An Introduction To… Tegan & Sara

"It’s a privilege to start all over again, in a way..."

It seems strange to pen an introduction to Tegan & Sara.

Identical twin sisters, the pair began making music at an early age. Recording their first demos while still at high school, Tegan & Sara released their debut album 'Under Feet Like Ours' back in 1999 to warm underground acclaim. Since then, the group have toured the world, released five increasingly successful studio albums and become breakthrough artists in the United States. 

In the UK, though, Tegan & Sara remain a relatively unknown quantity. An internet spat with a certain Stateside rapper caused headlines, while Jack White's interpretation of 'Walking With The Ghosts' brought their music to wider attention, but the Canadian duo remain unjustly on the sidelines.

Crossing the Atlantic for a support slot with The Killers, Tegan & Sara decided to release a quick catch up for newcomers. ‘In Your Head: An Introduction to Tegan and Sara’ is out now, with the duo re-recording four of their best known songs.

With that in mind, Clash spoke to Sara Keirsten Quin for a quick catch up.

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What spurred the new EP?
Well, we have a record coming out early next year and because we got this Killers tour and because we want to do a proper set up for the record. We’re sort of filling some time, and although we feel that we have a very strong fan base here in the UK in terms of media and radio and the public at large it’s like we’ve just been born. A lot of people don’t know who we are and maybe aren’t familiar with the project, so this was kind of a way to fill the few months in between now and when the record comes out and also to introduce or re-introduce our music to people who may or may not know us.

People are perhaps more aware of you via association rather than in your own right.
I think so, yeah. You know, it’s so funny because as a band when we first started out probably in most markets – like in the UK – we were identified as an underground of cult type band. We sort of had this very invested and excited audience and they sort of kept us afloat in terms of coming down to the shows and buying the albums and that sort of thing. In recent years our last two albums – in certain markets, like North America and Australia, New Zealand. We’ve really crossed over, we see a lot of radio play. I forget, too, that still in a lot of people’s minds we don’t exist. It’s fun – I actually feel quite inspired by the whole thing because at 32.. hundred years old we very well could’ve been washed up. So it’s a privilege to start all over again, in a way.

How did you choose which tracks to include?
Well, you know we sort of jokingly refer to the songs on the EP as ‘the hits’ – this of course we think is funny because of course none of them truly have been hits. We like to say that they’re sort of the fan classics, they’re the songs which get the biggest response when we perform live. They’re songs that maybe people would associate with other artists – ‘Walking With The Ghosts’ with Jack White, for example.

How did it feel to record these tracks all over again?
Y’know, I personally feel like the recording process would have been on the bottom of the list of things I enjoy but now it’s become probably one of my favourite things to do. It doesn’t matter if we’re recording covers or doing new stuff, I think that as an artist – as we’ve become more comfortable and at ease in the studio – it’s become a very creative place. I love it. I think I’d go broke and crazy if I only ever made records and sat in the studio but I really look forward to the times when we get to make a new one.

Did you record this in one block?
We recorded all the new songs and all the new material for the record in a two and a half month block. I think the record was pretty much wrapped by June, so we were sort of sitting on it for a while.

You’ve been enjoying going on tour?
Oh God, yeah. We love to tour. It’s weird because we haven’t done a lot of support gigs on the last couple of albums but we were really looking forward to doing it. We finished up our last album, actually, with Paramore so now to do the Black Keys stuff and the Killers stuff.. I find it really fun. We’ve had some success on our own but we’re certainly not playing arenas. It’s actually really fun to play with another band in an arena! At least while you’re play the songs you can convince yourself it is!

Sounds like fun.
Honestly, it’s priceless. It’s really cool!

Have you been playing material from your new album in the set?
We have been playing a couple of new songs, yeah. It seems to go over well – the beginning of the set is a rock set, then it sort of transitions. One of the best songs in the set right now, I feel, is a live band version of a song we did with Tiesto called ‘Feeling In My Bones’. Tiesto’s version, of course, is a much more dance track but we’ve sort of transitioned it into a more Tegan & Sara rock band type place. It just feels so cool to play every night! It’s got real muscle with real drums and everything in it, and it transitions really well into the new stuff. It’s fun.

The Tiesto collaboration took a lot of people by surprise, how did that come about?
He actually was doing a remix of a song called ‘Back In Your Head’ and it was doing really well. He did Bonnaroo in the United States, and we were doing it as well. Tiesto was headlining and we had played during the day so he asked us if we wanted to come on and do live vocals for ‘Back In Your Head’. It was an absolute blast so when the set was done we told him, listen this was such a cool experience. I think our vocals really lend themselves well to our style of music. He would send us some tracks and we would do some writing and that’s how ‘Feeling In My Bones’ came to be.

The missing link between Jack White and Tiesto.
Tegan and I say that we’re pretty loose – we would work with everybody. We don’t have a specific type of collaborator who would make the most sense, if anything it’s a challenge to work with all different types of people to see how you could manipulate it and see how you can make things work. It’s kind of my favourite thing, now. With a certain level of awareness of the project we get asked to do a lot of things outside of the band and whenever possible I think it’s really important to do it. Like you say, I love what Tegan & Sara represents but internationally when we travel we have a certain sound and a certain look but ultimately there are people who will be interested in that but there may be people who might not be and it’s interesting to work with other artists who can open doors to worlds which we may not have become familiar with without them.

Does this help fuel the band’s own creative process?
I think so. You know, it’s interesting – the thing that I learned from working with Tiesto and David Guetta, the music forces us to use our voices in a different way. There are certain chord changes, certain rhythms and certain ideas which inform melodies in a way that maybe the writing we would do naturally between ourselves wouldn’t necessarily come up with the same ideas. It ends up not changing but adding to the bag of tricks I have. It’s all about learning and developing and growing, it’s all been beneficial and I can’t say there’s been a bad experience.

How are you seeing out the year?
We’re on tour with the Killers now until Christmas. Once we see out the UK tour we’re over in North America with them and then the new record comes out in North America in January so we’ll be back in Europe around February.

You recently ended a two year spell away from the UK, why the long gap?
It’s true. I think the last thing we did here was Glastonbury. Either that or the Roundhouse. That was how we wrapped up the album last time. We did other international touring, after that last UK / European run we went to India then we were over in Australia and New Zealand. Then we worked on our acoustic record and live DVD – so we did that, then we were writing and working on the new album. For us, it’s been steady but it’s not been as much touring as we’ve done in the past. We sort of took a couple of years to work on other stuff.

To finish with, the new material – a productive process?
Well, you know we’re really excited about it. I think the record is going to be a transition from where we’ve been to sort of execute this record properly. We’re very known in certain circles and we’ve become reliant on certain circles or radio stations, so to come out and make an album which is much more poppy and mainstream you still want to be seen.. we’ve spent 14 years making music and releasing albums and I think we’ve build an integrity based kind of career. We do things that make us feel good and we’ve sort of cultivated this audience which is very loyal, so we don’t want to spoil that by coming out with something really different. Also, this is another reason why we’re sort of doing things long lead and slow – I want people to have time to get used to this idea that they might hear us for the first time on pop radio.. I don’t want them to be horrified!

Do you think people will be horrified?
No. That’s probably a hyperbolic word but I think people will be surprised.

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Tegan & Sara will release new album 'Heartthrob' on February 18th.

Tour dates:

13 Manchester MEN Arena (supporting The Killers)
14 Manchester MEN Arena (supporting The Killers)
15 London HMV Forum
16 London O2 Arena (supporting The Killers)
17 London O2 Arena (supporting The Killers)

Click here to buy tickets for Tegan & Sara!

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