February 1, 2009

That One Time I Interviewed Tegan and Sara

My first step to escaping the cube was to find part-time side income, So I landed a gig as a music columnist for Worcester Magazine, where I was assigned to interview local artists and put together profile pieces. The money wasn't great by any means, but I got free concert tickets and met some bad-ass people who helped me further my career in the creative field.

On that subject, here's an excerpt from an article I wrote for Worcester Magazine back in 2008 when I was freelancing for their music column. I interviewed Tegan (she's the one who does the interviews) and she was super cool!

For some people, music is considered just another song on the radio, but for Canadian twins, Tegan and Sara, it’s a way of life. “Music was the one thing that we always had focus on growing up,” states Tegan Quin, one-half of the creative pair. “It always seemed so interesting to me because it was the one thing that I could focus on for hours and hours.”

The twins launched their musical career back in 1998 after grabbing the attention of Neil Young’s label, Vapor Records, before launching into a tour with Young himself. Their hit single “Walking with a Ghost” swept the nation back in 2005, appearing on the Monster in Law soundtrack and inspiring The White Stripes to release a cover of it later that year.

The indie-duo is now back in the US to embark on a fall 2008 tour with supporting acts, City and Colour and Girl in a Coma. Their upcoming tour is to support the release of their fifth studio album, The Con, which is their first album released on Warner Music.

In preparation for their upcoming show at the Worcester Palladium on October 4th, I caught up Tegan for a recap on their musical history, upcoming tour and future album plans.

How old were you and Sara when you decided that music was going to be your career path?

Well, I’m not sure we’ve decided that yet (laughs). We were probably about 15 when we started writing songs. We didn’t write together, we would just play each other’s songs and record them for each other. When we graduated high school, we intended on going to a University, but I just didn’t feel right about that. So I decided to take the summer off to play music and Sara agreed that she wanted to do the same. By the fall, we had started to tour at little places in Canada, got some attention from record companies and won a contest to get some recording time. Now, all of a sudden, it’s ten years later.

Who were some musical influences that have had a great impact on your writing?

I think when we first started writing, we loved Bruce Springsteen and U2, and then I really got into acoustic music and started learning about Neil Young and Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco. There were also other artists that shaped me as a child like Dire Straits and Mike and the Mechanics and Cyndi Lauper, and I think for the past couple of years I’ve been going back to them and wanting the drums to sound like they do on albums like When You Were Mine. I’ve been going back to old records and using them as a template for what I’m doing now. But Sara always says I’m kind of stuck in the mid-90’s because I’m still listening to Green Day and Face 2 Face (laughs).

What is your music process for writing songs? Do you and Sara write together or separately?

On the last couple of records, we’ve definitely done more collaborating than usual, but we don’t ever sit down in a room together and play music. We only do it when we have to rehearse and even if we haven’t played in three months, we’ll go out and do one day of rehearsal because we really don’t like the idea of there being homework. But on this record that we’re writing right now, we’re collaborating more than ever before. I’ll write an instrumental and send it to Sara and she’ll write the words and melodies. For our past records, we had little or no participation in each other’s songs. I think The Con is such a great record compared to some of our past records and it feels like a real Tegan and Sara record because we actually do participate in each other’s songs and record instrumentations in our each other’s songs and we really stepped up the collaboration. On this new record, whatever it ends up sounding like, there will definitely be a lot of collaborations, which will be the first time that we ever really do that on record, so I’m really excited about it.

How would you compare The Con vs. older albums such as So Jealous?

I think most people don’t get their shit together to put albums out until they’re 25, but we were just eager and putting records out when we were 18. I think we put music out there and built a career and a fan base which is great and I’m proud of that, but musically, I don’t think the songs are bad from our past records, but I think the production style was because we were just figuring it out. We would go into a studio with someone we didn’t know and say, “here are the songs” and try to pull it together in a month. I think that John Collins and David Carswell who produced If It Was You and So Jealous were great producers because they really started to understand what we wanted to do and really pushed us to get there and play as much instruments as we could. I think Chris Walla got us at a great time because he got us after we had that instruction, so we were recording 40 tracks at home and coming into the studio and saying, “okay, here is the 40 tracks I have so far” and Chris would just say, “awesome”. I think The Con gives off this confidence that Sara and I finally know what we’re doing and I think we do.

Are you writing for a new album?

We are. We actually just printed off some artwork. Two or three times during the demo process we send the songs to a few people we like to get opinions on it. We just burned about 23 songs, so we’re well into the writing process. As I was sequencing my portion of the songs, I was thinking “I hate all these songs!” (laughs) but there’s definitely lots of time between now and when we record.

Do you think the new album will be similar to The Con?

I like to think we write in pairs. If It Were You and So Jealous are sort of a complete story, so I think this next upcoming record will have a lot of the same textures and similarities to The Con, but we’re definitely playing with different themes on this record, and I feel like I’ve been writing outside of my usual box. Writing tends to be really inspiring when you’re miserable, but neither one of us are miserable so we’re kind of like, “What are we going to write about?”

What are your plans after this tour ends? Are you planning on recording right away or taking a break?

We’re going to write. This tour ends in October and then we have a couple months off before we go to Australia, so we’re going to be writing a ton. I’m going to be staying in L.A. for most of the fall and avoid the rain here in Vancouver and do some writing there, and I’m not sure about Sara, she might do her own thing in Montreal. I think we’ll record in the spring or maybe the early summer or fall next year. We have lots of other projects also. We’re going to do a book and lots of fun little creative things. With the upcoming elections, we’re sort of obsessing over that, so we definitely have lots of fun upcoming things on the go.

(As published in Worcester Magazine: http://www.worcestermagazine.com/content/view/3267/
Photo creds: Spin.com)