A Life Less Ordinary: Canadian indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara are proudly, unashamedly un-tabloid. They refer to themselves as “average,” in non-self-effacing terms, due to their proclivity to avoid the celebrity lifestyle (we know what they mean, but there’s nothing average about these amazing women).

When we think of Tegan and Sara, we think of their music. Who the twins are dating, hanging out with, wearing – nobody gives a shit and that’s to their immense credit.

“It’s hugely flattering,” says Sara Keirsten Quin. “It would be difficult to maintain a tabloid-esque career when you’re not. Some people are so naturally good at being a headline, and I don’t think Tegan and I have that.”

“It’s also choices,” adds Tegan Rain Quin. “I lived in L.A. for 12 years. Sara lived in New York for a handful of years and then L.A. for a handful of years. We said no to everything ‘red carpet.’ We were not that band. We’ve been lucky enough to make lifelong friends in this industry – musicians and actors – you don’t see them on our feed. We never used anything except music to sell ourselves. We curated this fence around us. No one really knows our private life, but you feel like you do. You don’t notice the absence of drama or celebrity. It’s meant at times that we’re really average. It doesn’t mean that someone couldn’t make drama if they wanted to. But as artists, we remained focused on our art.”

They surely do! Tegan and Sara have released 10 albums since 1999, starting with the Under Feet Like Ours debut and building up to the most recent full-lengther – last year’s Crybaby. 

“Our goal with Crybaby was just to make something we would want to listen to,” Tegan says. “We produced it alongside John Congleton, and it was like a combination of songs that we had written during the pandemic, and then once we got into the studio, we were really inspired and wrote some more songs. The fan response has been great. We were laughing, when we first started touring and we’d play songs like ‘Smoking Weed Alone’ and ‘Fucking Up What Matters,’ people were jumping up and down – not moshing but pushing a little bit. My mom was on tour with us and she was like, ‘There’s so many men in your audience all of a sudden.’ I have lots of theories about that, but ultimately people don’t seem bummed when we play new songs.”

A Life Less Ordinary

(Pamela Littky)

Crybaby may have been largely written during the pandemic, but it doesn’t sound like a ‘pandemic album’ at all. Not, at least, when it comes to the subject matter.

“Tegan and I are notoriously prolific,” says Sara. “We’re always working and always busy. We’re two very high-functioning people, so we’re only doing half as much work as people think we are. I do feel like the pandemic was a brutal stoppage of all of that work, but it allowed us to prioritize in a way that we wouldn’t have. I don’t think the music is about the pandemic, but it did provide this opportunity to reflect and also start thinking about the future in this uncluttered way. I was very acutely going through trying to start a family. I was reflecting on the years that we’d been out on the road and touring, and then this sudden pivot into thinking about something else really profound. It may not be the thing that people think of when they first hear the album or the songs, but I think there is this layer of the ‘calm before the storm’ feeling.”

The pandemic isn’t the biggest event to have occurred in Sara’s life in recent years; she became a parent for the first time last year and just a couple of weeks celebrated baby Sid’s first birthday.

“I keep thinking about how I have a lot of friends that had kids in 2020/21, and I definitely don’t envy them,” Sara says. “On the other hand, you really do turn inward. I’m sure it’s a survival mechanism, but when you have this new precious cargo in your life and you don’t want to injure it or drop it, the thought of having it during a quiet, isolated time – I wonder if that would have been easier. We had Sid right when Tegan and I were about to launch an album, a TV show, a book, touring again, so I know for myself it’s been quite a lot of juggling. Sid won’t remember any of it, but we’ll have stories to tell from his first year.”

Ahh yes, the TV show. High School came out last October, based on Tegan and Sara’s memoir of the same name. Shot in their hometown of Calgary, where it was set, the show has received almost universal praise.

“When we finished writing our memoir, we sent the manuscript to our friend Clea DuVall and she said that it could be developed into a TV show,” says Sara. “We had talked about it, internally certainly. The pandemic gave us a lot of time to work on it, so we started pitching the big networks during the early months of the pandemic. We were really shocked how quickly the deal came together and the writing happened. There was a taste for it. Here is a story about queer girls, queer musicians, queer Canadians, in an era that is interesting for the culture right now – the 1990s. So it was the right place, right time. It wasn’t a huge endeavor. We made it in Calgary, and are so delighted with the way the show came out.”

A show about queer teens going through high school in Canada, written by strong gay woman who were teens going through high school in Canada – this was always going to be an important show and so it proved to be. At the time of writing, it’s been just a couple of weeks since the end of Pride month, but for Tegan and Sara (and the LA Weekly), every month is Pride Month.

“Holy shit, am I ever glad I’m gay,” says Tegan. “But we also toured through Pride month, so every night felt like a Pride event. Sara and I are also fixated on the protest part, and there’s still so much to be done. We do a lot of fundraising for our Tegan and Sara Foundation. Vans have been an amazing partner of ours and they just agreed to pay for our entire LGBTQ summer camp program. Pride for us is about work. Create safe spaces. Be out there and be queer. Raise money for the foundation, and extend it into every place.”

You only have to look at states such as Florida and the swath of anti-LGBTQ+ laws that are being introduced under the heinous guise of being “anti-woke” to see that there’s a lot of work still to be done. It’s horribly frustrating to feel like we as a society are taking huge strides forward, only to be pulled backwards by backwoods bigots.

“I think we have an interesting perspective because we spend so much time traveling internationally,” Sara says. “So while the gains in Canada and the U.S. have been so important, the work that we do as a band and a foundation, we’re always aware of what is so out of reach for some people. I want to say that I’m shocked about the rollbacks of rights regarding trans kids right now, but I’m not. I think that also speaks to how important it is to stay engaged and to avoid apathy wherever possible. We really believe that our rights cannot be taken away in places like the US and Canada, and that’s just not true. It’s about staying vigilant and educated, and celebrating our wins when we can. Especially when we’re assimilating. We didn’t get the right to marriage by saying ‘Fuck you!’ We got them by saying, ‘We’re just like you, straight people, don’t be scared.’ Well, there’s a price that comes with assimilation. The more you don’t blend in, the more those people say that they’re uncomfortable and don’t want to fall in line with what you care about.”

On Monday, Aug. 14, Tegan and Sara play The Bellwether, a brand new venue in L.A. owned by the same people that run the Teragram Ballroom.

“We’ve been building a show that reflects every era of Tegan and Sara,” says Tegan. “It’s our Eras tour – watch out Taylor Swift. We’re playing music from all of our records. I mean, my dad cried! He’s the most proud he’s ever been of us. What more reason do you need? It’s a smaller venue, which feels really exciting. It’s been nice to reconnect with the audience.”

That same tour will keep Tegan and Sara on the road for the remainder of this year at least. Besides that, they’re working on a new book and, when the writer’s strike is resolved, hope to finish a second season of High School.

Two decades into their exceptional career, and these decidedly un-average women won’t slow down.

A Life Less Ordinary: Tegan and Sara play at 8 p.m. on Monday, August 14 at the Bellwether. The Crybaby album is out now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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