EDMONTON (CUP) &- If Tegan and Sara are known for one thing besides their unique Quin-branded pop songs, it’s for being notorious chatterboxes.
Anyone who’s seen the twins perform can attest to the fact that, in addition to a few hours of music, you’ll also likely to hear stories about the writing process behind their songs and a few goofy throwbacks to their childhood &- and some sisterly bickering is pretty much a guarantee. But for once, Sara Quin is much quieter than usual.
Stricken with a bad cold, she has to cancel our phone interview (and according to her publicist, nearly forty others) because she’s lost her voice. However, she agrees to make up these interviews via email while she recuperates somewhere in east Vancouver while preparing for her upcoming tour in support of Sainthood, the newest album she and her sister have recorded.
For their last five full-length albums, the Quin sisters have written their songs individually, not as a pair, as is commonly assumed. On the bonus DVD that comes with their album The Con, Sara jokes that this is “the lie of Tegan and Sara.” However, in preparation for their sixth album, the twins decided to take a sojourn to New Orleans &- and write together.
“We have very different approaches to our song-writing process,” Sara explains via email. “Tegan starts with lyrics and guitar chords, whereas I like to begin with rhythm and instrumentation. I also found that I worked slowly and more meticulously. Tegan often writes quickly and impulsively. It was as if we were approaching from completely opposite places.”
And in some ways, they were. During the writing of The Con, Sara was in a happy, long-term relationship, while Tegan was feeling the sting of a failed romance. For Sainthood, Sara found herself single for the first time in more than five years while Tegan, despite a few bouts of unrequited love, found herself newly coupled. This romantic reversal between the sisters produced songs that were “darker and a little more “math rock.'”
Ultimately, none of the songs produced during the New Orleans sessions fit artistically with the other songs already chosen for the new record, but several other collaborations they did made the final cut. Sara says that the New Orleans sessions with her sister were still a fond experience.
“I would love to write with [Tegan] again in the future,” she adds.
The lead track from Sainthood, “Arrow,” is one of Sara’s contributions to the album. While the track’s lyrics seem to suggest that the arrow might be Cupid’s, Sara is a bit coy to unravel its somewhat cryptic meaning any further.
“The song was written for someone who I didn’t really know yet,” she says. “It was intended as a survey about their behaviour and intentions, but also a warning of sorts about my own.”
The final decision to call the record Sainthood was a nod to a lyric from Leonard Cohen’s song “Came So Far For Beauty,” in which Cohen sings “I practised all my sainthood/I gave to one and all/But the rumours of my virtue/They moved her not at all.”
According to Tegan and Sara, their conception of sainthood was a metaphor for “secular themes of devotion, delusion, and exemplary behaviour in the pursuit of love and relationships.”
In addition to releasing Sainthood late last fall, the Quins also poured themselves into another, non-musical project: a three-book set about their 2008 U.S. national tour, their 2009 headlining tour of Australia and their collective writing and recording sessions in New Orleans in the fall of 2008. The set, titled On, In, At includes photography and essays by Tegan and Sara, as well as some of their musical friends.
“We thought that [these three experiences] would all make great books, especially because, contrasted together, they would show very different parts of our lives &- scenically, but also emotionally,” says Sara.
Now, with a new tour, a new album, and three new books, the sisters are poised for a prosperous new year. Even with all that the duo has accomplished, Sara says that there is still one smaller resolution she’s planning on making for 2010.
“I would like to get my driver’s licence. We have spent so many years touring and I have neglected to go through the process as of yet,” she says, adding that Tegan has yet to take her road test either. “I like to think it has less to do with me being lazy, and more to do with my love of bicycles and mass transit!”
Tegan and Sara will be performing at Place Des Arts Jan. 18.