Tegan and Sara

by Joanna Orland

I was given precisely 20 minutes to get inside the minds of Tegan and Sara. One of many up and coming bands from Canada, this duo of sisters is pretty, petite and very striking. You wouldn’t expect such strong opinions from such fragile looking girls, but they were not once afraid to speak their minds about the music industry and taking on Europe.

Born in Calgary, Alberta, the sisters started writing music about 7 years ago. Working individually in their separate bedrooms back home, these two sisters merged their music to great effect. They’ve carried on their separate work habits, now living at opposite ends of Canada – one of the biggest countries in the world.

The girls both lived in Vancouver for some time, with Tegan taking a strong liking to the city, but Sara began to develop homesickness. Tegan stayed on in Vancouver, while Sara packed up and headed east to the French city of Montreal. One of the appeals of Montreal was that everyone was speaking a foreign language. Even when touring Europe, Sara knows she could never live in London (probably because of the rain!), but has often had fantasies of living in places such as Madrid or Paris, where the language spoken is not English. Sara likes the romanticism of the foreign feel, but enjoys the comfort of her home country so find Montreal the perfect combination of both.

The girls have had a run of success lately, going on tour with The Killers and being treated very appreciatively by newly devoted fan Brandon Flowers. Other rumours include Guy Chambers being a big fan of theirs. Unfortunately in our meeting, no Robbie gossip was divulged, but it turns out that Guy might have had ulterior motives for being a fan…

They seem to have a habit of aligning themselves with successful musicians. A few years back they recorded an album with Canadian folk-rock god Hawksley Workman. They found that they all had the same work ethic, striving for perfection and professionalism in a ruthless industry. They respected and trusted each other so much that the girls actually let Hawksley mix their album without their watchful eyes and ears minding his process.

The sound of the music is a very important thing for Tegan and Sara. They co-produced their latest album and have always had input on the way their music sounds. All they needed was an engineer to press all the buttons.

They need this input and control in order to do things their way in an industry that wouldn’t accept them as they are otherwise. Everything must be on their own terms if they’re to succeed. They don’t want to be exploited by record contracts in an industry that’s sexist, elitist and homophobic. They want to make music and earn what is rightfully theirs – the respect of the industry and the adoration of the loyal fanbase they have developed over the years.

Tegan and Sara don’t believe that, as women, the record industry affords them the same grace as it does for men, so they make a point of staying very sober in order to stay on top of every tiny detail. One tour manager found the experience of their control-freakishness so stressful that he swore he would never tour with them again! They also find that sobriety allows them to form a connection with their audience that goes beyond intoxication. They would ‘feel embarrassed if our fan base saw us trashed and falling over things, barfing on ourselves.’

If there were one word to sum up Tegan and Sara, what do you think it would be? Tegan claims it’s ‘dysfunctional’, Sara claims it’s ‘Sara’, but after speaking with these sisters, I have to agree with the mention of ‘bipolar’. They may look alike, but the two girls are not so similar on the inside. One likes the west coast, the other the east. They bicker and they fight like any good pair of sisters does. In this bipolar band there is Tegan on the left, Sara on the right, and somehow they meet each other in the middle.

*Win a SIGNED copy of the new Tegan and Sara album So Jealous.
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