In anticipation of their April 16 concert, The AS Review recently got on the phone with Sara Quin of the Canadian indie group, Tegan and Sara, discussing everything from bus accidents and life on the road with her twin to $1 demo tapes and sweet potato perogies. (Check out our Web site this week for the full interview.)

ASR: How did you and Tegan get started in music?

Sara: We were in high school and really getting into the music scene, so at some point it popped into my mind that if I wanted to make music, I could. I remember I was in grade 10, and my stepdad had an acoustic guitar, so we started fooling around with the guitar and writing silly songs. And over time those silly songs turned into real songs and eventually that turned into a band. Right from the beginning we just really liked to record ourselves, so we used to make these demo tapes, and we'd draw artwork and then have our mom go copy them at work, and then we'd take them to school and sell them.

ASR: How much did your demo tapes sell for back then?

Sara: One dollar. (laughs) We used to go play at people's parties and invite people, and we just were not shy. Now when I think about it, I'm so much more shy with what we do, and I just think, ‘Oh, I don't want to force anyone to listen to it.' I'm still close with the people I went to high school with and it makes us laugh now because God, back then [Tegan and I] were just like ‘Listen to our music, listen to our music!' We pretty much drove everyone insane.

ASR: Well, those demo tapes must be worth way more than $1 now...

Sara: Yeah, my friends just make jokes about it now, like if they run into rough times, they can just go on eBay and sell their Tegan and Sara paraphernalia. But I actually don't have copies of the tapes, so I haven't looked at them recently, but I still remember a lot of it. I wrote a song a couple days ago and if you pointed a gun at my head I wouldn't be able to sing it for you, but I can still remember songs I wrote when I was 15.

ASR: How would you describe your writing style vs. Tegan's?

Sara: Tegan and I really have a different approach to everything we do, and that definitely comes out in our music. Tegan's a really impulsive person, she makes decisions really fast and she comes up with ideas and just goes to it. And I really respect that, because I'm much more methodical, and I'll take weeks and weeks and weeks to work on a song, whereas Tegan will just write something and send it to me like six hours later, and I'm just like, ‘God, I wish I could do that!'

ASR: How is your latest album, The Con, different from the others? Did you try for a new sound or image?

Sara: I think now with five albums under our belt, it's much easier for me to just get into the studio and be like, ‘This is how I want the vocal to sound, and this is how I want these drums to sound.' Because in the beginning (of your career), you don't necessarily have much time to say, ‘Oh, I don't really like the sound of this vocal, I'd really like to attempt something different.' And In a weird way, I think this album sounds the most like how I want to sound as a band, much more than our previous records. With [The Con] I felt like I had really worked out everything I'd wanted to work out.

ASR: Why did you choose Chris Walla (Death Cab guitarist and Bellingham native) to produce The Con, and what was it like to work with him?

Sara: I loved working with Chris. I really liked the albums he's produced, like the Death Cab records and The Decemberists. Once I met him, it just really solidified for me that he was the right guy for us. I like the idea of having an intimate recording, and when we talked to Chris about our recording style—how we record at home, in our bedrooms and closets and wherever—I could see him getting excited, because we were basically recording in his basement. It was a very comfortable energy for all of us, and it really lended itself well to the intimate nature of the album.

ASR: What song on The Con is your personal favorite?

Sara: I really love the album as a whole. But when we start to cut it up and play it live and out of sequence, songs like ‘Dark Come Soon' are really great when we're playing live. I still really feel affectionate towards ‘I Was Married,' and I think that's because it's such a personal song, and instead of re-recording it for the album, we ended up keeping a lot of what I had already recorded at home, so when I listen to it, I feel very protective of it.

ASR: Some people have speculated that “I Was Married” is a political statement against the banning of gay marriage. Is there any truth to that?

Sara: I don't know if it could be as easily pinned down like that. I was in a relationship with a girl who was an American, and we were in the middle of doing permanent residency and immigration stuff. We kept thinking, ‘Wow, thank goodness we can do this in Canada.' We had kind of taken it for granted, and it's only been a couple years that we could expect that all the legal documents for the immigration process include same-sex wording or that we would even be recognized as a couple. And I was going, ‘God, if this was reversed and I was trying to do this in the United States with her, I wouldn't be able to. It's just a relationship. Why do people care?' So that's really what the song was about. It wasn't necessarily about gay marriage, it's more about the idea that people demonize us and think we're evil, and I'm just like, ‘Why?'

ASR: The LGBTA here at Western is a co-sponsor of your concert. In what ways do you feel your sexuality has influenced your music and your fan base?

Sara: Well, it's complicated because it's kind of like asking Bruce Springsteen how his heterosexuality has affected his music. Like, of course it's affected his music because he writes about women and romantic scenarios. Obviously I'm writing music about women because I'm gay, but I also feel like music is universal and it makes no difference to me who Bruce Springsteen is singing to—he could be singing to his cat, you know? As long as I (as a listener) can make it applicable to my life, it makes it a universal experience. I feel honored and I'm happy to be an ally and be visible for people in the gay community. Having said that, I don't think our music is gay. If you're gay and you paint a painting, it doesn't necessarily mean your painting is gay.

ASR: Do you and Tegan ever find it hard to get along when you're working together and touring?

Sara: I think the songwriting process is actually where we get along the best. There are times when we don't get along, but all things considered, I think Tegan and I have a really good, healthy relationship. I don't know too many people who could go on the road with their siblings, let alone do what we do with each other. But having said that, there are days where I look around and go, ‘Oh my God, I'm 27 and I'm living on a bus with 13 other people.' We all have to share space and showers and food and thoughts, and sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy.

ASR: Do you have a favorite or least-favorite tour moment?

Sara: Well, on our last tour we were in our first bus accident, and that was terrifying, so that was definitely my least-favorite tour moment! When something like that happens, everything gets thrown into chaos and that always makes me feel really grumpy and not want to be on the road doing what I do.

ASR: What do you want people to come away with after listening to The Con or watching one of your concerts?

Sara: I kind of want them to go away thinking that we're good people. I don't think we're ‘rock stars.' I have lots of friends that are kind of... they're not literally rock stars but they could be playing to like ten people and they get on stage and act like rock stars, you know? And that's not us, it's not in us to be like that. I still want to be really exciting and influential to people, but I also kind of just want them to leave feeling like they know who we are and they know that we're not like crazy rock stars or anything like that.

ASR: A lot of Western students go up to Vancouver on the weekends. What are some of your favorite Vancouver haunts?

Sara: I always go to this place called Habit, which is a great place on Main St. and it's got great food. They have these great sweet potato perogies that I love. And I really just like any coffee place on the West Coast, because I feel like coffee is just better on the West Coast.

ASR: Can you recommend any Canadian artists that aren't as well-known in the U.S yet?

Sara: I recently checked out a band called The Acorn. They're from Ottawa and I thought they were really great. One band that have been around longer than me and Tegan, and I always wonder why they're not bigger in the States, is a band called The Weakerthans. I love them. They're from Winnipeg, and they're seriously a great band.

ASR: Do you think that you and Tegan will always perform together?

Sara: Probably at some point in our lives we'll do different projects and maybe tour with other bands and stuff like that, but I love the collaboration of what we do right now, and it's hard to imagine it not being like that in the future.
In anticipation of their April 16 concert, The AS Review recently got on the phone with Sara Quin of the Canadian indie group, Tegan and Sara, discussing everything from bus accidents and life on the road with her twin to $1 demo tapes and sweet potato perogies. (Check out our Web site this week for the full interview.)

ASR: How did you and Tegan get started in music?

Sara: We were in high school and really getting into the music scene, so at some point it popped into my mind that if I wanted to make music, I could. I remember I was in grade 10, and my stepdad had an acoustic guitar, so we started fooling around with the guitar and writing silly songs. And over time those silly songs turned into real songs and eventually that turned into a band. Right from the beginning we just really liked to record ourselves, so we used to make these demo tapes, and we'd draw artwork and then have our mom go copy them at work, and then we'd take them to school and sell them.

ASR: How much did your demo tapes sell for back then?

Sara: One dollar. (laughs) We used to go play at people's parties and invite people, and we just were not shy. Now when I think about it, I'm so much more shy with what we do, and I just think, ‘Oh, I don't want to force anyone to listen to it.' I'm still close with the people I went to high school with and it makes us laugh now because God, back then [Tegan and I] were just like ‘Listen to our music, listen to our music!' We pretty much drove everyone insane.

ASR: Well, those demo tapes must be worth way more than $1 now...

Sara: Yeah, my friends just make jokes about it now, like if they run into rough times, they can just go on eBay and sell their Tegan and Sara paraphernalia. But I actually don't have copies of the tapes, so I haven't looked at them recently, but I still remember a lot of it. I wrote a song a couple days ago and if you pointed a gun at my head I wouldn't be able to sing it for you, but I can still remember songs I wrote when I was 15.

ASR: How would you describe your writing style vs. Tegan's?

Sara: Tegan and I really have a different approach to everything we do, and that definitely comes out in our music. Tegan's a really impulsive person, she makes decisions really fast and she comes up with ideas and just goes to it. And I really respect that, because I'm much more methodical, and I'll take weeks and weeks and weeks to work on a song, whereas Tegan will just write something and send it to me like six hours later, and I'm just like, ‘God, I wish I could do that!'

ASR: How is your latest album, The Con, different from the others? Did you try for a new sound or image?

Sara: I think now with five albums under our belt, it's much easier for me to just get into the studio and be like, ‘This is how I want the vocal to sound, and this is how I want these drums to sound.' Because in the beginning (of your career), you don't necessarily have much time to say, ‘Oh, I don't really like the sound of this vocal, I'd really like to attempt something different.' And In a weird way, I think this album sounds the most like how I want to sound as a band, much more than our previous records. With [The Con] I felt like I had really worked out everything I'd wanted to work out.

ASR: Why did you choose Chris Walla (Death Cab guitarist and Bellingham native) to produce The Con, and what was it like to work with him?

Sara: I loved working with Chris. I really liked the albums he's produced, like the Death Cab records and The Decemberists. Once I met him, it just really solidified for me that he was the right guy for us. I like the idea of having an intimate recording, and when we talked to Chris about our recording style—how we record at home, in our bedrooms and closets and wherever—I could see him getting excited, because we were basically recording in his basement. It was a very comfortable energy for all of us, and it really lended itself well to the intimate nature of the album.

ASR: What song on The Con is your personal favorite?

Sara: I really love the album as a whole. But when we start to cut it up and play it live and out of sequence, songs like ‘Dark Come Soon' are really great when we're playing live. I still really feel affectionate towards ‘I Was Married,' and I think that's because it's such a personal song, and instead of re-recording it for the album, we ended up keeping a lot of what I had already recorded at home, so when I listen to it, I feel very protective of it.

ASR: Some people have speculated that “I Was Married” is a political statement against the banning of gay marriage. Is there any truth to that?

Sara: I don't know if it could be as easily pinned down like that. I was in a relationship with a girl who was an American, and we were in the middle of doing permanent residency and immigration stuff. We kept thinking, ‘Wow, thank goodness we can do this in Canada.' We had kind of taken it for granted, and it's only been a couple years that we could expect that all the legal documents for the immigration process include same-sex wording or that we would even be recognized as a couple. And I was going, ‘God, if this was reversed and I was trying to do this in the United States with her, I wouldn't be able to. It's just a relationship. Why do people care?' So that's really what the song was about. It wasn't necessarily about gay marriage, it's more about the idea that people demonize us and think we're evil, and I'm just like, ‘Why?'

ASR: The LGBTA here at Western is a co-sponsor of your concert. In what ways do you feel your sexuality has influenced your music and your fan base?

Sara: Well, it's complicated because it's kind of like asking Bruce Springsteen how his heterosexuality has affected his music. Like, of course it's affected his music because he writes about women and romantic scenarios. Obviously I'm writing music about women because I'm gay, but I also feel like music is universal and it makes no difference to me who Bruce Springsteen is singing to—he could be singing to his cat, you know? As long as I (as a listener) can make it applicable to my life, it makes it a universal experience. I feel honored and I'm happy to be an ally and be visible for people in the gay community. Having said that, I don't think our music is gay. If you're gay and you paint a painting, it doesn't necessarily mean your painting is gay.

ASR: Do you and Tegan ever find it hard to get along when you're working together and touring?

Sara: I think the songwriting process is actually where we get along the best. There are times when we don't get along, but all things considered, I think Tegan and I have a really good, healthy relationship. I don't know too many people who could go on the road with their siblings, let alone do what we do with each other. But having said that, there are days where I look around and go, ‘Oh my God, I'm 27 and I'm living on a bus with 13 other people.' We all have to share space and showers and food and thoughts, and sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy.

ASR: Do you have a favorite or least-favorite tour moment?

Sara: Well, on our last tour we were in our first bus accident, and that was terrifying, so that was definitely my least-favorite tour moment! When something like that happens, everything gets thrown into chaos and that always makes me feel really grumpy and not want to be on the road doing what I do.

ASR: What do you want people to come away with after listening to The Con or watching one of your concerts?

Sara: I kind of want them to go away thinking that we're good people. I don't think we're ‘rock stars.' I have lots of friends that are kind of... they're not literally rock stars but they could be playing to like ten people and they get on stage and act like rock stars, you know? And that's not us, it's not in us to be like that. I still want to be really exciting and influential to people, but I also kind of just want them to leave feeling like they know who we are and they know that we're not like crazy rock stars or anything like that.

ASR: A lot of Western students go up to Vancouver on the weekends. What are some of your favorite Vancouver haunts?

Sara: I always go to this place called Habit, which is a great place on Main St. and it's got great food. They have these great sweet potato perogies that I love. And I really just like any coffee place on the West Coast, because I feel like coffee is just better on the West Coast.

ASR: Can you recommend any Canadian artists that aren't as well-known in the U.S yet?

Sara: I recently checked out a band called The Acorn. They're from Ottawa and I thought they were really great. One band that have been around longer than me and Tegan, and I always wonder why they're not bigger in the States, is a band called The Weakerthans. I love them. They're from Winnipeg, and they're seriously a great band.

ASR: Do you think that you and Tegan will always perform together?

Sara: Probably at some point in our lives we'll do different projects and maybe tour with other bands and stuff like that, but I love the collaboration of what we do right now, and it's hard to imagine it not being like that in the future.