Twin sister performers Tegan and Sara are returning to Dallas on Thursday to perform an exclusive show. The duo is heading to Austin to perform at the Austin City Limits festival and will perform for one night at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Vocalist Sara Quin joined The Shorthorn to talk about the band’s seventh studio album, Heartthrob, which is set to be released in January.
The Shorthorn: On this tour, are you going to be introducing the audience to a lot of your new music or are you keeping it mostly to stuff we’ve seen before?
Sara Quin: We definitely are playing stuff off the new record, and we’re also playing some of the collaboration stuff we’ve done over the last couple of years. The show is really new. New band, new stuff, new songs and new lights, so it’s pretty exciting. Even though we’re not playing a ton off the new record, right now we’re playing about half.
TS: How is the new album different from previous Tegan and Sara work?
SQ: You know every record. Going into it, we sort of have a process. The way that we write songs, we collaborate with each other before we get into the studio.
Initially it wasn’t that different. We decided that the way to insure we weren’t going to make something that people may mistake for an older record was that we needed to work with producers we hadn’t maybe considered in the past.
We ended up doing a lot of the record with Greg Kurstin, and I was more familiar with him as a producer for Lily Allan, Kylie Minogue, Pink and Kelly Clarkson, you know, pretty big pop stars and pop-type music. He did the Shins record and was in a project called The Bird and The Bee. I thought that he was really diverse and super interesting.
I think we’re great songwriters and have lots of ideas instrumentally, but sometimes when it comes to production or taking the song to another level, that’s where we really rely on a producer to help us. This time we really wanted it to go to the next level. We didn’t want anything subtle. We wanted the production to be bold and to be obvious and to be pop-y and have the songs stand out as something completely new for us.
TS: Is this new pop sound a reflection of where you and your sister Tegan are right now in life?
SQ: I think so. We’re pretty aware of where we, as a band, sort of fit. We have a terrific fan base, and we’re able to travel all around the world playing shows. We sort of know who our peers or contemporaries are.
Artistically speaking, we have discussed the areas that have never really been available to us. We’ve never been a radio band, you know. We fear of being big fish in a small pond in a lot of ways. We have lots of friends in lots of bands, some of them are mainstream bands, and some of them are sort of obscure indie bands, and we started to talk to them about our experiences over the last 13 years.
It wouldn’t be, I think, taking anything away from the history we already have to make our way into a different role or a different market. We knew that if we we’re going to do that, we would have to push the bounds into a more universally recognized pop sounds. We knew it would be ambiguous because it’s certainly easier said than done. You can’t just sort of like put your “pop hat” on and make a big pop record. We knew we were going to get pushed to work really hard on melodies and harmonies and songs and structures, that music sort of has to be bulletproof.
We thought why not try? We thought there was no harm in trying to branch out into something different. I think we did. The first single “Closer” is certainly kind of a more dancy, pop-y, upbeat flirtatious kind of fun track. I think there are a lot of songs that are going to appeal to a lot of different types of people. That, to me, is all we were hoping to accomplish. Just open the doors a little wider to let a few more people in.
TS: Do you and your sister have the same kind of normal sisterly bickering?
SQ: Yeah, there are times when it’s been harder to like keep a civilized tone or whatever. Like we’ll definitely lash out in a way that I wouldn’t lash out at, like, my friend Bobbie.
But you know we’ve actually been making music for about 17 years, and we’re pretty good at it. There is definitely more peace time than war time. I think we’ve become very professional and we sort of save our abuse for behind closed doors, so nobody else has to go through it. You know, we love each other and it’s been a very successful band for us and we both sort of have the same goals. We are sort of able to dig ourselves out of conflict easy.
TS: Because your record hasn’t dropped yet, your fans are going to hear your new music for the first time from you, in person. Is that something you were thinking about when you set the tour up?
SQ: We knew that the record wouldn’t be coming out until next year, so we knew that we wanted to go out and sort of get back into shape. Get back on the road, get back into the mindset of being out touring and playing shows.
I was hoping that we were going to get to play a bunch of new music even though the record hasn’t come out just, because I think, you know, it’s been over three years since our last record came out.
For the diehard fans coming out before the record comes out, we knew that they would like to hear some new stuff. I mean, so far, it’s funny, we have a lot of confidence in the new record. When you’re playing sort of completely cold for people who have never heard it before, songs off a new record and they respond positively, there’s sort of like a moment of "Good, we thought they would like it, and they like it. This is great."
TS: Is there also some fear in there?
SQ: I don’t have any fear. I mean we are sort of connected with who we are playing for. Tegan and I are Virgos and we’re like really, really organized and together, so we did like a month of rehearsals, and we’re really intense.
We really like to make sure that what we’re going out to deliver to people is as good as can be. And, you know, there are enough cooks in the kitchen that I don’t think we would go on tour and do something that we didn’t feel would come across well. After all, this is our seventh record, so after all these years and all these records, you kind of have a group of people that you trust.
People that work for you, some of them are our friends, our family, some of them are sort of associates or other bands we know, so we usually have a fairly accurate team of people who can sort of tell us, "What do you think of these songs?" or "What do you think of this show, do you think people are going to like this?" and usually that is pretty accurate when we get out on the road.
So I don’t really feel fear, I’m more like just nervous.
Follow Camille on Twitter using @CamilleRSuttles or email her at Camille.Suttles@mavs.uta.edu