Tegan and Sara Interview
Fri, 23 Jul 2010 15:24:35
Tegan and Sara Photos
Tegan and Sara Videos
Tegan and Sara are many things. Singers. Keyboardists. Songwriters. Indie pop royalty. Identical twin sisters. Canadians. Beloved by art house rockers. Lesbian forward thinkers. The sisters Quin have carved out a niche for themselves in the indie rock world, managing to straddle the line between the underground and the mainstream by making wise choices and never sacrificing the integrity of their art. Not many acts can enjoy such an indie-minded following and play arenas with Paramore without dealing with grumpy, dismissive, holier-than-thou elitists, but T&S manage to stay true to what they've always done and that's making dancey, pretty, provoking music that finds a way to infest your brain and bones with equal measure.
Sara was visiting a friend in Montreal when she spoke to ARTISTdirect about the her band's upcoming tour with Paramore; remixing a single song 17 times and having the result be more like an arthouse project; about being hands off for once in their career; playing arenas and being comfortable in their own sonic skin in front of 15,000 people; about decompressing and disconnecting when returning home; and how the press has stopped focusing solely on their sexual orientation in favor of their music.
The band's sixth and most recent album Sainthood came out in 2009.
Why did you do the Alligator Remix EP – where there were 17 remixes of the same song!?
We put out the EP on iTunes and yes, it had 17 remixes of "Alligator," but it was less about remixing for our audience and more about being as diverse as possible and pulling from the dance genre and from more underground artists and going all the way over to the complete other side. We were asking house DJs and stuff and we were trying to get different people's takes on the song, so it was more like an art project, to be honest. It was an opportunity to ask people we admire and like to come and put their ideas about how they hear the song and that was exciting
Did you have a favorite remix?
I loved all of them, but my favorite artist is Four Tet and I loved his version, but I am biased since that was the one I was most excited about. That he was even interested to do it was great, then getting it and hearing it…was like being a part of your favorite band. I felt like this would be what it was like if I was actually in Four Tet.
Did you ask artists personally or did your business camp do the asking?
It was our camp reaching out and there was the initial list of people we were interested in. Beyond putting together a list of our own interests, we took suggestions from people around us. It was hands off for us, which is not what we do. We are involved in all of our videos, music, albums, tours and we are obsessed with details to a more comprehensive degree than other bands, in all elements of career. Even with designing and aesthetics, and producing and mixing, we are sort of the devil to the angel on our producer's shoulder, so this campaign was interesting. We didn't make a lot of comments. We sent them out, got them back, and thought, 'Cool.' We didn’t actively participate.
Given the band's indie rock status, do you like the idea of playing arenas with a poppy, thoroughly mainstream act like Paramore?
We have never headlined an arena show, but we have supported supported Neil Young, The Killers and we've done a lot of playing in front of big audiences, but this will be the longest tour of this caliber. We are at that level where we are comfortable to do our thing in front of that many people, but it took time to grow into it. What we do is tailored to meet the needs of 1000 people, not 10,000 people, but we've gotten better at it! I use the example of when we do festivals. They throw you on stage where there are maybe 3000 people that know you, but then there are 15,000 that do not know you. We joke around and say we have to play the songs we know are going to translate to those who haven't heard your music before. We approach any support gig that way, whether we are playing in front of Ryan Adams and The Killers or Weezer. With Paramore, we know we'll play some of the more full throttle songs from our catalogue.
You're identical twins so you're a package deal. Have you thought about branching out and going solo?
The main project we work on is Tegan and Sara and that takes up a lot of time. We tour so much but we have side projects and write on our own, since we live different lifestyles. Tegan lives in Vancouver and LA, and I am in Montreal and on the East Coast. We spend our off time differently when we are not working on Tegan and Sara. Our lives even out more and we have time to focus on other stuff, and we are happy to do stuff outside of this project, but the momentum and paying rent is the focus, so there is a ton of time and energy put into this band. Yeah, there is a natural intimacy and trust and satisfaction being in a band with my sister and to experience success with her, but as an autonomous person, I like to do other things, too.
You mentioned when we were connected via conference call that you were at a friend's house and that you have no Internet connection at home. Is that because you like to disconnect a little and not have an electronic handcuff?
I have a Blackberry, so I am somewhat connected, but I spend a ton of time on the road and in hotels, so I am over connected, so I like to think what is wonderful about Montreal is that it is a bit of exile for me where I can slow down a little and be less work focused. And by 'less work focused,' I mean 'less business focused,' since when I get back to Montreal, I write music and like to be solitary and think as a creative person and think less like a world traveler/business person. It's like the performer part of me can take a break and stay off the blogs and news feeds and just slow down.
Does the press still make a big deal about your sexuality?
The easiest answer is that yes, people still focus on it, but it seems less of a focus because there is more of a career to talk about, besides that. In the beginning, we resisted talking about it or felt unhappy talking about it, since it was the only thing people would talk about and it was sort of exploitive, for being gay women, so it was frustrating. We wanted the media to focus on the career we built, through being DIY and all of our touring with amazing artists like Neil Young and making our own albums and the articles were always talking about us being gay girls, so it was frustrating. It is so important to be out and to talk about those things and it was empowering for us and our audience, but the tone of the press was backhanded and not done in a good spirit. But it has shifted as people are more familiar with history of the project, and it's just a detail.