While Tegan and Sara’s music bleeds with emotion and is fuelled by heartbreak, loss, betrayal, and personal insecurities, the twin singing sensation are in fact far more emotionally stable than they let on in their music. Jordana Borensztajn reports.
Speaking to Nova on the phone from her apartment in Vancouver, one half of the queer Canadian duo, Tegan Quin, explains the pair live far more grounded lives than the rollercoaster of emotions they pack into their records.
“It sounds like every new record we’ve had these horrible experiences, and it’s like ‘why can’t Tegan and Sara find love?’ I’m sure it makes our partners extremely insecure because it makes them seem like we’re very unhappy but we’re actually pretty happy, well-rounded people. I’ve been with the same girl now for a year and a half and it’s been going great,” she says, sounding smitten.
“It’s amazing to be a muse but it’s also really hard to be constantly being drawn on for inspiration. It’s tough. Every argument and every fight, and every intense moment, I’m documenting it all, and it’s a lot for people.
“The traveling and sharing us with the world – sharing us with each other – I mean goodness, our whole lives are about Tegan and Sara. It’s like when you’re dating me, you kind of have to date Sara too and that’s hard sometimes because you just don’t feel as special as you probably should.
“Certainly our music always explores the darker side to relationships and emotions.”
With each delivery, Tegan and Sara cross new musical boundaries. With five stellar deliveries already, the girls are about to make some serious noise with their newest piece of work, Sainthood, due out October 27. Over the last decade, the girls’ indie-folk roots evolved into a rocky-pop sound and their newest record is even sprinkled with an infusion of electro.
“We get bored really easily so each record has been a little different because we try to keep ourselves entertained. I love making music. The idea of making music for another 10 years or 20 years seems pretty exciting and if we decided to make the same record over and over again, it wouldn’t be good,” she says. “Someone was like ‘how come there are no quiet, folky songs on this record.’ The Con had “Call It Off” and all our records were like that. Truth is, I haven’t beat “Call It Off” yet. That to me is like ‘I did a good job, so yay.’ I tried to write like 20 acoustic songs for this record and none of them were as good. It just didn’t feel genuine.”
Packed with 13 tracks that are all close to, or underneath, the three-minute mark, Sainthood explores the duo’s obsessions with romantic ideals. The vibe of the record is slightly more optimistic and hopeful than their previous deliveries, but still retains the girls’ trademark themes of struggle, self-doubt and layers of complexity; their biggest strength and drawcard that intrigues and attracts fans.
“That’s what I like about Sainthood, it’s kind of, more sweet. When I heard “On Directing” for the first time, and Sara was like (Tegan starts singing) “go steady with me,” I was like ‘that’s cute. It’s kind of desperate and pathetic, but it’s cute’.”
Inspired by music great Leonard Cohen, Tegan explains their record was named after the lyrics from “Came So Far For Beauty,” which resonated in a massive way for both twins. “The entire song is beautiful. The poetry in it is just incredible,” she says, as she starts to recite lines from the song. “I came so far for beauty / I left so much behind / My patience and my family / My masterpiece unsigned / I thought I'd be rewarded / For such a lonely choice / And surely she would answer / To such a very hopeless voice.’ I was like ‘ummm, does Leonard Cohen know me?’
“In the chorus of the song he says ‘I practice my sainthood.’ My interpretation is that he’s basically saying he practiced on being devoted, perfect, passionate, intense, loving, artistic and great, and in the end it all went unnoticed.
“Ultimately Sara and I were exploring the side of relationships when you first meet somebody and you’re really interested in them and you do all this stuff for them and in Sara’s case, nothing ends up happening, and you don’t win. In my case you do, but it’s that moment where it can go either way. We’re really towing that line on this record, especially Sara. The lyrics summed up how she really felt. She put so much out there and it just went unnoticed.”
If you can’t already tell, one of the most striking and powerful elements about Tegan and Sara is the way the pair articulate what so many other people lack the courage or ability to express. When asked to unlock the magic potion that allows them to touch fans and reach them on a deep level, Tegan say’s it’s hard to pinpoint. It’s just instinct.
“Every time I sit down I think ‘maybe this will be the time when I don’t know how to finish a song, or I won’t be able to complete it, or it won’t make sense to anyone. Maybe no-one will relate,’ but it just works. It’s like magic in a way,” she says.
“I remember the first time I played “Nineteen” on stage and my knees wobbled. I was looking at all these people singing along with me – and not singing because that’s what you do – but singing like the lyrics happened to them. I just write what everybody else is feeling, and that’s the magic potion; that I have something to say and it’s something that everyone has to say.”
With plans to head Down Under next May, Tegan says Australia holds a very special place in the pair’s heart. “We love Australia. We love it so much that we’re putting out a book about us being in Australia. It’s a three-book box set of photography and writing, and one book is all about our tour to Australia earlier this year. It’s pretty awesome.”
With their new work set for release, plenty of side projects on the go, and a schedule that involves shows in the U.S. this week before kicking off a European tour, it’s a wonder these chicks have any time to kick back and relax. But Tegan says having fun is a priority, and something they make sure they fit in.
“I started taking yoga with our guitar player Ted this year and it’s f**king hysterical. It’s like punk-rock yoga. We were ridiculously out of shape and none of us had done yoga, and it was totally unruly but it’s fun. Life is pretty great. We have a very, very, very cool group of people around us and enjoy ourselves,” she says, giggling.
“That’s why it’s good to come see us live because it shows you our other side; that we’re funny, easy-going people, but we write really dark songs. Mostly we’re just inappropriate and I think that’s why we’re funny. It just never stops with us. We can’t get anything done. Our rehearsals are seven hours long. They would probably be two hours if we just shut up.”
For more information on the Tegan and Sara box-set, click here to link to their website.
Tegan and Sara's road less travelled delivers impressive results