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?
Crystal: 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.”
Tegan: Hey Katrina!
Katrina: Hey Tegan, how’re you doing?
Tegan: Doing well, how are you doing?
Katrina: I’m doing alright! So what are you guys up to right now, where are you?
Tegan: Well, specifically right this minute, I’m in the car with my mom. We’re going over to her house for dinner, and in general, Sara and I just finished rehearsal in Vancouver, and we’re heading out on tour on Wednesday!
Katrina: How’s that, you guys excited?
Tegan: I’m actually very excited, yeah, everything sounds really good. The next few shows are going to be really awesome. Everyone’s really excited, and life’s good.
Katrina: So what’s the setlist on this tour look like? Are you going be pretty much playing ‘Sainthood’ straight through, or are you going to be mixing in some old stuff?
Tegan: We’re playing an even amount of new and old. We’re playing about 25 songs, and so I think everyone will be very happy. We will be playing our new record, but we’re doing it in three parts, so there’ll be lots of old stuff in between.
Katrina: What do you mean by you’re doing it in three parts? How’d you split that up, and where did the decision come from?
Tegan: Well we’re doing them in three parts because we decided we wanted to break it up a little rather than doing it all in one shot. We divided them up with what we thought was best for flow with the old songs, and we kept each section running chronologically, or in sequence, I should say, and we just thought that made sense because the record, I think, we’re still thinking of it as a sequenced piece, like one big entity. So, yeah, we’ll see how that goes. Sara left today, and said she wants to make changes so… it could be completely different. I guess we’ll find out soon.
Katrina: Okay, well good luck with that! So I notice you’re playing a lot of seated venues on this tour, what’s up with that?
Tegan: What’s up with that? What’s up with that is we also play a lot of standing room venues, but we sort of like this weird grey area between clubs and arenas, and it sort of means you have to play theatres along the way. I like theatres that have some sitting and some standing, but a lot of the theatres we’re playing are just sitting, which could be a bit of a vibe-killer, but we’re hoping to bring a high-enough energy show with lots of old, slow stuff and quiet songs too, so hopefully it’ll just be like ‘An Evening with Tegan and Sara.’
Katrina: [laughs] Are you going to be marketing your next tour as ‘An Evening with Tegan and Sara?’ because I think you’d make great sales.
Katrina: It could be like your next album!
Tegan: I actually thought that was pretty clever of myself, so I’m making note of it right now.
Katrina: Okay, so, even though you’re playing a lot of seated venues, am I still allowed to jump up and down to ‘Northshore?’ Is that okay?
Tegan: Oh my God, yeah totally! My hope is that people will stand up. I mean in a lot of theatres you can stand up and move forward and do what you want anyway, so you can do whatever you want.
Katrina: Okay, so if I get up and security tries to pull me back, I’m going to be like, “Hey, Tegan said. Tegan said it was okay.”
Tegan: Yeah, yeah, that’s good. Go for it.
Katrina: Alright, so, ‘Sainthood!’ You guys, of course, have talked about writing together a lot, but only one track that you worked on together made the album. Do you feel that, in writing together, you guys sort of fell into the same roles that you fell into with earlier albums, or do you feel like you’re falling into roles at all?
Tegan: Well, I felt it was really successful. We wrote a ton of songs together, just they all sort of went really well with each other, and not with some of the other stuff we had done. So if anything, we’ll definitely do it again, but maybe differently. There’s definitely a future for Tegan & Sara co-written songs. We’ll probably try some variations of it and see what happens. The fact that we were able to get so many songs, including the song that inspired the title of the record, makes us feel successful.
I definitely think that there’s an intimacy with our band; we tell stories that are real. It’s no act, it’s no schtick, and I love getting up there and telling stories.
Katrina: So basically fans don’t have to worry about you guys splitting up Outkast-style, like you guys are gonna stick together and give us more evenings with Tegan and Sara?
Tegan: Maybe one day we’ll release a double record, and it’ll all be Sara songs and Tegan songs, but I think that’s what makes our band so special, that we collaborate with each other, that we sang background on each others’ songs. I think that what the fans don’t know won’t hurt them. I mean most people thought we were writing together the whole time, and they were like, “Oh…you haven’t been writing together?” and we were like, “No!” So I think that we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing, you know?
Katrina: So I sort of noticed on this album, your sound manifests the darker ideas behind it, whereas with earlier albums, it sort of seemed like you were manifesting darker ideas with sort of a poppier sound. What allowed you to go there for this album?
Tegan: Well you know, Chris Walla from Death Cab played bass and Jason McGerr played drums, and we played as a band. We stayed in a room together for a month, and recorded as a band, and I think it just allowed the music to grow outside of even our own abilities. On past records, Sara and I demoed a lot of the bass and the drum ideas; we collaborated with each other, but not nearly as much as we did on this record. I’ll write a song, I’ll record it, and then I won’t play it until we get to the studio months and months later, and then drums and bass will get added, and we’ll be on the road, and it turns into a real song. And this time around, because we played as a real band in the studio, some of the songs really became rock songs. They really became our songs, and I’m really, really loving the record so far, but I think the more that you listen to it, the more you’re going to hear the real Tegan and Sara. It’s more like our live show, because we don’t really sing on each others’ songs on record, and we do on this record. I feel like it’s going to sound more like Tegan and Sara the more you hear it.
Katrina: Right, Tegan and Sara, like the band. Or the Tegan and Sara Experience, perhaps.
Tegan: Yeah! And I think that, ultimately, whether it’s a rock song, a pop song, or a dance song, it’s still Tegan and Sara. And I think that’s sort of the future of Tegan and Sara. It doesn’t really matter what instrument I’m holding in my hand, I am whatever I want to be. We really don’t limit ourselves. It really is just like a giant box of ideas, and we just allow our imaginations to run wild. I think that that’s ultimately what keeps Tegan and Sara interesting for us, and it will actually keep our fans happier. 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. So everyone has their favorite, or what they want to see, and I’d like to continue being better and be more than that and change it up, you know?
Katrina: Yeah, and your fans, they’re pretty into you. They seem to be not just invested in your music but they seem to be super invested in who you are. What do you think it is about you that sort of makes them do that?
Tegan: I think it’s a combination of how personal we’ve been—you know, like via stories and staying in touch with our audience, it’s proven that there’s a line that you don’t want to cross. Like I don’t want to give anyone my home phone number, or I don’t want to go out with the crowds after a show necessarily and hang out and have a beer. But I definitely think that there’s an intimacy with our band; we tell stories that are real. It’s no act, it’s no schtick, and I love getting up there and telling stories, and it’s basically really genuine, and I think that the audience really feels like it’s real, and that’s why they feel like we’re not just some random rock band.
Katrina: So I heard that on your last tour you had a couple of really enthusiastic fans, and you may have gotten a bra thrown on stage once or twice. Can we confirm this?
Tegan: We have gotten a few bras thrown on stage over the years.
Katrina: Does that mean you guys are rock stars now? Is that what that is?
[Phone cuts out, we are reconnected.]
Tegan: Hi, sorry my phone died!
Katrina: No bigs! I think I was just asking about bras right now.
Tegan: Oh, yeah, totally! Yeah, we get lots of fun things thrown at us. The bras make me feel weird, like if it’s a big bra, then is it like their way of saying we have big boobs? Or like, if it’s a small bra, did they throw their bra? It’s always weird. [laughs]
Katrina: So if you don’t mind if I could ask, who, Tegan Quin, would you throw your bra at? Like who is your really big thing right now?
Tegan: [laughs] Who would I throw my bra at? Right now, I’m kind of obsessed with Gaslight Anthem and this band Lightning Dust. So I’d probably throw my bra at them.
Katrina: Oh wow, are you going to see Gaslight Anthem on tour since it’s their last one?
Tegan: I’m not! I’m not going to be able to catch them, no. But I do love them, and I’m campaigning hard to try to get the tour, Tegan and Sara and Gaslight Anthem together.
Katrina: This is sort of a random question that may be more for Sara, but I’m just going to throw it at you anyway. Since you did move toward a more electronic sound, I’ve heard you guys weirdly compared to Santigold. Are you guys gonna be hanging out with her anytime soon?
Tegan: Um, I don’t think so, there’s no plan at this point. I’m actually not that familiar with her music, but when we were in Australia in January, she was playing at some of the same festivals we were but on different days, and I was so bummed out!
Katrina: I feel like I’m just throwing weird questions at you now. I have a friend who needs to know—I don’t know if she’s going to bring them to you or not—she would like to know how you like your eggs in the morning. But you can also answer how you like them at night.
Tegan: How we what now?
Katrina: Your eggs, how do you like them in the morning?
Tegan: How do I like my eggs, that’s so funny. I actually don’t eat eggs.
Katrina: Oh, okay…
Tegan: I’m just not like a morning/breakfast person. I don’t know why, but it’s been like that since I was a kid. And being on tour you mainly just get up at lunchtime, so I’m a lunchtime person.
Katrina: Okay, I’ll pass that information on.
Tegan: Yeah, pass that on.
Katrina: Alright, so finally, do you read Autostraddle.com at all?
Tegan: Yeah, of course! I absolutely have gone to the site before for sure. I will go immediately as soon as I get off the phone.
Katrina: Well, your face is going to be on there soon, so hopefully you’ll stop by! So thank you so much for your time!
Tegan: Oh my God, my pleasure. Sorry about the phone dying once again!
Katrina: No problem at all! Give my regards to your mother!
Tegan: I will, I’ll tell her you say hi!