Tegan and Sara

The Con

BY Amanda AshPublished Jul 18, 2007

Thanks to the help of Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla, Tegan and Sara’s latest musical project, The Con, has taken on a rockier, bubblier sound, all while maintaining the twins’ signature minimalism and folk sensibilities. The Con came to life in Walla’s Portland, OR studio in January 2007, but not without strict orders from the twins. Before making the album, the Calgary natives recorded a number of demos and it was their wish to make The Con sound as close to these homemade tapes as possible. This vision has allowed Tegan and Sara’s quiet harmonies to run rampant throughout the record. However, a few instrumental layers have managed to show themselves with a bit more courage than usual, as is the case with "Are You Ten Years Ago,” where electronic beats create a whole new stylistic dimension. "The Con” and "Hop A Plane” harbour a slight punk undercurrent, getting down to the nitty gritty of grunge rock, while "Knife Going In” and "Back In Your Head” reveal clearer, catchier melodies. Even AFI’s Hunter and the Rentals’ Matt Sharp lend their bass talents, making The Con not only an album distinctly different from Tegan and Sara’s previous projects but one that promises to satisfy every fan that picks it up.

How did Chris Walla end up producing The Con?
Guitarist/vocalist Sara: We have some mutual friends in the U.S., and when we started talking about who we wanted to work with on this new album Chris’s name just kept coming up. We hung out with him and really liked him, and there were a couple things that really appealed to me about his approach to making albums. Tegan and I had spent about six months writing songs and had been demo-ing pretty extensively; we really loved our demos and we wanted someone to listen to them — really listen to them — and think about how to translate that energy into a proper album. Chris seemed really on board to do that, so we were like, "Yeah! You’re our guy.”

I read that Tegan and yourself wanted The Con to sound as close to these demos as possible. Did Chris Walla want to take your music in a different direction at all and if so, did you let him hold the reins once in a while?
We wanted to co-produce the album, so once you’re in that relationship you definitely want to let him voice his opinions on certain sounds and ideas. But there was also the fact that Tegan and I had spent almost a year working on these songs. When we met with him, we sort of explained that we didn’t want to make a traditional album; we wanted to record all of our stuff first, so we already knew that some of the tempos would be a bit weird and the album was going to be a bit looser. Chris’s stuff is known for being perfect. He just really loves everything being right on. But he didn’t push us at all. He let us do what we wanted to do because it was our vision and he was just there to facilitate our vision.”

It feels as though The Con is darker and bit more intense than your previous work. Why is this?
I definitely think this album is darker and a bit tougher to get into but once you’re in and familiar with the tone, it definitely has more of a reward. Before, we loved being in a pop rock band; we loved having 800 kids sing along to every word. There was less focus on dynamics and more of how we were going to translate these songs into something people would like. With this album, however, we wanted to make the music very dynamic and up-tempo, and hear the landscaping from song to song. We really thought about this album. We wanted this album to really have an impact right off the bat but at the same time, make sure the transitions weren’t too jarring.

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