Tegan and Sara's road less travelled delivers impressive results
"It really makes sense to me that we’ve managed to make a career that’s extremely emotional and authentic and thereby attract people who feel very intensely about what we do." - Sara Quin, on why T+S fans have deep connections with their music.
"We were really resistant to the mainstream model because we we’re genuine artists and musicians, and we didn’t want to get pigeonholed as this twin teen act." - Tegan Quin, on their approach in the early days.
"I think Sainthood really completes something that needed to happen in our catalogue." - Tegan Quin, on filling the gap with their latest record.
May 13, 2010. By Jordana Borensztajn.
Venturing down the ‘road less travelled’ comes with greater risks, but offers better rewards. In the music business, a hands-on DIY approach poses a greater danger for artists than a safe, all-expenses-paid, all-decisions-made, type of record deal.
Since Canadian twin sister duo Tegan and Sara first started out, they've insisted on steering their own career. Lucky for these 30-year-olds, their hard work hasn't only paid off – it's helped them achieve impressive music results. So much so, that in an industry that’s been crumbling over the last decade, the duo's career has been on the rise – and even today, six records in, their profile and fan bases continue to grow.
Chatting exclusively to Nova during their recent Aussie visit, Tegan and Sara are relaxed as they take a seat in an empty auditorium at the Forum Theatre just hours before their first sold-out Melbourne show. The girls are engaging and charismatic, and while they don’t finish each others’ sentences, they boast an unspoken synchronicity and deep bond, reflected both on and off stage.
When asked about the key to their success, Tegan says they’ve held on to the values and ethos they adopted early on in their career – and that’s helped a lot. “Right from the beginning Sara and I understood, especially the first year that we were making music, that because we were twins, the industry was clamoring. They were like ‘Oh you’re a twin band.’ So we were really resistant to the mainstream model because we we’re genuine artists and musicians, and we didn’t want to get pigeonholed as this twin teen act,” she explains.
“So we spent the first couple of years, rather than signing a record deal, flopping around in obscurity driving round the States playing to 20 or 30 people each night and we would get a good opening slot every now and then. We opened for Neil Young, The Killers, Ryan Adams – and as we did that we saw more people coming to our shows.”
One of the major benefits of Tegan and Sara’s DIY approach was the connection they developed with their fans. As all loyal Tegan and Sara fans know, the connection listeners have with the girls and their tracks goes well beyond what most fans experience with artists they admire. The duo has a beautiful knack for writing emotionally charged and heartfelt songs which eloquently document and express experiences and emotions that listeners not only relate to, but take on board as their own.
Sara says they both connected deeply to music when they were growing up and this allowed the pair to offer their fans similarly rich musical connections. “My step dad was a huge music fan and my dad and mum were big music fans. We had tons of music and we were enthusiastic and loyal and it really makes sense to me that we’ve managed to make a career that’s extremely emotional and authentic and thereby attract people who feel very intensely about what we do,” Sara explains.
“There are different degrees of enthusiasm. There are the people who are really enthusiastic about us as people and it maybe crosses somewhat of a line, and then there’s the people that are really emotional about the song and that to me is the real goal. When I see that, I feel the most successful.”
Well-known for writing songs that explore love, hope, hurt, pain, anger, happiness, heartache, dreams and disappointments, their latest delivery Sainthood was overall a far more withdrawn album than their previous attempts. While the record still explores relationships in depth, the songs on Sainthood tackle issues in a way that exposes less rawness and less open wounds, and focuses more on the subjects of the songs rather than the sisters themselves.
Tegan says this album’s been the missing link in their catalogue. “The Con was like, bleeding all over the place; “Nineteen” and “Call it Off” and “Back In Your Head.” They’re poppy songs but they were hard to sing. We really enjoyed touring that record but every night when we stepped on stage, it was a pretty intense record for both of us. We had really monumental changes happen in our lives and we wrote about them – break ups and deaths… (Whereas ) Sainthood, I think the content is still pretty intense but it was written and produced in a more reserved (way),” she explains.
“We didn’t want it to be so dense sonically. The record is a little more contained, a little cleaner… and comes off a little more polished. I’m not sure how we’ll approach the next one but I’m really glad we made this one. I think Sainthood really completes something that needed to happen in our catalogue, like that record was missing. And I think we’ve made it now.”