Last week, Tegan And Sara performed as part of Katy Perry's "We Can Survive" benefit concert supporting the Young Survival Coalition alongside Sara Bareilles, Ellie Goulding, and Katy Perry herself at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. I was elated when I got the chance to jump on the phone with Tegan And Sara's very own Tegan Quin and talk to her about their biggest year ever, their hit album "Heartthrob," and playing the benefit concert alongside so many other amazing women.
I fangirled hard.
Tynan Sinks: 2013 has been your biggest to date with the release of Heartthrob. How was the year been different for you guys, both personally and as a band?
Tegan Quin: We made a record that we hoped would reach our fans, but also reach a ton of new people. We were at a point in our career where we had sort of flat-lined a little bit, I think artistically we felt like maybe we were playing it safe. "Heartthrob" was the answer to all of that. We realized we needed to pick a path and go for it, whatever that meant.
Being twin sisters and being in a band since we were teenagers, we were sort of falling into a trap of being complacent with what we had. We needed to feel challenged and this was our way of going about getting that. We put it all on the table and tried to make a record that would appeal first and foremost to us, and reach new people.
TS:People keep talking about your new “pop sound.” After you guys released "Sainthood," I felt like you guys were leaning so closely to a pop. Then you gave us "Heartthrob" and it works so perfectly. I’m a huge pop music fan.
TQ: And we’re huge pop music fans, too! Pop music was cool! It was credible and awesome and it had depth and it was amazing. And then it sort of changed. Major labels were creating these awful, formulaic music and so people all of a sudden were like “Pop music is not cool.” Pop music is still cool if you make good pop music.
TS:You’re just now finding your place in the mainstream while having had such a loyal fan base for so long. Do you think that the “pop music” label has been detrimental?
TQ: Even though it’s only been eight months since we put out the record, there weren’t that many challenges. Writing the record was so much fun and felt so good, and recording it was incredible and inspiring.
When we started touring, there was sort of a, some people call it “backlash.” I call it 20 grumpy people online saying “I wish they still played acoustic guitars and sat on chairs!” I was like “Well, that’s not gonna happen.” There was a moment where I was like, “Do we need to address this?” So we did.
Every night, we stood on stage and would play a couple acoustic songs off our old records and I would say “You guys all came to us from different places. You didn’t come to us from radio or from Rolling Stone, you came to us from all over the world. Our audience is so diverse. I’m not telling them that they are one thing and that we have to give them one thing. I’m telling them that they can love whatever they want. And immediately, I felt like all of that weird tension went away.
TS: I actually got into you guys from listening to "The Con," which was very different, and still is very different than anything I listen to today.
TQ: "The Con" is the funniest thing. With every record we put out, people always talk about how different it sounds from the record before. And thank god! Who wants to hear the same record twice? When we put out "The Con," people felt like it was so much heavier than "So Jealous," which was a more acoustic guitar/keyboard record. Now people are like “That record changed my life.”
Our songs come out of us the way that they want to come out of us. When we were writing "The Con," we were both going through intense breakups with women we’d been with for five years, our grandmother died, our lawyer died, we were in such a different place. Now, we’re both in loving relationships, we’re talking about the future and children, and we’re traveling, and life is so good, so the music is gonna come out totally different.
TS:Now that you’re a part of the top 40 music scene, are you feeling any pressure surrounding your next move?
TQ: You know what? I don’t feel that much pressure. If we’re supposed to make another record, we’ll make one. We’ll finish touring and we’ll start writing, and it will get made. I think that we still feel really inspired. The last two records, I wasn’t sure, I was feeling a little stuck, I was feeling like creatively, we had covered all the ground we could cover, and "Heartthrob" showed me that there’s so much more we can do.
We just turned 33, I feel like we’re a young 33. I feel like we’re quite relevant and still have the energy to go out and tour, but I think there’s also a point where I don’t want to spend three quarters of my year on a bus and be away from my family and my friends, my home and my partner.
TS: You guys have been very big in the LGBT community for your entire career, how do you guys feel about sharing the spotlight with so many gay artists and allies? Did you ever think we’d be in a place where a song like “Same Love” would be on Billboard?
TQ: We’ve had such a close, intimate look at how things have changed over the decade-plus that we’ve been in the industry, so I feel like I’ve always had a lot of hope and faith that things would change. Certainly in the last couple years to see so many new people coming forward, so many people helping move this cause forward, it’s astounding. So inspiring.
There’s always a bit of, like, you don’t want people speaking for you, so it’s been really cool to see so many beautiful allies doing it the right way, standing up and raising awareness for our community. And I think the thing that inspires me most is that it’s men! Like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Fun., two of the biggest projects in the last couple years raising awareness and creating organizations. It’s amazing and I feel so grateful to have those kinds of people in our world.
TS: Tell me about the Young Survival Coalition and playing as part of Katy Perry's "We Can Survive" benefit concert.
TQ: I’m excited! I have had numerous people in my life who have been living with breast cancer. I love that the Young Survival Coalition is specifically geared toward young women, creating a community, a place where you can go and talk about things and learn, and I love that they’re trying to raise awareness and money for research for young women’s breast cancer. I feel thrilled to be a part of it and to be raising awareness.
I love that Katy is doing this, I think that she’s a wonderful woman. It’s was a big win/win for us, we get to do something really great and we get to raise awareness for something really important and also get to share the stage with some of the most important women in music.
Tynan is fangirling on Twitter @TynanBuck.