Ten Minutes with Tegan and Sara
Yes, Tegan and Sara are the 'gay Canadian twin duo' you've heard so much about. But despite how they've been branded by the media, they're also producing some of today's best indie rock, as evidenced on their latest album, The Con.
By Bryan Ochalla
“It seems so silly that we named ourselves Tegan and Sara,” Calgary-born singer-songwriter Tegan Quin says of the indie-rock duo she and her twin sister Sara started in the mid 90s. “We should have just named ourselves the ‘gay Canadian twin duo.’”
Tegan’s words aren’t tinged with bitterness; in fact, even over the phone you can tell she’s smirking a bit as they leave her lips. A quick chuckle follows and then she adds, “We’re twins, we’re female, we’re gay, we’re Canadian. There’s so much for people to focus on. I’m pretty used to it. I just skip over the first few lines of every article I read about us.”
Thanks to the success of their 2004 album, So Jealous, which earned the duo a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the best albums of that year, and the interest surround their most recent release, The Con, Tegan and her twin can look forward to many more weeks, months and years of skipping over the opening lines of articles.
Hopefully they won’t avoid the articles altogether, though. Following those obligatory comments about their sexuality, gender, twin status and country of birth are sure to be just as many comments about their “uncommonly detailed love songs” (as writer Robert Christgau wrote in Rolling Stone’s review of The Con), their raw, emotive voices and the catchy, keyboard-heavy backdrops that support them.
If the article is about The Con, released in late July on Neil Young's Vapor Records label, it’s also sure to include a few comments on the slightly darker turn the duo took on their latest album, which Tegan was kind enough to expound upon during a recent mid-day phone call from a Philadelphia hotel.
GayWired: This album definitely seems a bit darker than your last few. Where did that come from?
Tegan: I think it was just the state of mind we were in when we wrote the songs. We’ve both gone through a lot of changes since So Jealous—we went from being virtually unknown to having a lot of great things happen to us. With that came more pressure and stress.
We reflected on that when we started writing songs for this album. We also reflected on getting older, ending relationships, starting new ones. For me, I had just gotten out of a five-year relationship and was getting involved in another, and with that came a lot of excitement and passion as well as a lot of anxiety and insecurity.
I felt like ‘The Con,’ really reflected what most of my songs were about. I felt like I had been playing two different roles: sometimes playing up side of me that’s the confident, successful musician while at other times, if it suited me, playing up the sad, pathetic, weak side of myself.
GW: Do you make a conscious decision to write and sing about your relationships? It’s definitely a subject the two of you tackle often…
T: The thing that most motivates and compels me to write is love. I feel like I’m good at communicating when it comes to almost everything else in my life, but I’m not so good about communicating my feelings surrounding relationships and love.
GW: I’ve read that ‘I Was Married’ is about gay marriage. What made you write about that?
T: Sara went through a lot this year. She and her partner, who is American, decided to apply for permanent (Canadian) residency as commonlaw partners. She said there was a moment while they were filling out the paperwork where she thought, ‘It feels like we’re getting married!’ That’s what prompted her to write the song.
I don’t want to speak for her, but I think Sara was reflecting on how she was experiencing this genuinely amazing feeling of loving another person while also realizing there’s this whole part of the world that doesn’t approve of her relationship.
GW: Did it feel strange to cover that in a song, especially considering you don’t usually get political in your music?
T: We’ve always thought we were making a statement just by being out and by being women and by playing indie rock. We’re singled out so often that we don’t feel the need to make many statements in our music—we just have to show up and be ourselves.
This wasn’t a first for us, though. A lot of our songs have talked about our sexuality and proudly stated ‘this is who we are.’ I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring that topic lately because I feel like I did it ten years ago.
GW: Do you ever feel confined by the classification people put on you—‘gay Canadian twins’? You’re obviously a proud, gay woman, but I’m guessing there’s also a part of you that doesn’t want it to overpower or overshadow the music you create.
T: We don’t worry too much about it, really. We aren’t trying to preach or spread any specific message to the public. We’re just trying to spread our music, and the music speaks for itself.
People read into our music what they want—and that’s the point, not only of our music but of all music, isn’t it?
The classifications bothered me early in our career, but now I’m just glad someone might read an article about us and think of us as role models. I didn’t have any gay role models to look up to when I was growing up, so it’s nice to think that we could become that for someone else.
(GayWired.com, Aug. 2007)
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