Q&A with Tegan (no Sara)
Tue, Feb 23, 2010 (7 p.m.)
Photo: Frijole Boy
The Weekly chatted with Tegan Quin of indie rock duo Tegan and Sara before their March 2 performance at House of Blues.
Tegan and Sara have been doing music for 12 years now. How have things changed?
I could probably write a book on how it has changed. We graduated in high school in 1998, started touring that summer. Back then people still sold records, there was no wireless Internet and cell phones were far and few between. ... Back in those days the business was really different. It was really much more person to person. Our objectives were different. I used to think in terms of sales — I want to sell a hundred thousand records; I want a record to go gold in Canada — and so quickly that all changed. We were sort of just on the cusp. We’d just sort of started before all that really started to impact the industry.
- Tegan & Sara
- with Steel Train and Holly Miranda
- March 2, 7 p.m., $31-$34.
- House of Blues
How has that affected you personally?
I feel like my perspective has changed a lot. I’ve become really comfortable with the idea that I make music for myself, and I’m just really lucky that I get to share it with thousands and thousands of people every month. We’ve become a classic kind of live band. We love to tour, and the things we’re incentivized to be a part of or sell are things like concert tickets or merchandise. The record itself is sort of a vehicle, one mode of transportation to get to Tegan & Sara. I think a lot of people get to us in a lot of different ways.
Your site, TeganandSara.com is pretty active. What are your thoughts on all the social networking sites out there?
There are just so many networking sites. Every day it’s, well, what about Google Wave and what about this or that? How about we just push all our traffic back to TeganandSara.com? I think that actually works for us. We have some pretty crazy, awesome traffic — lots of unique visitors and people coming back regularly, because if you want to know something directly about the band, you go there. It’s what we call the hub.
That must keep things simple.
You always hear from celebrities who are like, “We are not really on Facebook!” There are people masquerading as certain celebrities, though I don’t think that happens much with us. I did hear recently, though, we were in Toronto. Our friend said, “I’ve been trying to get added to your LiveJournal account. I want to be friends!” I’m, like, “What the hell is LiveJournal?” She goes, “It’s you! It says it’s the real Tegan” (Laughs) Why would I be on LiveJournal? No offense to anyone on LiveJournal.
What should people expect Tuesday at your live show?
I think there’s an element of storytelling to our show that goes beyond music. We try to give history and depth to everything that we do. As much as people attach their own feelings and memories to music, when we’re on stage we like to share our own. There’s an element of storytelling and humor to the show, as well. Sometimes we joke that we think we’re a comedy act and we just happen to do songs in between.
What the process of putting together a setlist like for you? You have six albums to draw from now.
The setlist planning is tense. We start getting really worried about what people want. We obviously want to play a lot of new material because that’s the stuff that’s most relevant to us ... and you want to show the evolution of your band. But we write really short records and really short songs, so we fit in a lot. Currently, we’re playing 27 songs live. So, we’re playing the whole new record, a third of the last, a third of the record before that. We’re really able to mix it up.
I’d imagine people request the same songs all the time.
(Laughs) I was laughing so hard last night with a friend about how after song number two last night somebody was yelling for this song “Living Room,” which is like a fan favorite. We play it at every show. We have for 10 years. We’ll never not play it. Of course we’re going to play it. You don’t have to spend the whole concert screaming for it.
Any strange requests?
Sometimes people ask for songs we wrote when we were 17 on demo tapes. We’re never going to play it. It’s so tragic. It gets chatted about a lot backstage.
Is it awkward to revisit songs you wrote when you were only a teenager?
It’s like opening up a photo album and looking at yourself 10 years ago. Most of the pictures you just cringe over — “What was I thinking? Why is my hair like that? What is that outfit?” Then there’ll be one article of clothing that makes you say, “I shouldn’t have thrown that away.” Music is like that. Sometimes I look at our back catalog and I’m, like, “Ugh.” Then I’ll find gems, like “My Number,” where I realize,
“Wow, actually this is a great song. I just need to update it.”
How’d you update that song?
We haven’t really retooled it in any exact way; we just got rid of the band. Sara and I are just playing it acoustically. We’re calling our encore “1998” because it’s just Sara and I playing acoustically. People are kind of losing their minds over it.
Do you feel your homosexuality is ever a barrier for potential fans?
More tangible for me is that, as a woman in rock music, we’re excluded. It’s probably unlikely that we’ll ever get support from the KROQs of the world. It’s an anomaly when it does happen. I think we face more sexism than homophobia. I feel like maybe people are less shy about saying, “I don’t get this. This is chick rock,” whereas if someone was homophobic they would have it more. But times are changing. We see much more support from alternative-rock stations. Our audience is changing a lot. We have a lot more men. I love that. I love that it’s changing. I love that people are more open-minded.
Are there any other ways your audiences are changing — maybe getting younger or older?
We’re definitely keeping the majority of our base from record to record, but I think we’re seeing a lot more people our age or older because we’re getting older. When we were 19 there was resistance from older people to attach, because they’ll say, “I’m not listening to those kids.” Now that we’re almost 30, that’s changed. I feel like we’re able to pull from an older demographic, which is really cool because they get all of our jokes.
What about the youngsters?
Young people are awesome because they’re the ones that talk about music, go online, go on LiveJournal — whatever the hell that is — and Twitter. They’re the ground troops, the street team still. They’re the ones who go out to concerts, get on mailing lists, buy T-shirts, stand in line and scream. I love those people in our audience. Also, obviously, being gay, when I see queer youth in our audience, I feel so happy. I didn’t really have anyone when I was a teenager, so I looked up to the riot grrl movement or the Pacific Northwest music scene, but it was really different.