ACL Interviews: Tegan & Sara
ATH caught up with Tegan & Sara at ACL Festival, and we had the good fortune of asking Sara a few questions about the band. We discuss things like why she hasn’t killed her sister yet, the current state of music in Canada, and a whole slew of other things. Full interview after the jump.
ATH: Has living in different cities contributed or detracted from your song writing as a duo?
S: We’ve never written songs together so I think, the only effect it’s really had is that I’m sort of forced to travel back out west because that’s where the band, management and everybody else is based. It really only makes it a bit tricky when we’re doing band related things. We do all our song writing independently so once I’ve got a song recorded, demoed, or that sort of thing, I’ll usually just send it to her [Tegan]. So it really hasn’t had any effect. Which is a good thing because I love living here and would hate to live in Vancouver. Montreal is about 2500 miles from Vancouver and I love living here.
ATH: The last time you guys played ACL you had a full band, which I’m assuming you’ll do again. Do you ever prefer to do shows with just the two of you?
S: Yes we will. We haven’t done any duo shows in about seven years. I liked it when we did it, but I like having other musicians on stage. We’ll sometimes use a 3 piece or a four piece with just another bass and guitar player, but I think since the album is done as a band record, fans want to hear them live as a band. We try to do that as much as possible.
ATH: We know you’ve toured all over the world with a ton of bands. What’s the worst band to play with in maybe…. Japan?
S: Ya know, the only band we ever played with in Japan was The All American Rejects and they were super sweet guys. I can’t really give you any gossip. Most of the people we tour with are always very sweet.
ATH: Do you have any special places you like to go to in Austin or are you just blowing through?
S: We’ve really only played Austin a few other times that haven’t been a part of SXSW. Usually when we come in by ourselves, it’s pretty much just in and out. I do love the vibe of SXSW with so many bands, people and just crazy stuff going on. You guys of course have good BBQ. I do like Austin, it’s very cool.
ATH: Your newest album took the pop sensibilities of So Jealous and added an edge. Is that a direction you see yourself going in?
S: Musically, our albums are really influenced by what we’re listening to and who we’re working with. For So Jealous and the record before that, we had worked with producers that did things with poppy sort of punk bands like The New Pornographers, The Evaporators and The Smugglers and that influenced the way those records sounded. Sonically, or in terms of arrangements for those albums, we were more focused on making a pop album or an indie pop album. When we started making The Con, we sent all the demos to Chris Walla and he said it was really dark and suggested we do what comes naturally to us. He said if this is going to be more of a dark album, then let’s really embellish that and accentuate those parts. I think it was more natural this time to go with what we were writing instead of trying to make it sound like something. Maybe we’re sad, but who knows
ATH: What is it like working with guys like Matt Sharp and Chris Walla who are so well known in the music world?
S: What’s cool about working with guys like that, and they are our friends, is that you are working with a sort of style. So instead of them trying to influence us, you are working with their specific style. Like Matt will always play bass how Matt plays bass and when he came to play on the record, he wasn’t completely comfortable right away because the song arrangements were different from his style. It’s really cool though because they’re doing what they do on top of you, so it really is a true collaborative effort. It’s not like hiring a session guy who just mimics what you’re doing. Those guys are so stylistically themselves and pure, they don’t try to adjust anything, they just do what they do. It can sometimes be more challenging to work with people like that because it’s not as easy for them to transition into what the song is, but I also like the style it brings to the song.
ATH: Canada seems to have a lot of indie bands right now like Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, New Pornographers and all those kind of bands. Do you have any favorites?
S: Well, I love all those bands. I think my favorite Canadian indie rock band would be The New Pornographers. I love The New Pornographers, The Weakerthans, Stars, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, and Death From Above. Canada has so many bands at this point that I don’t necessarily have favorites. It really is a strong music scene and I’m super happy about it.
ATH: Do you guys have some support amongst the Canadian bands?
S: There’s not like an indie rock water cool, but everyone is always very friendly when you see each other, especially internationally. We run into bands in Germany or Japan and it’s fun to see each other and know we’re from the same place. Honestly, Tegan and I have always operated in a separate sort of world and we never really thought we were coming up in a scene. We don’t really tour with a bunch of other bands, so I think our scene is much more scattered and not exactly a Canadian one. We really do dig a lot of those bands though and they are a huge part of the scene in Canada.
ATH: You guys are involved in a lot side projects. What are you working on now outside of the band?
S: I’m not working on anything musically but I am sort of involved with a band right now called An Horse out of Australia. We had done some touring with them and now I’m kind of doing A&R for them. I’m working with the label and I’ve taken on sort of a creative/business role with them and that’s been really fun. It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever done before. I’m on the outside looking in just as an ideas person who bounces suggestions off them. It’s been really fun working with them on building infrastructure overseas here and trying something new. That’s what I’ve been working on lately
ATH: Being sisters, do you and Tegan ever not get along and “mix it up” or fight?
S: We’ve been playing music now for 13 years, touring in a band for ten, and what helps us keep it together and not punch each other is a really good boundary system. We do spend a lot of time apart and don’t write together which normally causes a lot of friction in bands. It’s complicated being in a band or any sort of business where you have two people in charge. It’s not like we have one person to dictate things and take charge or a third person to sway the vote. It’s a compromise, which can sometimes promote fights or arguments because somebody always feels like they’re losing and you have to back down. If anything, being in a band for ten years, we’ve been quite successful at it. We do fight, but not much compared to most bands and we’ve lasted a lot longer than a lot of people. I think we’re pretty good at it.
ATH: In this election, who wins?
S: For all of you, I really hope it’s Barack Obama. If it’s not, you’re all fucked.
Thanks again to the lovely Sara Quin for giving us the time for an interview. Not sure when Tegan and Sara will make back into town, but let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later. You shoulda seen em during ACL anyway.