If we lived in a just world, eating chocolate would make you lose weight, Kerry Katona would actually be working in Iceland, and Tegan and Sara would have been bothering the charts for some time now, given their cutely curious love songs, jesting sisterly repartee, and inherent self-worth which ignores all the narrow-minded maligning that they’re just “Canadian Lesbian Twins.”
In the ten years they’ve been peddling their wares, the quipping Quins have gone from post-riot grrrl acoustic punksters, to synth sweethearts covered by The White Stripes, and all round Good Eggs – their fifth album, The Con, features echoing paeans to the gay marriage debate, alongside disquieted thunderstorm-loud electronic crashes, and a plucky way with words all registering on the Joanna Newsom side of the sound scale. We had a chat to Sara about cocks, crying and critics…this is why we love them:
They couldn’t give a flying banana about what chauvinistic critics think
“NME reviewed our record twice, the first time giving it a positive review, then a really shit one the second time round – they said we were “only a modicum edgier than Kelly Clarkson”. I didn’t realise publications do that! The thing that bothers me about it is that this guy obviously thinks we’re the lamest, most boring regurgitated easy listening music, whereas he probably just doesn’t like what he thinks he knows about us. For our last record, they said that it was good despite the fact we “don’t like cock”. We sent them a press release immediately after, telling them how much we really love cock, so that was completely inaccurate!”
They’re relentlessly giving to their fans, even though they don't always return the favour...
"We’ve already done over 120 shows on this album, been out for over 200 days and we’re exhausted. I love playing music, and if there were Workaholics Anonymous, I would be at the front of that room! Early on, Tegan and I realised, especially when we started to get a little older than our audience, that we were role models for some kids. They weren’t just coming to hear music, but to see us, and what they see in us is what I saw in people like Ani DiFranco and Kathleen Hanna - outspoken honesty, and vulnerability. Fans show up hours before shows so they can all hang out with each other - they’re a community, and I think that’s awesome. If we can give them more access to us than they’re used to getting from other bands and people, I think the only danger is that when you do want to withhold or disappear a little, there’s a guilt. But on the other hand, when they start shouting, "I love you!", "take your shirt off!" you think, well did you come here to see me pole dance, or to sing the songs from the five albums I've put out?! It’s not a bad problem, but I don’t show up at your job, and ask you to take your clothes off while filing those papers!"
They're savvy business women, signed to a major label, but still in complete creative control
"When we went over to Sire/Warner, people thought we’d compromise what we do. I know bands who have no control over anything, nothing at all – their album artwork, their ads – Tegan and I control EVERYTHING, every little detail that we can. In five albums, there’s not been one record company person who's asked to listen to a track before it gets released – people have always given us money no matter what. We set the guidelines, and we control everything! I would never be ok with being censored. For the White Stripes to record and release their cover of Walking With A Ghost, we had to give them permission, but they can do whatever they want! When they finished recording it, we were on tour, passing through Detroit, and Meg came down and gave us the song, hung out with us, and said, “we hope you like it!” Even if we had thought it was shit, we wouldn’t have cared, it’s like, “oh my god, the White Stripes are covering our music!” "
They're not jumping on the political bandwagon; they actually know their stuff
"It’s warped – the class divide, racism, millions of people who are illiterate and have no health care, who really struggle. It's really shocking, that tens of millions of people don’t have insurance and can just die, not being able to be helped. I don’t understand a government that just turns its back on its people. And if the Democrats get into power, maybe we’ll finally see civil unions be legalised in America. I don’t think that Canada was necessarily ready for gay marriage, but the liberal government was listening, and the Prime Minister at the time, Paul Martin, gave a very profound speech. He said, “there is a time, as leaders, where we have to say, this is what we’re doing, this is fair. And the population may not agree, but we have to, as leadership, progressively advance this forward.” I’m hoping that as a bare minimum, with a democratic government, they'll recognise the rights of people in same-sex relationships – people who’ve been in these relationships for decades, they die, and their partners aren’t entitled to severance packages, they get their children taken away from them, and it’s outrageous. It goes against everything that most of us as human beings stand for, so I’m hoping that they will, god willing, move forward on that."
Like a true 80s child, Sara's not afraid to cry at Madonna
"In my time off, I went and saw Madonna play, and I hadn’t been to an arena show in ten years – everything I listen to is indie rock, or hip-hop in smaller venues – but I went and saw Madonna, and I cried! I actually cried! Totally didn’t expect to! It was so loud, and so thrilling, when everyone cheered and she came out, I was overwhelmed. I don’t think I was crying in a sad way, but I had total sensory overload!"