Tegan and Sara's Walk in the 'Park' The twin sisters of the Canadian acoustic pop duo Tegan and Sara play live from their newest release, The Con.
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Tegan and Sara's Walk in the 'Park'

Listen: the Bryant Park interview

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(Soundbite of song, "Burn Your Life Down")

TEGAN AND SARA (Duo Singer): (Singing) Tell me that know another way to get it done. It's not me, or how I would be, but it's a different situation, a different situation. You lay awake in the night just…


That song is from "The Con," the fifth release from 26-year-old identical twins Tegan and Sara. It's an album the Quin gals produced with the help of Christopher Walla from the band Death Cab for Cutie. They have been re-touring relentlessly. Almost all the U.S. dates are sold out through early December and then Tegan and Sara head to Australia and Europe well into 2008.

So we were lucky that they stopped by our studios this week with three guitars, a glockenspiel and their friend Ted. They played and told us about everything from their reluctance to sign a record deal to the beauty of their homeland, Canada.

(Soundbite of NPR archive story)

STEWART: So, what, you guys are Calgary, right?

Ms. SARA QUIN (Singer, Tegan and Sara): Originally, yes.

STEWART: How much of your growing up years did you spend there?

Ms. S. QUIN: Nineteen.

Ms. TEGAN QUIN (Singer, Tegan and Sara): We moved away - yeah, when we were 19.

STEWART: I've been to Calgary. It's kind of - it's beautiful, but it's kind of in the middle of Canada.

Ms. T. QUIN: Yeah.

STEWART: I was going to say nowhere but I didn't want to offend you.

Ms. T. QUIN: No. I mean, like, basically the closest, bigger city is Edmonton, which is a little bit smaller than Calgary, and then Vancouver which is, you know, probably the biggest city on the West Coast. So it is kind of in the middle of nowhere.

STEWART: I know.

Ms. T. QUIN: But it's in the beautiful part of nowhere because to your east you have the - you have all the prairies, and it's beautiful, and then about 40 minutes to the west is the Rocky Mountains. So it's beautiful. It's a beautiful place to grow up. It's very - it's in a strange way - it's quite isolated, but if you're looking for that type of isolation, it's the best type.

STEWART: So Sara, what kind of live music did you get to see if you were living in Calgary?

Ms. S. QUIN: The popular - the popular thing when we were growing up in the '90s, you know, like there was a huge punk community in Calgary, like a lot of - a lot of kids, I guess, for whatever reason were drawn to that - and we also were getting a lot of what was coming from south of the border from the Pacific northwest. So we had a lot of like, you know, like pretty heavy rock.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Ms. S. QUIN: And, you know, like everything that was coming under that scene at that time like Nirvana, but then also kind of like the riot grrl stuff. So that was huge. And then hip hop was huge. We had a lot of, like - where we grow in the inner city or whatever - for whatever reason there was a lot of hip hop.


Ms. S. QUIN: So I kept listening to, like, punk and hip hop.

STEWART: Tegan, do you remember the first live act you saw that made you think, okay, I'm going to do this one day?

Ms. T. QUIN: Well, we - Sara and I were lucky because our parents were really young when they had us and so they were really still into music, you know, very much like up on current stuff. And so I mean, seeing Bruce Springsteen and U2 was really amazing. We did, you know, saw a lot of concerts before we were 15.

But I think it was when we were 15 that we started going to shows on our own, like without our parents and seeing a lot of local bands play that I actually started to feel motivated to play music for other people.

But I didn't ever have the urge to play at the halls where we were seeing music. I mean, we played in our friends garages and when we have parties and - but it wasn't until we were 17 and, you know, we entered this contest and it was for free studio time that we actually played in a licensed venue for strangers. And even after we did that I didn't lay in bed at night and think I can't wait to get up on stage again, like it really was very much as a solitary thing that I really like to do just for the sake of doing it.

STEWART: So, Sara, you entered this contest which Tegan just mentioned.

Ms. S. QUIN: Mm-hmm.

STEWART: You get this free studio time and you make this demo. Is that the demo that you ended up sending to the record companies?

Ms. S. QUIN: No.


Ms. S. QUIN: We had this demo and we're still like, again, like we weren't thinking - it's so funny now because our audience has gotten a lot younger so were like talking to a lot of like 17, 18-year-old kids sometimes, and I'm like - I'm like, back in the olden days when we didn't have the Internet. It's like I don't that we really knew what you did when you had a demo. Like we knew that you could get gigs from a demo because then you could send your demo tape to promote around the club or whatever and be like, oh, we - see we're good, like, play - let us play. But we ended up making a couple of demo tapes, selling them for a couple of bucks, you know, at shows, that sort of thing. And we didn't really want to do a record deal.

STEWART: Really? You didn't want to?

Ms. S. QUIN: I don't know, I think we were like - well, I know for me more than Tegan, I still thought to myself I'm going to the university. I'm going to take a year off. I'm going to do these things that I sort of been telling everybody that I was going to do. Not having a record deal hadn't stopped us from making records as far as I was concerned. We had demo tapes, we had a record, we toured. I wasn't really sure what a record company was going to do for us. I hated authority. I hated having responsibility put on me. And I was totally scared, at 18, 19 years old I was scared that having a record deal meant having a job. I was scared about that.

STEWART: Well, it worked out because you're in your fifth record.

Ms. S. QUIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

STEWART: Can you play the title track from your new record "The Con."

Ms. S. QUIN: Absolutely.

Ms. S. QUIN: We sure can.

(Soundbite of song, "The Con")

TEGAN AND SARA (Duo Singer): (Singing) I listened in. Yes, I'm guilty of this. You should know this. I broke down and wrote you back before you had a chance to forget, forgotten. I am moving past this giving notice. I have to go. Yes, I know the feeling know you're leaving. Calm down, I'm calling you to say I'm capsized staring on the edge of safe. Calm down, I'm calling back to say I'm home now, I'm coming around.

Coming around but nobody likes to but I really like to cry. Nobody likes me, baby, if I cry. Spelled out your name and list the reasons faint of heart don't call me back. I imagine you and I was distant, non-existent. I'll follow suit and laid out on my back imagine that. A million hours left to think of you and think of that. Calm down, I'm calling you to say. I'm capsized staring on the edge of safe. Calm down, I'm calling back to say. I'm home now, I'm coming around. Coming around but nobody likes to but I really like to cry. Nobody likes me maybe if I cry. Encircle me I need to be taken down. Encircle me I need to be taken down. Encircle me I need to be taken down. Encircle me I need to be taken down. Encircle me I need to be taken down. Encircle me I need to be taken down. Well, nobody likes to but I really like to cry. Nobody likes me maybe if I cry. Nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody. Encircle me I need to be taken down. Encircle me I need to be taken down. Encircle me I need to be taken down.

(Soundbite of applause)

STEWART: Tegan and Sara. That's called "The Con" from their fifth album. And yet, when we listen to you guys sing, like many siblings, there's this certain sort of quality that's similar in your voice. And I think because you're identical twins, people want to say, they sound so much alike, but you really have a different tone in your voice.

Tegan, can you describe Sarah's voice?

Ms. T. QUIN: I mean, I think that like it's probably really difficult for me to pinpoint. Like I know our voices don't sound the same. If you pay attention like within like two seconds, you can tell the difference between us. And there are some very distinct differences in how we look and how we sound but also how we write songs. So when I hear Sarah's voice, it sounds like someone else's voice. I don't hear her voice and think, gee, that sounds like me.

Now, a flip of the coin is that sometimes I will leave myself voicemail messages and I will think it's Sarah. And - why is Sarah telling me to go to the bank and get, like, you know, and so - sometimes she sounds like - I can't tell the difference between us (unintelligible) what the hell is she going on about.

Ms. S. QUIN: I think we're going mimicking to. Like it's like - I'll like with the way that I sing a song of Tegan's will be like not how I sing a song of my own.

STEWART: I went to this Internet fact-checking for me. So a Wikipedia buster.

Ms. T. QUIN: Let's do it. Let's do it.

Ms. S. QUIN: Okay, sure.

STEWART: According to Wikipedia, in - you know, it's on the Internet, it must be true. During their 2007 tour - they, meaning you guys - have also introduced the anti-encore. They will ask the crowd to stay completely silent during their final exit, to not scream and shout like most traditional encores. Once the venue is in complete silence, they will make their entrance where in complete harmony the crowd will welcome them with cheers and screams.

True or false?

Ms. T. QUIN: We have done that, a few - quite a few times actually.

Ms. S. QUIN: That has happened. In Canada, we did that one.

Ms. T. QUIN: In Canada, we tried it out. I like the encore. I mean, I don't like — personally think it's necessary, like, you know, like, to me, if you come out and you play like a full, great set, you know, I understand the, like, instinct to want to call back the artist. But unfortunately, people know the encore is happening so they don't have to try that hard.

And so as an artist you'll stand up beside the stage and you will question your purpose in life because you'll be, like, they're not even clapping that loud. I mean, did we do a bad job? I mean, they seemed into it. Why - I mean, we shouldn't even go out there. I mean, like, I don't even want to go out there and then Sara will — like, get out there. And then you step on stage and they explode.

So we came up with this - well, I came up with this idea one night (unintelligible) encore because I was feeling self-conscious and I was like, hey, everyone in the audience, we have to do this together. When we finish this last song, be silent. Don't make a noise. And so we literally finished with this huge song of ours. And we stopped and there's a few ranting, but then people were like shh. And it was like silent.

Ms. S. QUIN: It was weird.

Ms. T. QUIN: It was so weird. And we, like, put our instruments down and we walked off stage and we went around the curtain to the other side and we stood there and then we walked out on stage, and the place exploded. And I was like, see now, this is what an encore feels like, like they were anticipating us coming back. And instead of just being like…

(Soundbite of clapping)

STEWART: Golf claps, right?

Ms. S. QUIN: Should we get our jackets?

Ms. T. QUIN: And how many songs do think they're going to play? Like, should we, I mean, we should get in line for T-shirts now. You know, like, it's feel so lackluster. It's not the audience's fault. We're just - we've been given too much. You know, we're consumers - consumer nation.

Ms. S. QUIN: We're a society with the pony.

Ms. T. QUIN: What the…

Ms. S. QUIN: We've already got the pony. We don't - we have…

Ms. T. QUIN: What?

Ms. S. QUIN: …nothing else to look forward to.

Ms. T. QUIN: I don't get - you keep bringing up this pony thing. I don't even want a pony. I don't know why Sara keeps - thinks the ultimate is a pony.

STEWART: Apparently, Sara wants a pony.

Ms. S. QUIN: It's a metaphor, you know?

STEWART: Somebody out there just take note.

Ms. T. QUIN: Yeah.

Ms. S. QUIN: You know, when kids on - in the '80s on television, like, they'd be like, what do you want? And they'd be like, I want a pony. Where is the pony going to live? I don't even know. I don't know where my pony would live. I feel like my condo would be really upset if I showed up with a pony after this tour.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Tegan and Sara are in studio. The name of their fifth album is called "The Con." The song "Back in Your Head" was a good case, the producer really helping your song take shape, right? Tell us a little bit, Sara, how different the song was when you first recorded it and then what Chris — Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie — did for the song.

Ms. S. QUIN: You know, when the original song, like, the demo version of it, is quite slow and that's really the biggest change, like, when I sent the song out to Chris, he was like, oh, this is really different than anything else you've written for the album, and I really love it. And I thought it was like such a sad song. Like, it was really sad and there was something very slow about it. And I didn't know if it was a sleeper or if it was, like, going to make the album or what.

And then over Christmas, Chris texted me and he was like, I think we should speed it up really fast and make it kind of like a pop song. Like it'll be a pop song and playing it that fast was, like, really disorienting for me because I was, like, what is this? I don't understand the song. I'm a chipmunk now. I don't get it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. S. QUIN: But the song itself, like, the arrangement, the lyrics, the melody, all that sort of stuff, that really stayed the same. It was just - it's amazing what speeding a song up can do. Like, it literally went from sort of being a sweet pop song to being like a pop song. And it's become, like, this funny song that, like, I really love and care about, but I still think of it as sort of being this, like, very sad, sweet, like, just a guitar and a vocal song.

STEWART: All right. We'll keep all that in mind.

Ms. S. QUIN: Yeah.

STEWART: Well, Tegan and Sara play "Back in Your Head."

Ms. S. QUIN: One, two, three, four.

(Soundbite of song, "Back in Your Head")

Ms. T. QUIN: (Singing) Build a wall of books between us on our bed. Repeat, repeat the words that I know we both said. Relax into the need. We get so comfortable. Remember when I was so strange and likeable.

Ms. S. QUIN: (Singing) I just want back in your head.

TEGAN AND SARA: (Singing) I just want back in your head. I'm not unfaithful but I'll stray.

Ms. S. QUIN: (Singing) Well, I get a little scared. Well, I get a little scared. Well, I get a little scared. Well, I get a little…

TEGAN AND SARA: (Singing) When I jerk away from holding hands with you, I know these habits hurt important parts of you. Remember when…

STEWART: That was a performance from Tegan and Sara from earlier this week. You can see one of their performances on our Web site: npr.org/bryantpark.


That's the encore that I want you to hear.

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