Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

So Jealous, the new album by the Canadian twin duo, Tegan and Sara is out in stores now! Tegan took a little time out of her busy touring schedule to have a cup of tea with all three imaginary girls. Read all about how Tegan and Sara write songs, their childhood and their sisterly fights…

TIG: Hi Tegan. Have you always wanted to be a musician?

Tegan: No. Up until I was like seven I wanted to work at McDonalds, and then I wanted to be a veterinarian. My mom's a therapist, so I wanted to be a therapist for a long time. She worked for a center that helps women who were just about to lose their kids; she helped them get their shit together and keep their kids. For the last eight years she's worked with this privately-run feminist group that helps integrate high risk teenager girls between the ages of 12-17 back into the school system by teaching them life skills. That always fascinated me. My mom is very passionate.

I'm only a musician by default, really. I was never really good at anything else. My last couple years of high school I was just like, "What the hell am I going to do?" because I had slacked off so much, I didn't get that good of grades. I was an average student. My mom was like, "You have to get into university." I asked if I could take a year off. She said okay, and we started playing gigs around Calgary. We won this contest and they gave us some money and we got a demo deal through Universal, and then we started touring.

We put a bunch of money into a record, borrowed money, and all of a sudden — we're here. It was a snowball. It wasn't a dream, but I totally love music. I always wanted to be in a band, but I didn't necessarily think that it was ever realistic that it would become a job.

TIG: Who was your favorite person to open up for?

Tegan: Overall I would have to say Ryan Adams because he came out every night and played five songs with us. He was so good to us, and was so funny. A week into the tour, he put books and CDs — Black Flag, Replacements — all over the monitors. He was really involved with us while we were on tour.

But touring with Neil Young and the Pretenders that was a lot of fun. Those kind of moments aren't my favorite artistically though, because there's not much gratification in playing 25 minutes in a amphitheatre filled with people wanting to see Chrissie Hynde or Neil Young. But it's cool to look back on years later. We didn't even take pictures while we were on tour or anything. I don't have any pictures and we did a month of dates with them. It's only lives in my imagination.

TIG: When was the last fight you and Sara got into?

Tegan: Oh, about an hour ago? {laughter}

She's been in a fucking terrible mood all day. She borrowed a bag of mine and I told her "I want my bag back. Put your shit in that broken rolly suitcase…" Fight ensued because she believed I was giving her attitude and that I'd been patronizing her all day. I told her she's been in a bad mood all day and she said, "You're in a bad mood all of the time." And then I asked her for a shirt or something and she said "If you fucking ask me one more thing, I'm going to fucking punch you in the face," and I said, "If you touch me, I'll throw you into traffic and I'll punch your fucking head in" or something like that. And our manager was like "Ok girls, take some time apart." And I was like "Yeah, that's right." {laughter}

TIG: Does your manager wear a black and white striped shirt?

Tegan: Yeah, he should. We tend to only fight when we're stressed out. We are stressed out right now. It's been a long couple of weeks. Sara hasn't been home in a month. The record just came out and we start touring on Sunday again, so we only have a day off and Sara's going to be flying. Whatever. Our life is one big nightmare.

TIG: I love how she's not here to defend herself.

Tegan: Exactly. If she were here it would be the exact same story except for she would tell it in a sympathic way. I'm trying to be unbiased. I was a bitch too and she was in a bad mood all day. She didn't want to participate. She even said that to me, "I don't feel like doing this today." She said she wishes she could just blow everything off and go home, and that bugs me. Her priorities are different than mine — not that she doesn't like or enjoy or want to be a part of music as much as I do. She just sets different boundaries than I do. She feels that in order to have space away from music she has to actually be apart from it and apart from me and I'm not quite feeling like that. On a day like today she would probably blow it all off.

TIG: What's the biggest difference between you two?

Tegan: Well, our whole lives people always thought that Sara was extroverted and I was the introvert. But I think Sara is actually quite shy and reclusive and independent and she likes a lot of time on her own. They say that there's always a twin that doesn't want to be a twin and one that's fine with it. And Sara speaks singularly; she never speaks plurally, even if I'm there. She won't be like, "Me and Tegan went to do this" she'll be like, "Oh yeah, this one time, bla bla…" and I want to jump in, but I know if I jump in, then she wasn't able to tell the story from her perspective. It's like a lack of independence.

She doesn't want to have to share everything with me. I totally sympathize. I've just come to terms with it, and I almost find comfort in knowing I have a partner no matter what. I'm sure on some level she does too. But, I'd say that our biggest difference is just that. She's very independent and I'm happy being part of the group kinda thing.

She used to be the one to scream and push when we got into a fight, but now I'm the one more likely to do that. Now she's the one to pull back and be inside and be upset about it. I don't know when that happened. I guess it was a couple of years ago. I think that's actually more her real self. She needs a lot of Sara time. We've gone to a couple of different therapists. We went to therapy the whole time we were making this record. He's done sessions with a bunch of different sets of twins and he said there's always one that needs their own space. Hearing that was a lot better than hearing the other perspective which is "I hate you" and "you embarrass me". It's easier to just hear "Sara needs Sara time". And I know I can be overbearing too, because I have a million things going on inside of me. I don't balance music and personal as well. Musically we do the same thing; Sara takes a long time to write her songs. She perfects them and is more about the whole vibe not just the lyrics. I'm really quick.

TIG: Since you live away from each other, do you use the internet to write songs?

Tegan: Sara has a computer to record, but not the internet. So for a while we were FedExing stuff back and forth, and it was very frustrating. But that was really cool. It was cool to know that we could do it alone.

TIG: And you got mail all the time.

Tegan: {laughs} Yeah, and I got mail all of
time. And it was cool because before if I had a new song, I couldn't resist the urge to play it for her right away. Now when I write a new song, I have to send it. A week later you get it and you pop it and you hear a song you've never heard before and you're instantly a fan of it — and you get excited because you get to play it.

TIG: So when she sends you something, is it pretty finalized? Do you take ownership over your individual songs?

Tegan: Yeah, we do. We have stuff we each want to contribute to the other's songs, like fixing the arrangement, making it shorter, or those kind of suggestions. We do that, but we never record on each other songs. Well, when we get into the studio we did a bit, but because we develop the songs so much prior to actually getting into the studio, it's much easier for Sara to play the weird guitar parts she came up with herself rather than having me learn them just so I can play them. So it's kind of a mix of Tegan and Sara.

Most of our record it's not even Sara singing on my songs or me singing on hers. It's just us doing our own vocals. I mean, our band is Tegan and Sara and we perform the songs live and we contribute to each others songs. Like if I can't get a harmony for some reason, she'll jump in and do it. And same with guitar — I'll sit there while she's recording her guitar and try to whittle something out. If I find something cool, like "Walk As it Goes" — a lot of guitar parts on that song are mine, but that's Sara's song. So we really come together on the road. Prior to that we are like two separate people writing a record together.

TIG: That way you get the best of both worlds

Tegan: Yeah, you have this person you trust no matter what to produce the songs. Like Sara will tell the band kinda what to do because I can't be worrying about that when I'm playing and singing. It's hard to hear what everyone else is doing. Sara will be my outside ear. We do work together. Generally it's a very independent process for us. It works better that way… less fighting.

TIG: Do you have any other siblings besides Sara?

Tegan: Nope, there's only two of us. I suppose we may have other siblings, we just haven't met them yet.

TIG: Who's older?

Tegan: I am, by eight minutes.

TIG: Did your mom know she was going to have twins?

Tegan: Yep, she did. They had my name picked out, but they didn't have Sara's name picked out. When she checked into the hospital the woman that was sharing the room with her was also having twins and we were all born within the same half an hour… same 28 minutes, actually.

TIG: To shift topics… we're sure you're aware that we're coming up on a Presidential election in the coming weeks. Do you have a powerful conservative Christian movement in Canada?

Tegan: Sure. In June, I was in Calgary for our elections, and I made my grandparents go vote for the NDP, which is the new Democratic Party. It's basically as far left as you'd want to go before getting into Communism. On the ballot we had the Communist party, the marijuana party, the Christian coalition, NDP, the Democratic party, and the New Conservative party. And the New Conservative which almost got into power, which is really sad. The New Conservative party is led by this man, Steven Harper. He's basically our Canadian version of George Bush. He was basically going to open the floor to a free vote for abortion, gay rights, gun laws and put all this money into the military. We have a minority government now.

Yeah, so things are really changing in Canada as well too. Sara was very involved in the election, handing out flyers in the streets in Montreal and doing interviews, unbeknownst all of us on the West Coast. I got forwarded an email from like the Ottawa Sun or something that Sara was doing all of this anti-Harper stuff. So yeah, there's totally a movement for that sort of thing. As much as people talk about Canada being so much better than the states as far as politics or education or bla bla bla, we are very conservative as well.

TIG: Oh no! But we're counting on Canada!

Tegan: We're very conservative, but only to the point where we never have a right government either. We ride the fence every election, without fail. But we're just always going to have a liberal government. I can't imagine actually having either party. We'd probably be liberal, and liberal just means major chaffing. It's just like constantly riding the fence; we just can't make up our minds about anything — but that's Canada, in my opinion. But that's great because it leaves a lot of room for movement either way.

I grew up in Calgary, and I never thought of it as redneck, sexist, racist, homophobic, but I've heard this things said about it. But then, I grew up in a single parent family with a feminist mom who worked at all these incredible organizations that had us out at womens day marches when we were eight and was really supportive of us being gay, so I obviously grew up in Mars or some other incredible place.

So I think Canada is probably a lot like the States in the sense that you can find little pockets of openness and greatness and all that other stuff. But there's still the shit too. But definitely if George Bush gets back in, you're all welcome to stay at my house.