Q&A: Sara Quin of Tegan & Sara Talks Novelty Acts, New Wave, Intimacy and Barbecue

Tegan and Sara. Or Sara and Tegan?
Tegan and Sara. Or Sara and Tegan?

Tegan Rain Quin and Sara Kiersten Quin are identical twin sisters that just happen to front the Canadian indie pop quartet known as Tegan & Sara.

For more than a decade, the Quin sisters have released six albums of indie pop that have received critical kudos as the band has expanded its fan base outside of its native Alberta.

Confident and opinionated, neither sister shies away from speaking her mind--and DC9 was lucky enough to catch Sara in a talkative mood as she was in New York, preparing for her band's most recent trek into the lower 48, one which will find the sisters playing the Palladium Ballroom this evening.

Do you ever get pissed off at your sister?
I think we have moved beyond any sibling rivalry at this point. We've been making music for 13 years and we've been pretty successful at it. If it were a relationship that was really terrible, then I wouldn't do it. Tegan and I have managed to take any disagreements we may have and channel those into creative energy. We are great collaborators and even when we don't see eye to eye on things, we manage to focus our energies.

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Is there a danger in being a duo with your twin sister? Like being considered a novelty act?
When I was younger, I cared about that. I think the idea that Tegan and I were a joke or a novelty act--that's something created by journalists. I don't think that is an intelligent criticism. It wasn't like we dressed the same. We weren't making creepy of cheesy videos. We've never played upon any twin clichés or stereotypes. Tegan and I have great chemistry onstage, but we have done nothing to provoke the idea that we are a novelty act. Anyone who writes that is part of the exploitative, tabloid brand of journalism.

Your music has been labeled as new wave by some. Is that term anachronistic?
I don't mind it. I grew up listening to U2, The Pretenders and David Bowie, and their music was once described in terms like that. I think people use new wave as a way to say that we appeal to a wide audience. I like to think that people use terms like that about us because maybe we are beyond easy classification.

What's the biggest difference between Canadians and Americans?
There are probably too many to talk about. Even from state to state, Americans are very different from one another. As Canadians, we grew up in a much different environment. Canada has a different social tapestry. But as we travel, it becomes quite apparent how different people from Washington are from people in Texas.

Do you take pride in the intimacy of your live shows?
Yes, I do. I do think some people come to shows just to hear the music, but we have a tendency to just get up on stage and jabber on and that seems to relate to a lot of people. It's important to us to talk with each other and to talk with the audience. It sort of becomes a ritual.

Acts such as Motion City Soundtrack, Ryan Adams and the White Stripes have all covered your songs. What is it about your songs that attract such a diverse contingent of artists?
I think we just write good pop songs. They have interesting structures and melodies and the lyrics are always authentic and passionate. I think people see the value in our songs.

You've come through Texas a few times at this point. What are your impressions of our state?
I like Texas and I think Texans are really friendly. We grew up in Alberta and people always say that Alberta is the Canadian Texas. We are big into barbecue, so we love coming to Texas. The people seem to be very serious politically, but we've had a great time every time we make it down here. 

Tegan & Sara perform tonight at the Palladium Ballroom

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