Interview: Tegan and Sara

Gabriel Duckels

Tegan and Sara - Heart Throb

Following Tegan and Sara’s album launch (you can read the review of that here) and about a dozen pleading emails, Vada got the chance to interview half of Tegan and Sara last week. We talked about Heartthrob, queer kids, gays in the mainstream and the ‘writing process.’ So basically I spent Thursday afternoon waiting for the phone to ring and praying my signal wouldn’t break halfway through the call.


Vada: Hiya Tegan. How are you?

Tegan: Hi there, I’m doing great, thanks, you?

I’m alright. Congrats for your new album Heartthrob doing so well already.

Number 3 in the USA and Number 2 in Canada! Our highest debut in both countries. It’s always been really important to us not to focus too much on sales and awards but it definitely feels like an achievement.

Is this your Big Pop Breakthrough album? Everyone’s saying you’ve “gone pop” but you always seemed pretty pop to me.

I’d be rewriting history if I said I thought Heartthrob was a departure or a move towards synth. Sara and I have always been a menagerie. We’ve always reflected the different interests we’ve had in music – folk to pop to rock to punk music. Dipping our toes five years ago into the dance market with Tiesto and David Guetta, we realised that the support from our audience was going to stay strong as long as what we were creating was heartfelt and organic

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How intense does the writing process get as twin sisters? Your songs are very, you know, personal.

We both write separately. Most of our collaboration happens in the studio but on almost every track of mine on the record, Sara ended up collaborating with me in a more substantial way than we’ve ever had. This record more than any record is more Tegan and Sara than usual. In the past, it’s been very solitary – as you point out, they’re very personal songs. There’s an attempt to collaborate but there’s a need to keep the song intimate and the voice singular.

When you were first making a name for yourself ten years ago, did you worry you’d come across as a novelty act? Lesbian identical twin sisters singing sad songs?

Sure! Oh my God, I was worried that us being twins would overshadow our music. Then in the mid-2000s when people became a lot more comfortable talking about being gay, all anybody wanted to talk about was us being gay. I was like, now the fact that we’re gay is going to overshadow the music. And now everyone wants to talk about the new sound of the record, and I’m like, oh no now this is going to overshadow the songs.

Do you consider your queer fanbase in your creative decisions? It was kind of heart-warming seeing all the young teenage queer kids hyperventilating when you came on stage at the album launch.

The thing that brings me the most pleasure with our queer audience is knowing that they have us to look up to or at least relate to. It’s kind of why Sara and I wanted to expand our audience and diversify, and also hopefully try to create more of a presence in the mainstream. I want to make our queer audience more comfortable in their life; the more people accept us as queers in the mainstream, the more they accept our queer fans in their lives.

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But I try not to think too much about their voice when I’m writing. I don’t want it to feel premeditated. I don’t want our audience to feel we’re manipulating them into liking us.

It definitely seems a lot more of a friendly climate to be a gay pop star in 2013 than 2002.

I mean, it’s insane. When I was 22, ten years ago, we had just started to see a lot of movement to accept gay people in the mainstream. It sounds cheesy to say. Ellen DeGeneres got a TV show right around then and Rosie O’Donnell had just come out. But we’re talking about a handful of people representing a massive population of people and we really had no one to represent us. But now, look at the biggest and most popular TV shows like Glee. Multiple gay storylines, girls and boys.

The world has changed so dramatically and it’s exciting. Sara and I are very aware of who we are and our gay audience and of course want to represent them. But mainly I just want to be myself. My hope is that if people are ignorant, often it’s lack of knowledge and lack of experience. If they can love our music then their love for us and our music will help them transcend their ignorance and make them more tolerant, open and loving.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Are you sick of phone interviews yet?

You know what, I’m lucky because we have today and tomorrow for press and then a few days off, so I’m not sick of it. I’ll probably be sick of it by tomorrow at 5 o’clock.

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When are you back in the UK?

We’re going to come back in June. We’re going to announce dates soon. It’s gonna be great.

About Gabriel Duckels

Gabriel Duckels is a writer who lives in South East London. Follow Gabriel on Twitter: @iamgabriel