After seeing Tegan and Sara the first time at The Mod Club here in Toronto I was immediately inclined to investigate further. They have lyrical clarity, pure sounding voices and catchy phrased music. The two twin sisters from Alberta have a unique sound that slips from mainstream rock to folk. Their start began at 15 and by 17 they won "Garage Warz" battle of the bands (1998 in Calgary) not long after performing in Lilith Fair. With show and publication coverage in places such as CBC, Umbrella Music and Conan O'Brien these ladies are reaping the benefits of obvious talent. Their popularity is rapidly growing. Being Canadian I am proud to have these girls who write and perform their own music a fine representation of what we really have to offer. Sara had a chance to speak with me, this is what she had to say.
What were your initial influences when you first started and how have they carried through to your current style of music?
Bands like the Violent Femmes, the Pretenders, the Cars and artists like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young were very inspiring. Partly because they influenced us when we were young and impressionable. I always feel a deep respect for people who can blow people away on stage with a band or with an acoustic guitar. If you can take a song and strip it right down to its core and it can still move people then you've really written something that will last over time. Also, the soundtrack for "The Phantom of the Paradise" [by Brian Di Palma] a 70's cult film that music was written by Paul Williams, really shaped my style of melody.
How has music shaped your life?
Since I was a kid music has been EVERYTHING to me. I used to plan vacations where I could shop at indie record stores. My walls were covered in posters of my favorite bands. I had subscriptions to Rolling Stone and Spin. My Mom would drop Tegan and I off at gigs when we were in Jr. High and we would use our allowance to buy demo tapes of local punk bands. I lip synced in front of the mirror when I was little.
What big questions are you asking yourself?
How can I do this for the rest of my life? How can I buy a house? Will I be a good gardener? Will I be a good mom? Am I a good friend? Is this the best I will ever feel? Will people remember us in 100 years? Will our music make progress? Will I ever be able to do guitar leads like Jimmy Page.
What matters the most to you in life?
What was the worst/best experience you have had in your musical career?
This year has been amazing. Making music that you love and having people listen to it, and travel around the world performing is an amazing privilege. Worst experience was having a sinus infection and sleeping in a greyhound station on a Canadian tour in February 2000.
Can you give an example of when you really succeeded/failed as a musician?
I felt successful when I bought a refrigerator [a couple months ago]. My first appliance. People told me playing music wasn't a "real" job. Who's laughing now!!??? I bought my own fridge!!! I'm a real adult!
What were you doing before you started your career?
Going to school, making doughnuts, and playing drums.
How is it being sisters and being on tour?
Sometimes I think its best for us. It's isolating for others. It's how we survive. We really let each other have it. The project is our first priority.
Your personal favourite musicians? Who do you admire?
Joanna Newsom, Antony and the Johnsons, Bruce Springsteen, Kathleen Hannah, John Collins, David Carswell, and Matt Sharp.
What is involved in your song writing process? How does it start? Who is the initiator?
I write separately from Tegan. I sit on my bed, I take all of my recording equipment and I start recording guitar parts, looping hooks, singing vocal melodies, harmonies, stick clicks etc. then I eat food, and run back to my bed to listen to the song, I write lyrics, I go to bed. Over the next month I will change things slightly, then send mp3's to Tegan and she will send feedback. Inspiration is everywhere!
What do you think about and do you think illegal downloading hurts the record industry?
The record industry is different these days. We know that our sales are impacted by downloading, but the Internet has also helped us so much that you have to consider the pros and cons. I don't like the idea that my music is easily available to "steal", however, having people hear our music is the goal of our project! I hope that people respect how much work goes into making music, and come out to see our shows. That's where we really make our living. See our live show!
Do you remember the first cd/vinyl you purchased?
I had records since I was a little kid. But the first record I bought with my money was in grade eight. I bought REM's Automatic for the People.
What is an average week on the road like for you?
We play almost every day and if there is a day off it's because we are driving. We sleep on the bus, we get up in the morning and shower, then we eat, then we load into the club, we set up our stage and our merchandise area, we eat, we do press or in-stores, we sound check, we hang out with friends or fans, we write our set list, we play the show, we strike our gear, tear down our stage, pack it up, load the trailer, eat, go to bed, sleep. Every day, seven days a week!
If you were given a week to live what would you do?
That question makes me sad. I have no idea. Lie in bed.
What is the most important lesson along this path that might not have learned if you taken another?
I think that if you are living your life doing something that is challenging, and rewarding, and makes you happy, and you are doing it in a way that impacts people in a positive way you will learn so many lessons about life, you could write a book.
How have you friendships changed since falling into your musical path?
My friends from when I was a teenager, before I could play guitar, when I was a big geek, are still the strongest friendships I have. Our friends and family love us and tell us how proud they are of us all the time. And we are so proud of them. We have an amazing support group.
Is there a certain type of music that because of someone changed your opinion for the better/worse?
I think that discovering "indie rock" in the mid 90's changed my life. For the better.
What sounds do you love? What sound do you hate?
I love the sound of records in headphones. I hate the sound of American news stations in hotel fitness rooms.
What kind of thing frustrates you as a musician?
Sexism, homophobia, interference from airplanes in your guitar amp.
Do you believe musicians should get involved in politics?
I think that everyone should get involved in politics. This is our world and we can make change.
The best advice is checking them out for yourself. Their latest album "So Jealous" and their website are great places to start: www.teganandsara.com.
Writer: Penny Hayward