Tegan and Sara Remember Being Covered by the White Stripes: "The Most Rock'n'Roll Moment of Our Career"

"To have a rock god like Jack White acknowledge our songwriting had a dramatic effect on the respect we got as a band and as songwriters"

BY Alex HudsonPublished Dec 1, 2020

Tegan and Sara are Canadian music royalty, with a career that stretches back more than 20 years and has seen them go from cult indie folk songwriters to full-blown synthpop stars.

According to the band's Tegan Quin, one of the defining turning points that took them to the next level happened in 2005, when the White Stripes covered their single "Walking with a Ghost." Tegan tells Exclaim! the full story of "the most rock'n'roll moment of our career."

Our record So Jealous came out in September of 2004. The single, "Walking with a Ghost" struck a chord at alternative radio in the U.S., and, as we crisscrossed the country the next year, touring in support of the record, the single climbed the alternative charts and finally broke the top 10. We went from selling no records to thousands of records a week, which was thrilling. There were so many firsts and exciting moments after that. The record made Rolling Stone's top 50 records of the year, and we got the opening slot on the Killers' big sold-out tour in support of Hot Fuss. But it was the rumour that The White Stripes were covering "Walking with a Ghost" live that truly made us feel like we had made it. There was a pretty terrible-sounding recording of them playing it live, and every radio station we visited was asking about it.

It was while being interviewed at one of those radio stations that someone read a quote from Jack White — I think it was from Rolling Stone, or maybe Spin — but he said he liked the song because it felt like something he could have written for the White Stripes. This truly rocked our world. It felt like the highest form of compliment to not just say you liked a song but to cover it and put in your set. The fact that it was a man saying it also felt truly profound to us. At that point in our career we were still facing so much sexism and homophobia from the press, and so to have a rock god like Jack White acknowledge our songwriting had a dramatic effect on the respect we got as a band and as songwriters.

But the moment didn't end there! We got word that the White Stripes had recorded their own version of the song and were going to release it on their record label later that year. At that point, our 25-year-old indie rock brains exploded, so the story gets a little fuzzy. But if I remember correctly, we were scheduled to go through Detroit on our headline tour later that year, and our management got a call from the White Stripes' management (maybe their label?) saying that Meg White wanted to come to the show and play us the recording they had done of "Walking with a Ghost."

Throughout the entire show, I couldn't think of anything except that Meg White was in the audience. After the show, she came backstage. Someone from her team had requested we have an actual portable CD player available as she would be bringing a copy of the song to play it for us. So Meg and the CD player were there, waiting for us backstage when we finished our show. Meg was delightful, friendly, affable and complimentary about the show. She at some point pulled out an actual sleeve with a CD in it, popped it into the portable CD player, and cranked the volume up. The recording is epic, and we were over the moon, gushing and red-faced.

Meg took us bowling that night after she played us the song. It was 10-pin, which we had never done. The alley was packed, and I remember people were smoking and drinking everywhere. I smiled so hard that night my face ached after. It might have been, and might still be, the most rock'n'roll moment of our career.

Meg was an incredible bowler, by the way. She threw multiple strikes while also holding a lit cigarette and short glass with whiskey or some sort of straight liquor, which impressed me greatly. We met Jack a few years later, backstage at Coachella. We'd finished our set, and the Raconteurs were playing after us. He approached to say hi and was incredibly kind to us. And very tall.

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