Published Jun 06, 2016With the release of their eighth studio album, Love You to Death, Tegan and Sara have fully transformed from indie folkies with not-so-secret punk hearts to chic, shimmering pop stars. The process hasn't been painless — personally, the twin sisters scraped and scrapped their way through their 20s, and professionally, they've faced sexism, misogyny, homophobia and the disappointment of some of their earliest fans, who felt left behind by their move into mainstream Top 40. But the clarity of their vision has had all the sparkle of a thousand-carat diamond, attracting big name supporters from Neil Young to Taylor Swift.
Exclaim!'s Timeline feature in this month's print issue takes us on the journey from growing up as the Quin sisters to almost 20 years of being Tegan and Sara. And while you'll currently have to pick up the new June issue to read the whole feature, we've picked some highlights from it to share with you now, below.
Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Tegan and Sara:
1. Feist inspired a teenage Sara Quin to get up in front of a crowd and embrace the spotlight.
In a 2013 interview with Spin, Sara credits seeing former Calgarian Leslie Feist onstage with her punk band and realizing that "maybe normal people can make music. That people just aren't born Annie Lennox."
They call themselves Plunk, and, according to Buzzfeed, are "high-achieving burnouts" who drink, smoke pot, and drop acid, babysitting each other through their trips. But they're also making music. "We started to explore writing together and recording each other," Tegan tells The Quietus. "We let a few friends listen to it, and the response was really positive. We let a few more friends hear it, and before we knew it, we were making cassettes in our radio broadcasting class and selling them in the hallways between classes."
2. The twins had good business instincts from the beginning.
"My mom helped out, and we acquired management early," Tegan tells Gay Financial Network in 2000. "They got us an agent, got us playing, got us a record deal. The most important thing in this business is music and the art and that, to me, is the part that we should take care of. Not the money and the technicalities. But I found that, for a lot of people in the business, the art is secondary. So, we fired our management and changed a lot of things in our lives and got incredibly strong, all of a sudden, and sure about what we were doing. Fast forward six months to right now, and I would tell you that music shouldn't be the first thing, because it's the most vulnerable and the most honest part. You need to be strong first, and you need to be in control of the business and in control of the money, and you need to be in control of who you are."
3. Tegan and Sara never owned an Ani DiFranco album until the comparisons started pouring in after releasing 2000's The Business of Art.
People are intrigued by the optics — twins! lesbians! bandmates! — and immediately attempt to shoehorn Tegan and Sara into the queer, folkie, political, girls-with-guitars scene. Ani DiFranco is the artist most often name-checked, but Tegan tells Campus Circle in 2002 that until the comparisons started pouring in, she never even had a DiFranco record.
"It's such a funny thing for people to bring it up because I feel bad; I don't wanna shoot it down," Tegan said. "Sara and I didn't grow up listening to Ani DiFranco; I actually didn't get an album of Ani DiFranco's until someone compared me to her, so I was like, "Oh, I wanna hear what she sounds like."
They consider themselves "Bruce Springsteen wannabes," they say in a 2000 interview with Teen Wire. "We're inspired by lots of different artists, like Kinnie Starr, she's an amazing Canadian woman artist, and Sinead O'Connor. We're not trying to imitate any style when it comes to songwriting, though. It's just a fluke, and I think we're lucky."
4. Tegan and Sara's pop evolution has been at least a decade in the making.
So Jealous is also a pretty great glimpse of the future of Tegan and Sara, who will likely experience pretty vivid sense of deja vu in 2013 since many of the talking points regarding So Jealous will be repeated during the press cycle for Heartthrob. Interview upon interview asks the twins about embracing pop.
"We are a pop band in an indie world, and we want to grow out of that, eventually, but not right now," Tegan tells Out in the Mountains in 2004.
5. Sara says there's not that much difference between Neil Young and Taylor Swift as songwriters.
"This may be blasphemous," she tells CBC Music, "but I don't think there's a huge difference between what has prompted both of those artists to support us. I think certainly with Neil and his manager, when they saw us and we were just barely out of high school and signed us to a little indie record deal, they saw the promise of songwriters. That was their pitch when they were signing us. Elliot, who has managed Neil for decades, said, 'You know, what I see in you are songwriters and you have a voice that represents a part of your generation and you're going to make a connection with kids your age and as you grow older, your audience will grow with you and you'll be representing a lot of their stories and a lot of things that are going to happen in their lives and that's such a unique thing.' He really articulated for us what we have but also maybe what we may become. Taylor's a great songwriter, she really is, and I think that even though she's this massive pop star, I would argue with anybody that she's also one of the better songwriters today working in music and has that same ability to connect to a lot of her peers and tell stories that people can draw parallels with. So to be recognized by both of those people, although they're entirely different, to be recognized by them for our songwriting abilities is such an honour."