Tegan & Sara: Heartfelt Love Songs
Everything about Canadian rock band Tegan and Sara is an anomaly. The world of rock in general, whether boasting a hair band’s high powered ballads or the gentle strokes of a self-identified hipster, seems to be dominated by men. Men in groups, too – usually an assembly of four or five, with a dynamic lead vocalist that tends to, whether intentional or not, steal the spotlight. But Tegan and Sara are a rock band of an entirely different breed.
Their indie sensibilities position them in an unusual place on the rock spectrum. Tegan and Sara’s vocals capture a feminine quality without being overtly so – they sound raw, drawing from a soft pop and nearly folk range of tunes. Their ability to create crossovers between the indie and pop world has served them well. Guest musicians on their tracks and covers include the likes of rock band The White Stripes and international, house music DJ David Guetta. Tegan and Sara’s presence also calls for a bit of a double take in the male-dominated sphere of rock music. The now 30 year old, identical twins make up the members of their band. Each can skillfully play the guitar and keyboard as well as write their own songs. The twins’ appearance is best suited for the indie image, as well. Blazers, button-ups, striped shirts and dark clothes seem to make up the majority of the sisters’ wardrobes, hinting at slight traces of femininity but overall speaking to the soft rocker side of things.
They are, however, aware of the implications of focusing too heavily on their appearance, and Sara stresses this in an interview with music magazine The Fader: “We’ve been very conscious of not exploiting our sexuality. Or exploiting what we look like, because I think in today’s society it’s very institutionalized that if you become too much about something to look at and to observe as a woman, people just assume that your art has less value or that you’re being duped or something. As much as I hate that, I’m incredibly aware of it. So we’ve really tried to negotiate not looking like pieces of shit, but also we have been very aware of the fact that we wanted to prove that we were a band. A real band, playing real music. This of course, no man would ever have to prove. But we have felt like we have had to prove it so there was a concern or a nervousness around playing up our image too much.” This understanding has seemed to keep the sisters grounded; yet even still their indie rock sound, coupled with their identical looks and particular style of dress, make Tegan and Sara a rare force in the industry.
Now with 13 years of their career underway, the singers are proving what they knew all along – that they deserve to stay in rock. This career got its beginnings while the sisters were still in high school, recording two demo albums and eventually recording a professional demo album after winning earnings from a garage band competition the same year they graduated. Upon finishing high school, the two almost immediately set out for life on the road, forging a path of independence by maintaining their indie label. Unable to afford touring with a band and willing to use any means to get started, they traveled cross-country on Grey Hound busses, arriving at venues only to find out their shows were canceled. But they kept pushing, a remarkable task Tegan reflects on their website’s blog: “Don’t let our resume or stories or track record imply otherwise. Our first show with Neil Young and The Pretenders in the summer of 2000, we stepped on stage for sound check and realized, we wouldn’t be sitting on stools. Neil’s guitar tech rushed in to drill holes for guitar straps and then we were ushered back on stage to sound check to 18,000 empty seats. Unprepared doesn’t actually do it justice, now that I really am thinking about it. … Why didn’t we give up? Year after year, more tours would come in, more shows would be sold out, more records would sell, more people would offer to work on our behalf and most importantly more fans would be made. Record after record our tours became more fun, more diverse, better sounding, better looking and more populated. Tour after tour left us feeling hopeful and energized. I’d return home from the road happy and proud to be doing what we were doing rather than rejected and burnt out.” This persistence eventually got them to the place they are now, collecting a large following along the way.
Both sisters identify as lesbian and have a large fan base within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community. The two have often used their fame to discuss issues that are relevant in the LGBT community as well as advocate for women’s rights. They were also particularly vocal in regards to fighting against the Proposition 8 case that would ban gay marriage in California and supportive of rock bandAgainst Me!’s lead singer coming out as transgender this past year. Tegan and Sara are a continuously a fresh face for rock, musically and in attitude. With their new album Heartthrob released just days ago to rave reviews praising the sisters for their bold directions, Tegan and Sara will keep on rocking.
– Melissa Cruz