Interview with Sara Quin


AE: Was marketability, or making it more accessible or more pop-y, a conscious thought while you were recording at all?

Tegan and I kind of laugh about this question or idea a lot because we — I think people can do this or certainly have the skills to do this, but I am not sad with how our career has gone. But if I knew how to be more popular or more successful at any point over the last 10 years, if I could have skipped a step, I would have! It wasn’t easy.

The first three albums we put out sold less than 10,000 copies. We were broke, we made no money, we toured very sparsely, we often toured alone. We did Greyhound tours.

There were nights, even when we first started touring with So Jealous, that we were putting only a couple of hundred dollars in our pockets after a show. It was challenging. And at no point did I think I was purposely making music that wouldn’t be accessible to people. The goal has always been to be interesting to human beings, whether it was 200 human beings or two million human beings, I wanted human beings.

And so, with this album it’s the same thing. You just kind of write a song and go, “Damn, I think this is a good song. I hope people like it!” I think this album sounding more mainstream and accessible had to do with budget — we had more money than on our previous albums and therefore we were able to work at a better studio and record a lot of this album on tape.

It was a warmer, bigger sound. We played with really skilled musicians. We’re almost 30! We’re old! We want to write better songs. We want to get better at what we’re doing!

Tegan and Sara playing live in 2000

AE: Yeah! I mean, if you don’t progress, obviously you’re not doing something right. OK, is there a song that Tegan and Sara don’t ever want to play again so “please don’t ask at a concert for us to play it?”

[Laughs] I mean, I like that people ask. The big joke in our band is about the song “Superstar.” If we get through a concert and someone doesn’t yell “Superstar,” we get confused. Like we’ll walk off the stage and someone will ask, “Anyone hear someone yell ‘Superstar’ tonight?” It’s just that song, for whatever reason, and it’s usually — I won’t describe who it is — but it’s the same person. I swear to God, it’s like they travel around the world — it’s the same actual person but it’s the same kind of person that asks for that song at least once a night, once a show.

It’s sort of spooky. It’s like this song was engineered for one type of person and they come to the show and they’re like “Whoa — they played for hours and they didn’t play ‘Superstar.'”

AE: So you just never want to play it and make that person happy?

You know what? We have played it, and actually, on our last American tour, Tegan and Dallas from City and Colour did a beautiful duet to that song. I despise that song on so many levels, but I think it has more to do with the production and the time — it feels really dated to me when I listen to it. It reminds me of being young and not totally knowing what we were doing.

But it was so interesting to hear Tegan and Dallas cover it. They did a more melodic, slower tempo version of it and their voices together were quite beautiful, and I found myself thinking “This isn’t a horrible song.”

AE: You were just glad you didn’t have to be a part of it.

I was glad I was offstage as an audience member.

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