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7th February 2017

Interview: Tegan and Sara

Cassie Hyde talks to Sara of Tegan and Sara about their latest album, what it’s like being in a band with your twin sister, and their efforts to provide help and representation for LGBTQ women

Having released their eighth album, Love You To Death, last year, Tegan and Sara have been working as performers together since 1997. When I asked Sara Quin was it like being in a band for 20 years, she laughs: “Well, you know, it’s strange because we’ve actually crossed an interesting threshold in the last year or two, where we’ve actually been in the band longer than we have not been in the band. I don’t actually know what else to say except that. It’s sort of hard to untangle all of it. … I think because the band is us and is both personal and professional, it probably takes up more time than other people’s jobs and other people’s bands because we are forced to think about it any time we’re together.”

So, since she wasn’t here, what’s Tegan like to work with? “As we’ve gotten further into our career, it’s really collaborating with other people that has allowed me to be more aware of how me and Tegan collaborate. Before, it was something very intuitive, it just sort of happened naturally, but as I branch out and Tegan branches out and works independent of me, I find myself thinking ‘Oh! These are the skills and approaches I bring to the band…’ There’s something very impulsive about her, she’s a very straightforward writer. She sort of uses her feelings, whilst I use my head a lot more.”

The new album, Love You To Death, is produced by Greg Kurstin, who’s previously worked with Adele, Katy Perry, Ellie Goulding and Sia, to name a few. When asked what he was like to work with, Sara said: “For us, there was no question that he was going to be a powerhouse and bring a lot to the table as a producer, but I think what we immediately connected to was his personality. He’s very strange, he’s really funny and he’s very hands on. In our experience, it’s just the three of us, so there aren’t a bunch of people around. It’s a very insular experience, it really appeals to us. I think, because he has this really strange sense of humour, he can take himself seriously, but can also laugh at the spectacle of it all and how crazy this industry is. So we really get along, I adore him! I think he’s wonderful!”

So what did they bring to the table on the new album? What were their influences going in? “We both listen to a lot of stuff and I think that’s a deliberate choice, partly because a lot of our instincts as writers and even subconscious choices that come out in our music, they sort of come from the early music we listened to. I think marrying that with what is happening currently is a good thing. I don’t like the idea of being an electro band, I read a lot in the press people referencing that it’s very obvious that we have a very 80s, 90s influence, which is true and certainly is purposeful those sounds and those keyboards, I hope that people also hear how we are sort of re-framing it in a more modern context, and hopefully not just seeming like an a-ha cover band or something,” she laughs, “I want people to see that we’re actually trying to think of a new way to hear that music.”

Tegan and Sara have also made a music video for every song on Love You To Death. Sara told us, “the idea of doing a video for every song on the record was born out of the experience that the record company provided an appropriate amount of music for our band size for what will like be one, maybe two videos, that would be representative of the singles. I think we just had an intuition that this wasn’t going to be one of those records where there wasn’t going to be one song that everyone focused on. So, we decided to take the budget for those two singles and spread it out over the 10 songs. I feel happy with it – it was a creative, collaborative process and we used it as an opportunity to work with people who wouldn’t usually be considered as video directors. For ‘White Knuckles’, we worked with a choreographer, with ‘100x’, we worked with an artist who also happens to have a very successful dog grooming business. We wanted to stretch to envelop different kinds of artists and creative thinkers and visual people, so it was really fun for us!”

On a more serious note, Tegan and Sara have been openly gay since the start of their career and have always put their activism at the forefront of their work. So, last December, they set up the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which “works for economic justice, health, and representation for LGBTQ girls and women”.

“As our career has developed, I think there has been an effort to be more strategic about how we are working and interfacing with other organisations. So, instead of being like, ‘Oh my God! This is very upsetting to us! Everyone pay attention!’, we started thinking about how be a part of, not just education or amplification of issues in the LGBT community, but purposely bring[ing] funding and money and research to parts of our community who are often under focused on. Right now, we see that as being lesbians and trans women, specifically women of colour.”

“We’re looking at launching actual programmes in the next 6-9 months. We’ve actually had a heavy education period, so we’ve been meeting with economists and professors, grassroots organisers in The United States and Canada, making sure that we are clear about our agenda and where our efforts would be most meaningful.”

Love You To Death is out now on Warner Brothers. Tegan and Sara are performing at The Albert Hall, Manchester on February 14th.

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