Tegan and Sara are more than a band (though they’re great at doing that, too.) We caught up with them at the Village Voice Pride Awards on June 21 in NYC to talk standing up for the LGBTQ community, their summer tour and why you won’t be seeing Sara’s cats on stage anytime soon.
This conversation with Tegan and Sara Quin has been edited and condensed for clarity, meaning that I’ve toned down my fangirl comments for everyone’s sake.
Why is it important to you to lend your voices to events like these?
Sara: Honestly, we’re just delighted to be invited. There were many years where we felt sort of isolated and sort of marginalized within the LGBTQ community at large. Some of our politics are more radical, and there was always a movement that felt to me a bit more mainstream. Especially when I was in my twenties, seeing things like marriage being such a significant common denominator for so many people, I didn’t necessarily feel that myself. But I started to really see there was a response and a responsibility for us to be involved, even if our own personal politics didn’t line up. Now, to be at these types of events and see that we’re something a little different, and that we have slightly different politics, it’s nice to be here and be welcomed.
Why NYC this year, as opposed to L.A. or Canada or anywhere else?
Tegan: We haven’t played a lot of Prides, and I don’t actually know the reason for that–
Sara: –We probably weren’t popular enough.
Were they like, you’re not gay enough?
Tegan: Yeah! Who knows? But we were really thrilled. This was our first time being asked to play in New York Pride, and it worked in our schedule. We did prioritize this year, trying to do more LGBTQ events, and to be more visible and participate in this. We love New York City!
Now we’re in what you’ve named the “Inflatable Era.” Who designed the new set? It looks like Lisa Hanawalt’s work…
Tegan: It does look like Lisa’s work a bit!
Sara: Our lighting director — the woman who designed it — is Abby Portner. She’s the sister of one of the guys in Animal Collective and is mostly with them; she does all of their visuals. We thought she was really cool and we wanted something different than anything we’d done before. She pitched us a couple of cool ideas that were maybe a little too adventurous, like my cats were involved…
Sara: No, my cats are real assholes. It would be way too high a commission for them. But Abby’s wonderful; we love the fun, crazy vibe of the show.
Tegan, what was your reaction to finding out that Sara had written two songs about you — “100x” and “White Knuckles” — for Love You To Death?
Tegan: I was thrilled! Sara and I are very lucky that we’ve been able to make 8 records, but with each record, the new challenge is, how do we create new sound, how do we use everything that’s worked in the pass without using the same work, how do we talk about something new, how do we uncover new feelings and emotions?
Sara and I have now spent our entire adult life in a band together, and it’s inevitable that we’re going to have to write about that friction. We’ve always been invested in writing about relationships, and this is a relationship. We make hundreds of decisions every week together. We’ve had to learn how to resolve conflict together, we’ve had to learn how to share space and share the limelight, and I think it’s a really valuable topic to cover.
In a strange way we’ve gone through our entire adult lives in the public eye, with so many people being a part of that journey with us. It’s a part of who we are, to share that. I would hate to think that Sara would have written that then have to keep it a secret.
Finally, what’s the weirdest or most unique venue you’ve ever played?
Tegan: We’ve played malls! We’ve stood in a mall…
That’s not that weird.
Tegan: It’s horrifying, actually! It’s embarrassing. I had to play music for unassuming, unsuspecting shoppers.
Sara: Maybe a swimming pool. We played next to a swimming pool once. That was pretty odd.