They’ve gone from being Neil Young’s favourite band to Taylor Swift’s, and in 2013 that means one thing: Tegan and Sara got a whole lot closer to superstardom this year thanks to the release of their most purely pop album yet, Heartthrob.
Though the diehard T&S fans might be lamenting the mainstreaming of their twin bastions of alternative living, it’s impossible not to rejoice in a band finding so much success on their seventh album, reinventing themselves 14 years into their career.
CBC Music spoke with the Quin sisters, separately over the phone, to get their own perspectives on the surreal, magical and surprising turns their lives have taken the last 11 months. From radio countdowns and sold-out shows to Ellen and Glee, there’s no doubt about it: 2013 has been the year of Tegan and Sara.
In this excerpt from the cover story of the brand new CBC Music magazine, they discuss Swift and Neil Young, their love of pop and how breaking out might just keep them from breaking up.
Neil Young vs. Taylor Swift
Sara: This may be blasphemous, 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 [Roberts], 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.
Pop goes T&S!
Tegan: If you’re a hardcore, diehard Tegan and Sara fan and have been around for five-plus years, [you know] we’ve collaborated with half of the electronic music business. Our references and the bands who’ve influenced us for the last 10 years have been everyone from Cyndi Lauper and Bruce Springsteen and U2, arguably the biggest music icons from the ’80s, to Alicia Keys and Rihanna. Like, those are all the artists we’ve ever covered. People who are shocked and surprised that we’re interested in pop music haven’t been paying any attention.
Trust me, if we put out an acoustic record like Business of Art, we’d be irrelevant and we would break up. I mostly just feel bad for those fans. You know, you want us to be something we aren’t and that would only break us up. So you can either just love the old music and stick with us because we play a lot of the old music, or you can get on board, but either way, don’t wish for us to be 10 years ago. That’s like a relationship and just wanting your partner to be the same as when you met them. You’ll break up! You have to let them move and grow and evolve. I don’t want our audience to be stagnant. My biggest hope with our music is that it inspires change and growth. As an audience member, I’m hoping it inspires growth and change, so don’t tell me you don’t want me to grow or change. [Laughs] That’s not the contract. But we love our audience and we’ve been really, really, painstakingly going through what are the most popular old songs and making sure over half the set is always old music, making sure we stay engaged, do the Twitter conversations and still do all the cool, amazing giveaways. We still do giveaways to every single show and we do meet and greets in every single city. We’ve been really trying to keep that connection there.
Read the full story on your Apple device here and on your Android device here.
Follow Andrea Warner on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner