5 Minutes With...Tegan and Sara Talk Heartthrob and Fashion

Calgary-born band Tegan and Sara discuss their seventh studio album and how their style has evolved over the past 15 years

Photo courtesy of Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara Quin, the twin sisters behind folk-rock-gone-synth-pop band Tegan and Sara, have been shaking up the Canadian music scene for fifteen years now. Seven albums later, their sound has matured and developed into something that transcends both genres and generations. The result: their latest album Heartthrob, which debuted at #3 on Billboard and has been their highest charting album to date.

Our Digital Editor caught up with the band at RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest in Ottawa last weekend before their show. From talking fashion to lamenting the Alberta flood, it’s time to meet Tegan and Sara.

Flare: Tell us about your new album, Heartthrob.

Tegan: We probably wrote for almost a year until there were about 45 songs, then a bunch of us voted on the best ones. This is our seventh record and we really wanted to do something that would keep our audience excited, but that also sounded current. We have a very guitar-driven back catalogue so there’s definitely an absence of trashy-sounding guitars on this record but the heart and soul of Tegan and Sara is definitely in there.

Flare: How would you describe the creative process of creating a Tegan and Sara album, especially when you’re both living on different sides of the continent?

Tegan: Magic, time travel!

Sara: We write on computers, so all we do is easily done through email. If I write a song, I’ll send it off to Tegan for input. We’ve been doing this since 2003; it has made living in different cities really easy. The only times we end up travelling to be with one another for work is to rehearse or when in the studio. It’s nice, I think, the solitary writing process is really beneficial to the band.

Flare: How would you say fashion is involved in your daily life or when performing?

Tegan: In the age of the Internet, social networking, digital cameras and smartphones, we have realized you can’t just have a sloppy day and get up on stage wearing whatever. Our style evolution has been very natural over the years, as Tegan and Sara grew we became more conscious of what looked well on stage. The music has an influence, too. All in all, we just want to be comfortable. So don’t hate us if we opt for Doc Maartens and black skinnies.

Flare: You have both done numerous collaborations in the past, whether individually or as Tegan and Sara, can we expect more from you?

Tegan: We have a few collaborations in the can, as they say, some that’ll be coming out this year. Things are really busy right now but we’re trying to do as much as we can. It’s kind of like working a new muscle, because you have to learn their process.

Flare: Where did your interest in collaborations come from? 

Tegan: Sara and I became very interested in collaboration after working with Tiesto. I think it really challenged us to think of music in a very different way than we ever had before. Taking [song]writing outside of our own personal writing and working with people like Tiesto, [meant that] I could really challenge myself to do better each time. With someone who is not your family member, you have to step back and look at things objectively. It helped us really grow as artists.

Flare: As openly gay artists, describe the trials of emerging at a time when not everyone might have been accepting of homosexuality?

Sara: When we first started making music we were so comfortable being gay it didn’t occur to us to hide it. There were so many people, industry people and just people in general, who said and did hurtful things. There were a number of years where it was really hard. There were times when things were said that were very embarrassing or shameful. Thankfully, it’s not like that as much anymore. 

Flare: How would you say the times have changed?

Sara: It’s not that things don’t occasionally get said today. But no longer is the stigma ours, it is theirs; if things get said it sours that publication, or that person. Though I never want to lose focus that there are millions and millions of people in the world that don’t experience what we enjoy, the freedom to be yourself and the expectation that you’ll be protected. It is still an incredible privilege that very few have, so we (as artists) are determined to do as much to support positive change.

Flare: Being from Alberta, what are your thoughts on the recent flood?

Tegan: Our best wishes go out to everyone who was affected by the flood in Alberta. We put a bunch of stuff up for auction to support flood relief efforts, the auctions actually just closed. We are very proud to have grown up in Canada (and in Alberta), in a country where we had support as artists. Sara talks about moving back to Calgary occasionally, then I remind her of the snow.

Find Tegan and Sara’s new album Heartthrob on iTunes.

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