Interview with Sara Quin

AE: Good! And on a similar note, I’m curious as to how you responded when you heard the NOFX song, "Creeping Out Sara." What was your initial response?
SQ:
Well, it’s complicated. There’s so much sexism and homophobia in the world and in the industry, and Tegan and I have struggled with that our entire careers. So anytime we sort of feel like people are not being respectful, you don’t want to let it hurt your feelings, but there’s also a part of you that knows that — I mean, I don’t think those guys are bad guys, I don’t think they were trying to hurt our feelings, or be disrespectful or whatever, but I don’t think people very often think they are doing that.

There’s been lots of press or things said about that, and I think "Oh my god. If you actually knew what you said was really offensive," I don’t think most people would do it or say it — they just don’t have that education.

But anyway, my first instinct was that this is a band that has a certain type of audience and it was more important to me that the audience was probably going to take it as a diss or as a license to treat us or think of us in a certain way. There’s not much you can do about that, you know? It just happens.

AE: Yeah. As far as the songwriting for Sainthood, did you have any sort of priorities as far as trying new things, like your writing together for the first time. But did you have any other things you wanted to accomplish that you hadn’t tried on previous albums?
SQ:
We knew that we were going to record the album in a way that we hadn’t recorded our previous five records. Like we knew we were going to play the material live, like as a band in the studio and try to get full band recordings which didn’t really affect how I wrote songs, but impacted how I worked on the songs.

In the past, since we just sort of recreated the demos in the studio, there wasn’t as much focus on me writing background parts of keyboard parts because we could flesh that all out in the studio.

And in terms of the actual songwriting, I knew one of the variables would be in how we wrote the songs. Tegan and I have always written separately from one another. I didn’t want to make it the main focus of the songwriting for this album, but I did want to take a couple of shots at it, the first one being when we went to New Orleans and wrote together.

For as awkward of an experience as it was, it was actually quite successful. We wrote seven really great songs, and it was also when we started to talk about sainthood as a theme.

The Leonard Cohen song, "Came So Far," was an inspiration and a muse, so that proved to be a really important time, and we continued to collaborate and write songs over the next few months, and a few of those songs ended up being B-Sides, and also "Paperback Head" made the record.

So it was an interesting experience. It also gave Tegan and I a different energy when we were approaching this album because we were both really wholeheartedly making an effort to be collaborative with each other in the earlier stages. So often we’d talk about collaborating, but this was sort of organically collaborating in the infant stages of songs, when they were just barely ideas.

AE: I asked some AfterEllen.com fans for questions and one wanted to know if Sainthood would be a good place to start if they’re new to Tegan and Sara. What would you say to someone that’s never heard you before? What would you suggest?
SQ:
What’s great is, I think this album — and I’d certainly say this about So Jealous and The Con, as well — but I think the album stands alone. I think if somebody discovered us on this record, they could easily go back to the previous material we’ve written and probably like it. Whereas if someone discovered us on So Jealous, I think this would be a natural progression for them.

I think the material is similar enough but also different enough that we’re the kind of band that has a fanship that isn’t just a one album kind of fanship.

But yeah, I think this album is a great place to start. I think it’s more of an accessible album, which I don’t think has to be a bad thing. Some of the albums that were really inspiring to me that still resonate really deeply were albums that sold tens of millions of copies. It’s pretty much like no one does that anymore. I think then it wasn’t so taboo to be mainstream of popular. I think this album can do that without devaluing what we do or what we’ve done in the past.

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