Back With a Beat

An interview with Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara ahead of their sold out show at the Rialto

Tegan and Sara, Canada's indie-rock twin sisters, will make their second stop in Tucson after coming to the Old Pueblo in 2007. The pair's latest record, Heartthrob, moves away from the largely acoustic, soft-rock style that they were known for, but it gave them a No. 2 spot on the Billboard charts. The Tucson Weekly caught up with Tegan Quin earlier this week via email to talk about their upcoming show, what inspired their latest record, and how the road has been treating them since the tour started.

Since your first record in 1999, you've had a reputation as an acoustic-based indie band. Heartthrob takes a much different turn, incorporating some electric, synth pop elements. What influenced that change?

We've been collaborating with dance pop artists now for six years and experimenting with synths, keyboards and more pop sounds for three records. So, while Heartthrob is definitely a big step in our sound evolution, it's still very much on the course we had set out back in 2004 when we made So Jealous and hired a full-time keyboard player.

I think we've always been interested in changing up our sound from record to record. None of our seven records sounds like each other. Our hope is to always challenge ourselves from record to record. It's important to keep things fresh and exciting in order to stay passionate about what we do.


What were some of the personal challenges that came with this record in terms of writing, recording, etc.?

We used multiple producers and recorded over a longer period of time and took more breaks while recording than we ever had before. This was hard to wrap my head around in the planning stages, but actually felt really refreshing when we were actually working. We also hired musicians to play a lot of the parts, and ideas we had created ourselves in demo form, which added to the new sound and increased the quality of the record but was initially hard to let go of because we are so used to doing so much ourselves. This was all new to us and really pushed our comfort levels, but it just sounded and felt so good, we knew it was right. 

The two of you are well known for your friendly, onstage banter with the audience. How did that come to be part of your shows?

The banter came as a natural way to fill time. Our first few years as professional musicians were awkward to say the least. We were either opening for bigger acts or playing multiple sets at sports bars or coffee shops. Basically, we were working longer than we had songs to fill the time. The banter was a way to kill time and also warm up the audience. It's a great icebreaker! So, now it's just "our thing." 

While Canada is likely where you feel most at home, you've developed quite a following in the U.S. How do you like playing shows down here?

We love touring all over the world. Our audience in Canada and the U.S. is definitely big and vibrant, but we are lucky to have a healthy following in Europe and Australia as well. Each audience is unique. I find Canadian audiences to be quite friendly and I truly feel like a proud Canadian band, so there is something special about "going home" to play. 

You played Tucson back in 2007 while touring for The Con, and, more recently, you opened for the Black Keys in Phoenix last October. How do you like the crowds in Southern Arizona?

We love Arizona! There is something very special about Tucson to us for some reason we can't pinpoint. Our last show there was so fun! I love warm weather. And I love music lovers and there seems to be a lot of both in Tucson!

What have the two of you been listening to lately?

I don't listen to a ton of new music when we're working. But I love DIANA, Haim, Beach House, P!nk, Stars, Rihanna, Candy Hearts, Allison Weiss, the Courtneys ... etc.

Do either of you have a song that is a favorite to play live?

I love playing Heartthrob. It's so challenging. It's hard to pick one song ... maybe "Shock to Your System." I basically play a very basic melody line and scream in the back. It's awesome. It's the closest to "backing musician" I've ever been ... I love it!