“I think there are themes on The Con that are being explored that we don’t necessarily spend a lot of time thinking about… This, in turn, could make the record harder to digest initially,” says Tegan Quin.
One such song, the album’s opener, “I Was Married,” could be taken as a pro-gay marriage anthem of sorts, if not a sublime pop song. “Sara wrote it, so if I may speak on behalf of her… Her partner is from the United States, so they went through a lot of immigration things. It was a song that Sara wrote after her partner got residency [in Canada],” explains Quin.
“It is definitely a political song and in a way, it’s also a true love song,” continues Quin. “No matter whether you’re a gay or a mixed race couple… when you’re drawn together, ultimately it doesn’t matter what everybody thinks because it’s so honest, true, and sincere. How can that be wrong?”
Adding to the maturing context of The Con, Tegan and Sara also collaborated with Death Cab for Cutie guitarist and producer Chris Walla, who’d met Sara at a Death Cab show earlier in the year. “Working with Chris was a total pleasure,” says Quin. “It’s always nice to be with someone who understands you musically and can give you props and explore different ideas. We trusted him to push us, and it was cool.”
Part of the pushing process also resulted in The Con‘s lush, multi-layered sound. “We spent two-and-a-half months crafting these songs. Some of the songs like ‘Are You Ten Years Ago’ have a gazillion fucking tracks. Our technique for recording is [utilizing] a lot of layering. I love layering the same guitar over and over again, because I love the natural reverb flange that sort of happens,” says Quin.
“Matt Sharp (of the Rentals and Weezer) who played bass on all of Sara’s songs – he can’t lay down one bass part. He had all these interlocking bass parts… We were like, ‘Fuck, how are we gonna recreate this live? We’re gonna have to hire 10 people.'”
INTERVIEW CONTINUES BELOW
Luckily for their budget, the duo has yet to hire an expanded rhythm section to fill out their sound for their current tour. With a new record, though, they’re finding themselves out for quite the stretch on the road.
“From tour to tour, we change everything really,” explains Quin. “We spent the first couple records touring just as a duo because we couldn’t afford to bring a band. Then bringing a band was exciting and changed it up. Then we got a bigger band. We hired a fifth person. Then we got a crew. Every record has changed us so much that we’ve kept it interesting. I think that’s how we’ve kept ourselves from burning out. It’s one of the things that stayed consistent about our band.”
As the band plays shows, they’ve found that their fanbase is growing, filling in generational gaps, and bending the rules of genre loyalty. The lovelorn thematic elements of 2004’s So Jealous resonated with adults, teens and tweens so much that Tegan and Sara have a much more eclectic audience than one would assume.
“We get so many teenagers coming to our shows and they’re like, ‘My mom’s here too.’ They’re annoyed, but they’re like, ‘She loves your record.’ I think we’re writing about very universal feelings and not doing it in a patronizing, juvenile way. We have a pretty good grasp on emotion and love,” says Quin.
Among their mom-and-daughter fans, the band have found other admirers in their tunes such as The White Stripes (who covered their single “Walking With a Ghost” for a digital EP) and, more surprisingly, The Deftones and hardcore outfit, Cancer Bats.
“We hear randomly from time to time that these hardcore bands really like our music, and they write to us asking us if it’s okay to cover our music and we’re like, ‘Of course.’ I think they’re rad. The idea that [hardcore bands] relate to us and that they want to cover our music is really exciting to me.”
While The Con makes its rounds across the hardcore scene, Tegan has also found herself lending vocals on Against Me!’s latest album, New Wave. They’ve since become Against Me!’s labelmates for Warner conglomerate’s Sire Records — a historically popular label that has released albums by The Smiths and Madonna.
“I love Sire,” says Quin. “I love the smallness of it with the huge infrastructure. Warner Brothers is working the record. To me, [Sire] is the indie of major labels.”
Though Tegan and Sara have yet to meet Seymour Stein (“Seymour’s a fucking genius,” gushes Quin), the legendary founder of Sire, there’s no doubt that they would impress him with their slightly blue congeniality and sweetness.