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Tegan and Sara continue to evolve with new disc 'Heartthrob'

Tegan and Sara, the band fronted by out Canadian twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin, has evolved from simple acoustics to fuller arrangements drawing on a variety of influences, particularly electronic. Their latest disc “Heartthrob” is the culmination of that evolution. It pulses with irresistible songs, incorporating the duo’s trademark infectious melodies, vocal interplay and harmonies, and a distinctive use of lyric repetition. The songs “Closer” and “Drove Me Wild” are full-fledged club anthems, placing the twins firmly in dance diva territory.

I spoke with Sara Quin shortly after the disc’s release.

What are the most significant elements in the evolution of Tegan and Sara as individuals and as a duo? 

We’ve changed so dramatically as people. What’s sort of remarkable about that transformation and change is that it hasn’t meant the end of the band. Even though we’ve changed as people, and our sound has changed and our look has changed. I’m just grateful that all of that hasn’t meant that the band had to be finished. In a way, I’m also glad that the band didn’t get caught in a state of arrested development. 

How important was it for you to feature same-sex pairs in the “Heartthrob” video?

This is the first time that we purposely included a narrative involving other people and characters. Most of our videos are sort of abstract and we just focus on me and Tegan. There’s generally not much of a story involved. But with this video we knew that we were going to rely a little bit more on a narrative, and when it became clear that there was going to be couples involved, it was the most important thing for us (to have) same-sex couples represented. I think we walk a fine line in our band where we are completely proud and comfortable and open about our sexuality. But we’re also very cognizant about the fact that we still live in a world where if things are not portrayed properly or in a respectful way they can suddenly take a crazy left turn. I would never want people to think that we’re exploiting anyone, straight or gay. I want to honor what I think is a really diverse fan base. Tegan and I have seen our band develop over some really important years in our society where being gay and being in a band doesn’t necessarily mean you are a gay band. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re only going to have a gay audience. 

The most heart-wrenching song is “Now I’m All Messed Up,” which has the line, “Now I’m all messed up sick inside wondering where/Where you’re leaving your make-up.” 

It’s interesting, that was the first line that I wrote for the song. It was something I had scribbled down. It is a really intense and emotional song and it started from one lyric. I wasn’t going through a breakup or a trauma or anything like that. I had started to date someone really significant in my life, it was starting to get serious. I was thinking about the breakups that I had in the past and how traumatized I was by them. When you start to fall in love with someone, even when you’re happy, that can be the scariest time. I was utterly paralyzed by the idea that I could go through a breakup or of someone cheating or leaving me. My girlfriend wears mascara. I would wake up and there would be mascara on my pillowcases. I thought this would be the worst thing in the world, the idea that she would be with someone else, leaving her makeup in their bedroom.

Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote the song “How Come You Don’t Want Me?” with you and Tegan, had a good night at the Grammy Awards with his band fun., as did your fall 2012 tour-mates The Black Keys. What would it mean for you and Tegan to get some love from Grammy voters? 

(Laughs.) I was delighted to see both fun. and The Black Keys getting so much love at the Grammys. We shouldn’t judge our lives or our careers by the accolades or awards that we win. Saying that, I think getting nominated for a Grammy is a remarkable thing. Recognition from your peers and your industry feels good when you’ve worked really hard. 

On stage

Tegan and Sara perform on Feb. 24 at The Orpheum in Madison and on March 7 at The Pabst in Milwaukee.

To purchase the CD from Amazon, click here.

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