Interview with: Tegan Quin of Tegan & Sara, Pt. II

Tegan Quin @ Terminal 5, NYC, 10/6/08

Tegan Quin @ Terminal 5, NYC, 10/6/08

Without further ado, here is the long-awaited second, and final, part of my interview with Tegan Quin:

Dese’Rae Stage, PopWreck(oning): Are there any other artistic mediums you use to express yourself?
Tegan Quin: Yeah, definitely. I mean, obviously, with the videos. We’re putting together a book. We’re definitely trying out different things and, you know, trying to be creative in different ways.
I think that, eventually, we’ll get to a point in our lives where we’ll wanna do something outside of that, like using the other side of our brains, as well. For now, we’re basically involved in every aspect of what we do, from the business side of things to the artistic side of things. We’re all over the map. I’m definitely not smoking pot in my bedroom writing music all day long expecting someone to get me out there. We’re working really hard to make this happen.
PW: That’s awesome. It’s totally what you need to do. It’s amazing to see the change. I’ve been listening to you guys since I was a kid—since my freshman year of college seven years ago.
TQ: It’s really important. I mean, just like everyone’s life, you don’t wanna get stuck. I think, oftentimes, you know, unlike our own lives, when we get into an artist, we want them to stay the same because we want them to remind us constantly of that place we were in when when we first attached to them. I think Sara and I have navigated that change in ourselves and our music with our audience pretty well.
There are obviously people that grow out of music and have grown out of us, but it seems, progressively, throughout the ten years that we’ve been making music professionally, we’ve continued to cultivate a really great relationship with our audience that, as we change, they change too. We grow with them and they’re able to accept our changes.
There are still enough key ingredients in our performance, in our ability to connect with our audience, that stay the same that, as our music grows and changes and the evolution of Tegan and Sara continues, we’re still recognizable to the audience we had ten years ago.

PW: Who have your musical influences been historically and who are they now? Have they changed much?
TQ: When we started making music, it was like the mid-nineties to late-nineties, so we were into that whole grunge movement and Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young and Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco and Hayden. We were listening to a lot of that kind of music. As the years have gone by, I’ve gone further back into my past and music that I grew up with, like Cyndi Lauper and Sinead O’Connor and U2 and Dire Straits and Pink Floyd and all the stuff that I was listening to as a little kid. We were freakishly involved with music as kids, too. So, I think I went through that stage through the If It Was You/So Jealous era.
I think, nowadays, I’m influenced like everybody else. I’m obviously listening to a lot of indie rock and pop music and, you know, very into electronic music. When I was a teenager, we were really big into the electronic kind of bands, that kind of music scene and stuff. So, the last few years I’ve definitely gotten more interested in involving those elements in our music and listening to that kind of music. We’re contributing some songs to Tiesto’s new record and we’ve performed with him and I really think he’s great. You know, it’s an example of a type of music that isn’t necessarily obvious that we might listen to, but it’s definitely influential. The melodies and the harmonies and the structure of the songs and stuff—it’s all definitely very much something that we employ when we’re writing our own music.

PW: You have a lot of tattoos. I wanted know if you get the same question I do and how do you respond to it, and that question is: do you ever think about what you’ll look like when you’re 80?
TQ: [laughs] I figure that things are moving along so quickly and laser removal will advance so much that, if it’s really that terrible when I’m fifty, sixty, seventy or whatever, I’ll remove them. But I’ll tell you right now that the last thing I’m probably gonna be thinking about when I’m eighty is what my arms look like.
PW: Fuckin’ right. Thank you.
TQ: I’m not worried about it. Like I said, I figure by that point in time, things will have changed so much and advanced so much that it’ll probably be pretty easy to figure it out. I mean, there’s always sweaters.
PW: Yeah, I just think that’s gonna be the least of my worries.
TQ: Totally. It is absolutely gonna be the least of your worries. I mean, I would never tattoo my face, my hands, my feet—anything I couldn’t cover up.

PW: Before you were able to make ends meet by playing music—I do assume there was a time—what sort of jobs did you guys have?
TQ: When I was in high school, both my dad and step-dad owned home building companies, so I worked on job sites a lot. My last year of high school, I worked in a coffee shop. When I graduated, the first six months that I was out of high school, we were making music, and I worked at a coffee shop again. I got a different job at a different coffee shop, but that’s it; that’s my employment history.
Sara did mostly the same. She worked at a music store for awhile and she worked in a cafeteria at the Calgary Zoo. We both, by the time we were basically three or four months out of high school, were making music, so we didn’t have to get real jobs.

PW: I think successful artists are intense by definition. I wanted to know if you found that people in your life have been scared away or spooked by that intensity.
TQ: You know, I think as I’ve gotten older, I’m definitely more aware of the energy that I have. Like, my ability to walk into a room—and I’m a people pleaser, but I’m also extremely gregarious and loud and extroverted and I know that I oftentimes can monopolize and take a lot of space and I have an ability to get a lot of attention on me.
I mean, I know how to stand in front of 2,000 people and keep their attention on me, so it’s not hard to do in a party atmosphere. So, I’ve learned how to contain that and not be so much.
I’ve also learned to be a little more comfortable with the idea that, just ’cause I’m not talking and I’m not entertaining, it doesn’t mean that anyone’s judging me or thinking, “What’s wrong with Tegan? What’s happening? Why isn’t she talking?” But I’m used to that.
I’m used to being quiet and people being like, “What’s wrong?” And me being like, “No, nothing’s wrong, I’m just trying to let it happen.” I definitely feel like that can be uncomfortable and, as an artist, I’m quite aware. I mean, I remember this one time I asked this girl who I’d been chasing for quite awhile why it was so hard. What was the problem? Wasn’t I great? Wasn’t I perfect? She sent me my schedule from my tour page on my MySpace and I was just like, “Okay, I get it.”
It’s difficult and I think I make up for that by being so intense. I put a lot into the relationships I have when I’m at home and, you know, it’s a lot. I’m aware of how big I can be sometimes. I was hanging out with some girls the other night who I’d just met and we had this whole big meeting and we got up from the table and we were walking outside and this one girl was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe how small you are!”
I was like, “Oh!”
She was like, “I mean, I would have sworn you were the same size as me at the table.” I think that’s just an energy thing. So, I’m definitely cautious and careful about it, but I like my intensity. People who have no energy—I couldn’t be bothered to deal with them.
PW: Totally. Cool. I had to ask that question because people do that to me and I’m like, “Ah! I’m sorry I’m intense!”
TQ: No. Fuck it. Don’t be apologetic. It’s fine.

PW: Holla! Okay, last one. I feel like a lot of people who are in the public eye have trouble carrying on a normal life and I wanted to know how you make new friends or meet a new romantic interest when everyone knows who you are. Do you have to keep your guard up?
TQ: Yeah, of course. It’s not easy. I don’t mean that in a sob story way, kind of like, “Oh, it’s so hard,” but it is. You know, I meet people and I’ve been out of a serious relationship for two and a half years and dating the whole time, and it’s hard. You meet people and they do know who you are and you have to kinda just accept that, or you meet people and they’ve slept with half the people you know and you’re like, “Oh God, really?”
You’re not eighteen anymore, you’re not meeting somebody who’s never been with a girl, you’re not meeting someone who’s just out of high school and doesn’t know who you are. It’s really hard. With my age group and the people I’m interested in and the scene I hang out in, I mean, oftentimes I do feel a bit like a zebra being pranced around in a dance club. I don’t feel like people are able to come up and talk to me and be themselves with me because they either think that I’m going to be a certain way or they’re terrified of me and so they’re nervous and creepy and weird and then I’m like, “Ugh, get away from me.”
When it comes to making friends, it’s a little bit easier because I’m pretty good at being straightforward and being like, “Okay, you met me. Now it’s time to stop talking about me. Let’s talk about life.” So it’s a little bit easier, but yeah, I’ve been really lucky and blessed to have a lot of really great friends since high school. I meet a lot of really great people through other people I know, so it’s pretty great.
I think Sara and I—the one thing that has stayed consistent over the last ten years is that we’re still the same people we were then. We’re very charismatic and we’re very humble, good friends and we try to take as much time as we can for our friends and family. I think it’s pretty easy to attract good people when you’re putting that energy out there.

Photos by Dese’Rae Stage. More at flickr.

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