Tegan Quin of Tegan & Sara: The Autostraddle Interview(s)

canadian-pride-tegan-and-saraWhat’s better than one interview with Tegan of Tegan & Sara?

TWO! How did this happen? Well, we have a theory: after speaking to Crystal on Australian Monday during Crystal’s pre-arranged interview period (Crystal now refers to the Warner Australia contact as her “boyfriend,” and due to Crystal’s lesbionic leanings this is not a confusing nickname), Tegan loved Autostraddle SO much that she also wanted to speak to us during American Monday. Well, that’s sort of how it happened. Katrina was more than happy/totally freaking out to share some American minutes with Tegan.

Katrina: given the chance to speak to Tegan, I may ask her to sing Nineteen to me, requesting that she change all references from “you” to “Katrina.” I think this may end inappropriately.

In any event, these mega-interviews are terrific — including Tegan’s assertion that Tegan & Sara WILL be touring Australia next year.  Also as you may know, we reviewed Sainthood overall AND reviewed Sainthood track-by-track (where you can go and talk about your feelings with us) and there’s still time to enter to win a copy. Otherwise, Sainthood is released on October 23 in Australia and October 27th in the USA and Canada.

So read on for info on Tegan’s worst haircut, songwriting dynamics, the importance of girl rock bands, how Sainthood came to be, and who Tegan would throw her bra at if she could.



Crystal: Hi Tegan!
Tegan: Hey! How’s it going?
Crystal: Well thanks! How are you?
Tegan: I’m doing really good, thank you.
Crystal: Thanks for speaking with me — it must be late over there, yeah?
Tegan: It’s just before 10pm, not quite midnight yet so don’t worry.
Crystal: Do you and Sara take turns doing the late night international interviews? Did you lose a bet?
Tegan: [laughs] We’re both doing three hours tonight, so we’re sharing the load together. But tomorrow night I’m doing Irish interviews and Sara has a break, so you could say that I’m working harder than her this week.

Crystal: What I’ve been waiting to find out if you’re including Australia on this tour?
Tegan: Yeah! Totally! We’re going to come over in May. The shows aren’t booked yet but that’s our tentative plan, to come over for a few weeks in May and do quite a big tour over there.

Crystal: Are you bringing An Horse back with you [to Australia] again?
Tegan: You know I’m not sure, but we’re touring with An Horse in Canada in January which is really exciting. But I think they’re going to make a new record and so they might be recording when we tour later next year. But I hope so, I’d love to tour with them again in Australia. They’re doing really well here in America.

Crystal: I hope they can make it. So let’s talk Sainthood. I’m curious about what came first, the songs or the theme?
Tegan: Definitely the songs came first. We went on a writing trip together, and we wrote Sainthood. We borrowed the lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Came So Far For Beauty’ and they just summed up where we were at emotionally so well, and stylistically and production-wise we basically stood in a room together playing guitar, and I played drums, and we sang together and it really influenced us, it made us realise that we wanted to play as a band. So I think that Sainthood the songs and Sainthood the lyrics and Sainthood the experience, and writing together, really influenced the actual recording of the Sainthood, we wanted to play as a band and we wanted it to be an open record.

There’s something about when you’re falling in love and you’re working towards something and you’re wanting someone so badly and there’s this chance that you will be rewarded, but there’s also this chance that it will go unnoticed. There’s something really crazy about that.

It [the theme] sort of sums up that intention of when you meet somebody, that idea of practicing being good, practicing being devoted, toeing that line, it’s such a romantic idea, to be perfect and to be devoted. You know the lyrics of that song [Cohen’s ‘Came So Far For Beauty’] are “the rumours of my virtue, they moved her not at all” – there’s something about when you’re falling in love and you’re working towards something and you’re wanting someone so badly and there’s this chance that you will be rewarded, but there’s also this chance that it will go unnoticed, and there’s something really crazy about that. And so Sara was really on that trip and a lot of her songs are about that and so to hear the song [Cohen’s] and to see the lyric and then to look at all the songs Sara was writing and see that someone else had already successfully summed up how Sara was feeling, well Sainthood just seemed like the perfect title.

Crystal: Only one of the songs you co-wrote with Sara, Paperback Head, appears on the album. Did you only intend to write a few tracks, or was the process [co-writing] more difficult than you anticipated?
Tegan: You know, we’d never done it before. In the months leading up to the writing trip we collaborated, we worked on stuff we but we never sat in a room together. It was hard, for sure. It was mostly just boring, you know, watching someone else labour over a part and I’d just think ‘wow, I could be at the hotel room watching TV right now’. But it was definitely a really good experience for us and I think that we’ll do it again.

People ask, “so if only one those songs made it on to the record, does that mean the rest [their other co-written songs] are bad?” … [laughs] [Crystal laughs] … No. They were good, they just weren’t better than what’s on the record. And we’ll do it again, because they kind of make more sense together rather than apart. So they weren’t bad, it’s just the first time we’d ever done it so it wasn’t that great. But you know, isn’t that like everything?


Crystal: Yeah, true! It’s recently come to my attention that Tegan & Sara fans will usually either favour your songs or Sara’s songs. How do you react to that, is it interesting or does it create any jealousy between you…
Tegan: [laughs] No. Sara’s songs usually end up becoming really big, but I think a lot of my songs on the records end up being fan favourites. You know, Sara gets tired of playing ‘Walking With A Ghost’ and ‘Back In Your Head’, but then I get tired of having to play the rest of the songs. [she’s laughing all through this] So I’ll be like “Why don’t you write some really poppy, catchy song so that I can stop having to carry the band,” and then she’ll be like, “Well, just as soon as I can stop writing the singles. Why don’t you try to write a song that actually gets played on the radio?” [laughs] But we’re just kidding around, we’re fully supportive. Once a song is out there it’s a Tegan & Sara song, whether I wrote it or Sara wrote it is irrelevant, we both have to play it and we make an equal share. [laughs] And that’s really important, we both make exaaaactly the same amount of money, no matter who wrote the singles. So it’s perfect.

Crystal: So Tegan what’s your favourite song on Sainthood?
Tegan: Of Sara’s songs, I love love love love Alligator. It’s so fun to play live, it’s so different than anything we’ve done before, it sounds so different to anything we’ve done before and it’s just like, really hooky. So I love that song. Of my own songs, right now I’m really loving ‘Don’t Rush’ and ‘Hell’, both are really hard to play live and I’m in this period right now where I’m really liking the challenge, it’s fast and I’m playing counter riffs and my melodies are really hard and I have to close my eyes and think about nothing but the song and that’s pretty awesome. I actually started doing yoga a couple of months ago and the instructor said, “wow, you seem like you’re really liking yoga” and I’m like, [Tegan tells no doubt the funniest yoga story ever but I can’t hear it because the mic cuts out and appropriately kicks back in at] … with music sometimes my mind wonders sometimes, but right now ‘Don’t Rush’ is so hard to sing and play at the same time that I can only think about the band and I love that.

Crystal: ‘Don’t Rush’ has been stuck in my head for two weeks now!
Tegan: [laughs] Good! Good, I love that.
Crystal: No really, it’s almost to the point of driving me insane. But I love it, it’s such a hooky song.
Tegan: [still laughing] That’s really funny.

In general we really like to keep busy and be creative, and we want to try different things.

Crystal: I’m excitedly awaiting my delivery of ON / IN / AT. Is it important for you to have these sort of creative projects, beyond specifically making a record and touring it?
Tegan: Yeah, absolutely. Sara and I have both produced other records this year, and we’ve been A&R-ing for the Australian band An Horse who signed to Mom & Pop Records in the States, Sara has been working with them. So we both are absolutely interested in doing other things, we’re both ambitious and hard working and also just want to be creative. Doing the book we loved, you know it was intense because we self-published and self-financed the whole thing and put it all together. And I think everybody will freak out – we really love them, they’re pretty freakin’ amazing. But you know I wouldn’t want to do books again, it was really hard, much was harder than making the record!

But in general we really like to keep busy and be creative, and we want to try different things. I look at it like each new skill that I acquire as another thing to put on my resume. And I know that sounds silly, it’s like ‘well I’m a musician, why would I need a job?’, but you know, there will be a point where I don’t want to play music and so I really want to make sure I know how to do a lot of things.

Crystal: Do you think you’ll ever do a solo album?
Tegan: You know what, that’s one thing that I’ve never really thought about. I mean, I’ve thought about it but I’ve never really been interested in it. We’ve definitely talked about releasing a double record, you know like ten Tegan songs and then ten Sara songs, there might be a time when we want to use different producers and different bands, and put out two records and then just play them live together, but currently I like that I’m the ass of a band, I like that I share with Sara. I don’t have any dreams of being the only one there. I mean sometimes when I’m in the middle of a really funny story and Sara is interrupting me then I definitely want to be a solo act, like ‘No! That’s my story!’, but mostly I’m just really glad that she’s on stage and I can look over, I love her music and I’m glad that we chose this path. So I don’t think a solo record is in my future but maybe there will be, I dunno.

Crystal: You know, I just watched ‘It’s Not Fun, Don’t Do It’ for the first time – any plans to follow up with another DVD?
Tegan: You know, probably. We definitely do a lot of video work, we spend a lot of time making videos and blogs and video blogs and music videos. At the end of The Con we were going to tape a live show and put up all of the music videos, but then we decided against it, but there will be a time when that will seem interesting again. I mean with YouTube and Flickr et cetera, it’s hard because people want things that are immediate and everybody wants to be their own videographer and photographer now and so we’re trying to find other outlets, which is why we made the books because we thought it might be nice for our fans to have something tangible. But eventually we’ll have to put out another DVD, we have so many videos and things — but if we put records and DVDs and books out then I just feel like we’re taking it too far.

[We’re both laughing, but laughter quickly turns to panic when Tegan can’t hear me anymore. We both start shouting ‘omg are you there?’ and ‘can you hear me?’ at each other down the phone line and then everything is okay again.]


Crystal: I’m sure your fans wouldn’t mind if you released all of those things, they seem to live and breathe everything Tegan & Sara. Which artists do you respond to in that same way?
Tegan: I love Bruce Springsteen, I have my whole life, and so musically I live and breathe Bruce Springsteen. But I don’t know, I just got the new Spinnerette record and I have an obsession with The Gossip, there’s a lot of bands right now with girls in them that I really like which is exciting because there has been periods of time where it’s easy to think no girls are putting records out, and I know that’s not true, it’s just because no-one is writing about it or putting any support behind it. But it feels like there are a lot of cool bands right now that have girls in them that people are really into and that feels really cool.

Crystal: Speaking of women in music, which ones inspire you?
Tegan: I mean like, pathetically, it’s funny we were at the airport the other day and saw The Gossip, and Sara sprinted over and was all, ‘Hi! I’m Sara from Tegan & Sara” and they were all, “Oh hi!” and I thought, she’s so brave, I couldn’t get up and go over, I was too nervous. But I love The Gossip, I think they’re a great band and the new record is amazing, all of their records have been awesome. You know one of our first tours was with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, there are some great classic artists that are still making great music. I saw Cat Power a few years ago and it was just so amazing and beautiful. There are just so many cool acts, so many young people coming up and so many bands and I can’t even begin listing them all…

[I get the one-minute warning]

Crystal: The Autostraddle team and interns have some questions, do you mind?
Tegan: Not at all!

Crystal: Intern Emily wants to know what your favourite song of Sara’s is.
Tegan: Yeah, great. My favourite song of Sara’s would be… oh god, I mean it’s impossible for me to actually answer this… but I will say that recently I’ve been listening to So Jealous and I love ‘Downtown’, I think it’s a really cool song and it’s a really beautiful song. So, ‘Downtown’.

Crystal: Riese wants to know who your first crush was.
Tegan: My first crush was on Christina Simpson [possibly Sampson], and I was four years old.

Crystal: Intern Elizabeth would like to know: of the songs that were done on both Under Feet Like Ours and This Business of Art, do you prefer one version to the other for any reason, particularly Come On and More For Me?
Tegan: I really like the Business of Art versions of those songs, which is why we re-recorded them. [laughs]

Crystal: And Intern Laura would like to know: in retrospect, what is the worst haircut you’ve had?
Tegan: The worst what now?
Hairstyle! Worst hairstyle!
Tegan: Oh God… anything pre-2004, that was pretty bad. [laughs]
Crystal: And so what is the best one?
Tegan: Basically anything that wasn’t extreme and didn’t date me. Like right now I am currently sporting what is hopefully not going to be an embarrassing hairstyle. But there have been some very short haircuts that have not been very flattering, and then some longer cuts with exceptionally short bangs that have been a little weird as well. But I think everyone goes through that and so I don’t want to make anyone feel bad [laughs] … so, if you have that haircut…
Crystal: [laughs] I do not personally have that haircut, no, but I’ll make sure I put that disclaimer out there for you.
Tegan: [laughs] Okay.

Crystal: Maybe we should wrap this up on bad hairstyles. Thank you so much for your time.
Tegan: Oh God no, thank you so much for your time.

NEXT: “Fans will come up to us and be like, “I wish you still were acoustic!” and I’m always like, “Yeah, but if you’ve been listening to us for ten years, you might be over it” you know? The reason why you’re still here and loving that acoustic record is because we don’t have five other acoustic records of ours to compete with it.”

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  1. Is this real life??
    Cannot handle how awesome those two interviews were! great job guys, keep it up!

  2. I’m really looking forward to this setlist in 3 parts concept next Sat in NYC. Man, it’s really one-stop shopping for all your Tegan & Sara needs ’round these parts lately. Me likey!

  3. These interviews are so awesome. You are so awesome. Epic, really.

    Also, my heart and my soul both smile huge smiles anytime Tegan or Sara talk about Bruce Springsteen.

  4. great interviews!
    oh autostraddle, you guys give me just about everything i could ever want.
    i cannot fucking wait for nyc.

  5. “So I think that Sainthood the songs and Sainthood the lyrics and Sainthood the experience…” ARE AMAZING!

  6. This is really exciting! ahhh, I need to figure out a way to get to a show this tour.

    also my straight boy roommate has heard me talk about t&s so much these past few days he might just punch me in the face soon

  7. Oh god. This made me really happy. And I’m supposed to be freaking out right now because I have a practical exam in and hour and I almost left my labcoat and sexy safety glasses at home and what does that say about where my head is right now?
    TWO interviews! Autostraddle spoils it’s readers! Australia in may! Yayyy.

  8. autostraddle.com = tegan and sara.com these past few days :D !!
    loved the interviews AND the track-by-track review of the album!!

  9. I love this! So much! I’m kind of disappointed that Tegan doesn’t like eggs, but other than that, so great. Crystal & Katrina, you guys rock, as per ushe.

  10. Dear Tegan,
    Crystal ‘forgot’ to include my marriage proposal to you. I don’t need/want to be your everywhere/all-the-time wife, just your Chicago wife. Think about it… ;)
    -Intern Elizabeth
    ps- I prefer the UFLO version of Come On. Just saying.

    • That would be very cool. Now that you’ve thrown it out there, maybe she will one day google herself and see this comment and fill in the gap.

  11. I feel like I’m being sucked into a Tegan and Sara vortex, and every time I read a new Autostraddle feature about them, I like them even more. Crystal and Katrina: (High Fives)

  12. I read this while sitting in the quiet, scholarly land of the Barnard library. I laughed audibly multiple times and have a very large smile on my face. I must look absolutely ridiculous. But I don’t care because this was amazing and everyone needs to read it over and over and over again!

  13. I feel like there is a possibility that I’m the only person on the face of the earth who hasn’t heard the new songs. I probably need to get on that.

    • I HAVEN’T HEARD THEM EITHER! except for hell.

      i feel like i’m living under a rock, but i’m just living in the library.

  14. she’s spot-on about why we’re invested in them personally as well as musically. I can’t think of any other bands that are so chatty and personable! and gay.

  15. I love how Tegan enjoys Autostraddle so much she gave you two interviews! And they were both GREAT!

    • Also, I can’t wait for “An Evening with Tegan and Sara” in Halifax. My heart *might* explode.

  16. wow great job guys, not only the scoop but a double scoop! tegan and sara takeover spinner AND autostraddle.
    plus, ‘give my regards to your mother’ ohhh man :D

  17. I’ll be at the Stockholm show! I just wanted to say that the Autostraddle team is made of rock stars and that the “But you can also answer how you like them at night” part of the question killed me


  18. This made my day. Tegan and autostraddle are frikkin amazing. Only thing left to do is decide whether I want to go to the D.C. or Richmond show… Does anyone in the area know which venue is better? Not that it really matters, cause, hello it’s the Tegan and Sara Experience I’m going for.

    • The Warner Theater’s alright, but its no 9:30 club. Then again I’ve only ever seen plays there… I’d go with DC because Richmond is in VA, and that’s like 20 “con” points in Tasha and Alice’s pros and cons list.

  19. This tegan interview double whammy has just saved my head from exploding in the middle of doing statistical analysis and now all is right with the world again. Ace interviews, espesh the news about how their going to organise the setlist. Actually couldnt believe my eyes when i saw this; dont know if autostraddle could get any more awesome!

  20. I would like to lead us in prayer.
    Oh thank you, wise, benevolent, flannel bedecked and asymmetrically-coiffed Goddess of Dykedom. We are not worthy of this cornucopia of all things Tegan and Sara. We give our thanks, for your fast hands were clearly guiding the Autostraddle staff towards this feat of journalism. On the eve of October 27th, we will sacrifice a neocon asshat commenter above a pyre of Season 6 DVDs in your honor.

  21. Awesome interviews Crystal and Katrina! So does this mean that you two have Tegan’s number on speed dial now?

  22. You know how I know this is such an awesome article/interviews??? Because I really have no opinion on Tegan or Sara (don’t hurt me) and I laughed so many times in this article and read the whole thing and loved it all and it made me soo happy and smile … So proud

  23. I greatly enjoy that Tegan is digging on Gaslight Anthem, because I saw them last week in Manhattan and during one of their songs, “Old White Lincoln, there was a shout out to Nineteen. It made me very happy.

  24. Everything about this just makes me so happy! Tegan is so cute! She was in the car with her mom! She has never actually had a bad haircut in her life, I don’t think, but was willing to pretend that she has to make us feel better! Let’s all hug!

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  29. hey.. did anyone see the manchester show of 2009 (on youtube or something) sara said her first crush was on christina sampson/simpson :D (it’s a funny story http://bit.ly/76BAc)
    i just wondered if tegan had a crush on the same girl ..
    great interview.. i’m really jealous :D

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