going to gift it to the world.
It sounds like there was a reawakening of your old drive. Can you remember the first time you two were like, "Let's do this. Let's write and make music together"?
I totally remember it because it changed my life. Sara and I always played music, we played piano. When we started playing guitar, we immediately started writing songs. It was basically out of necessity. I'd be like, "Can you come over to my room and press record on the ghetto blaster and tape my song for me?"
It wasn't until we graduated high school that I felt the momentum of fans propelling us into this career. It wasn't like, "I want to be famous. Let's get an agent and take ourselves to the top!" It was more like, "I don't want to go to University, let's just go and tour and see what happens." But then there was that day when the momentum had grown so much that we either had to quit or commit. That day changed our lives.
Both you and Sara have quite a few tattoos. Do any of them relate to your music?
I've never gotten anything work-related. All my tattoos are about relationships. Every time I have a breakup or a significant start to a relationship, I tend to feel inspired. I find my tattoos are reminders more than anything. They're from a certain period of time where I felt motivated to scar myself permanently.
They're much more personal than work. I mean, work is personal, but once you choose to put music out in the world it's sort of like fair game. It's the world's commodity at that point. Tattoos are always to do with significant changes in my relationships. That's why I have more tattoos than ever before, because I tend to change directions a lotů
Speaking of world commodities, you guys just rereleased your high-top "Nolans" for MacBeth Footwear...
We're very excited because I love MacBeth. Most of my friends are from high school, so they're like, "Uh, huh, you have your own shoe, that's awesome..." I think most of them are still adjusting to the fact that we have fans. Like, really? I think it's exciting to come home and pull up a pair of jeans and be like, "Look! I have my own shoe!" None of them would ever be caught dead wearing them, but it's exciting. MacBeth is a great company; they make vegan shoes and support tons of artists.
That's a great fit because you've done so much for animal rights. What other philanthropy work have you two done?
Sara and I do as much as we can. Every tour we have items that are purely for charity. Last year, we sold demos for The Con for a charity to give kids scholarships to take music classes. In three weeks, we raised $18,000. They were able to give away like 25 scholarships.
We're always trying to come up with cool, creative things to get our fans into. We work with this organization out of Montreal called P-10; it's this amazing organization for a queer and trans-youth community in Montreal. We sponsored a trip for them to go camping last year. For some of those kids, it's the first time they've ever gone to a sleep-away camp because they've been uncomfortable or ostracized in their community. It's things like thatů
All of a sudden you just find this one thing that can change the way you look at everything. It definitely gives you purpose. It's not just about being popular or rich; it's about changing people and affecting people.