Q & A | Tegan and Sara

Q & A | Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara Quin are identical twins who head their own indie pop band. From their early, hushed gentle songs to a newer, more layered rock sound—they’ve released six albums since forming in 1999. They’re in India for a two-gig tour in Mumbai and New Delhi starting this week. They spoke to Lounge over email about banter, Leonard Cohen and Russian pop group T.A.T.U. Edited excerpts:

Your live shows are known for a lot of conversation and banter with the audience. Is it challenging to do that when you play in foreign countries? Have you ever faced a really interesting/challenging audience?

We play all over Europe and have been to Japan a few times as well. That would probably be our most “challenging" experience talking to an audience. Generally, I find that people know enough English that it’s not really that big of a deal. When it is, we just play more and talk less, which is totally fine by us.

Tell us about Vivek Shraya, who’ll be opening the two shows you’re playing here.

Vivek is an old friend. I met him after he (literally) threw his CD on stage during a show back in the early 2000s. I thought he had an incredible voice and wrote beautiful songs. He came to another show we did in Toronto a year later and we met backstage and became instant friends. This will be the second time he tours with us. We couldn’t be more excited.

You’ll be playing as a trio, with a ‘stripped-down’ set. How different do you expect it to be from your usual shows? Will you be playing songs that aren’t normally part of your live set?

We hope to play a diverse set of songs from all six of our records. Our intention is to try and make the show dynamic and still very interesting even though our bass player and drummer won’t be able to come over with us. Sara and I have toured as a two-piece and a three-piece many times before so we have no fear that things won’t be interesting. It will be a good challenge for us.

Your latest album, ‘Sainthood’, was titled after a Leonard Cohen lyric—in mood and lyrics, in what way is it an evolution from your previous work? Is the focus/sound different in significant ways?

Sainthood was a record that we made by playing live as a band. Our pre-production was about a month and our intention was to try and NOT over-dub as many instruments or parts as we had in the past. We hoped to make a record that would be easier to play live as all of us on the record would be able to play our parts live and not have to cut the excess as much as we have in the past. I think the record reflects an older, wiser and more contained Tegan and Sara. Leonard Cohen is a huge influence and the title Sainthood came from a song called Came so far for beauty. We thought the song summed up our moods and the place we were in our lives very well.

I have to ask, how much damage did the Russian pop group T.A.T.U. do to your reputation? Do you hate them?

When we first went to Europe (arguably, T.A.T.U. ’s largest market), the press brought it up a lot but I think because we had been signed by Neil Young and could actually sing and play our instruments (not to mention produced and wrote our own records) that they saw the differences rather than the similarities. I have an appreciation for overly produced pop music so I don’t really HATE them. I didn’t appreciate the marketing so much around the project or the timing of their release but... it really didn’t affect us in North America much.

What music have you been listening to recently? Any new/upcoming music you highly recommend?

We just played with some great bands here in Canada. You Say Party and Christopher Smith. I just worked with a band called Low Spin, out of Vancouver where I live. Sara just worked on two bands records that I love called An Horse and Fences. There is tons of great music coming the world’s way soon. Check it out.

Tegan and Sara play at the Hard Rock Café in Mumbai on 23 November, 9pm, and the Hard Rock Café in Delhi on 25 November, 9pm.