|Posted by Beck on July 19, 2017 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
'There truly is no weakness is admitting you need a hand through the darkness'
Tegan Quin of Tegan And Sara has called for more to be done to normalise issues surrounding mental health for young people.
The Canadian duo appear in the new zine ‘Do What You Want’ – a zine all about mental health by chef, writer and model Ruby Tandoh and her partner, the musician Leah Pritchard. To help spread the word and as part of our ‘Let’s Talk‘ campaign, Tegan Quin spoke out to NME about the pitfalls of being a young person in 2017, and the brave steps to seek help if you’re suffering.
What do you think needs to be done to break the stigma around discussing mental health among young people?
“I think we just need to hit home a message that it’s normal to struggle, to feel down, to question who you are, where you fit and to need support. Being a young person can be very overwhelming. The window for kids to be kids is getting smaller and smaller. The pressure on young people is getting more extreme.
“I think we need to continue to invest in resources for young people to support them through their toughest years. We need to continue as public people to talk about how we struggle too to help remove some of the stigma. We need to build images of strength to represent the act of asking for help. It takes someone quite brave and strong to say, ‘I need help’. I think discussion should also start younger. It’s not just teenagers that feel overwhelmed or exhausted mentally. I think it’s starting younger so we need to start building mental health and self care into young kids lives. Talk about it at home. Checking in and self care are important things to learn about and I think it starts at home.”
What are the unique pressures that you think young people face when it comes to mental health in 2017?
“The internet. The internet. The internet. I think having smart phones with online access 24/7 is messing everyone up, not just young people. There is so much available to us now that I think young people especially are just unable to develop their own sense of self and identity. The constant comparisons to other people on your Instagram feed, or how many fiends you have compared to other people on Facebook or other social media. It’s very competitive, it’s constant, and I think it eats away at young people. They are addicted to their phones and computers and to connecting.”
“There isn’t that relief from social pressures that we had when we were young. We could go home and turn off the noise. The noise just gets louder now for young people. I think they need to let themselves turn off. They need to get away from their screens, away from their constant contact and updates on their social media feeds. Connect with family, the outdoors, do something active, relax, read, just have a minute away from it all. Without any of that relief I think it’s driving kids mad.”
What advice would you give to a young person struggling to come to terms with their issues and seek help?
“There is no shame in feeling down. It’s also hard sometimes to know if you’re down or depressed. It’s okay to admit that you’re not sure. That you don’t feel like yourself. I think finding someone to talk to is super important and more people ask for help than people think. Being young can be super overwhelming. There is a lot happening internally and externally. I’d encourage people to remember these things and seek help. We all go through tough times, there truly is no weakness is admitting you need a hand through the darkness.”
|Posted by Beck on July 6, 2017 at 11:05 PM||comments (0)|
BY ILANA KAPLAN JULY 6, 2017 10:00 AM
Before there was Gaga or Taylor, before pussy hats or Beyoncé's "girls in formation," there was an epic all-female music festival created by women fed up with sexism in the music industry: Lilith Fair. This summer, in honor of the festival's twentieth anniversary, we're exploring the history and legacy of the festival, and why the fight for equality in the industry continues today. Read the oral history of Lilith—as told by the women who lived it—and more here.
At 19 years old, in 1999, Canadian duo Tegan and Sara got what seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime: performing at Lilith Fair. “Being asked to play was like, We’ve made it,” Tegan Quin tells us. The indie-pop sisters were just beginning their careers, and the prospect of playing a music festival alongside acts like Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow was incredible. “A lot of these huge touring rock festivals just had no women, or hardly any women, and you look at this lineup of Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls, and Dixie Chicks combining to have a festival, and that seems ideal to me,” Tegan explains. Since then, Tegan and Sara have released eight studio albums, played countless festivals — including Lilith's revival in 2010 — and become advocates for LGBTQ and women’s rights.
And while they credit the festival for making strides for female musicians, they also acknowledge its shortcomings. "In a perfect world, all festivals would represent across-the-board diversity: women, people of color, and LGBTQ people,” Tegan notes. “There's a part of me that doesn’t want to have to be isolated in subgroups based on my sexuality or my gender," Sara adds. "But then on the other hand, I think maybe there's space for all of those things."
So with the tenth anniversary of Tegan and Sara's seminal album The Con and the twentieth anniversary of Lilith Fair approaching, we caught up with the two to talk about intersectionality, the “testosterone-fueled cock-fest” of the aughts, and whether Lilith Fair’s brand of feminism remains today.
GLAMOUR: What do you remember about your first show at Lilith Fair '98?
Tegan: It was very close to when we graduated high school, so it was a very strange sensation. Being asked to play Lilith Fair was like, We've made it. It did not register or matter we were playing a village stage that actually had nothing to do with Lilith Fair. It wasn't like Sarah McLachlan chose us — it likely would have been the local promoter booking that stage — but it didn't matter. We were so excited anyway. Even then, we were aware of how powerful it was to have so many women on the same bill.
GLAMOUR: What did you know about Lilith Fair from the get-go? What kind of impressions did you have when they first approached you?
Sara: We were in high school [when Lilith Fair started], and I remember hearing about it and thinking it was great and a really cool idea — but we were also in a totally different genre of music because we were in a punk band. I remember thinking it was something my mom and her friends were really excited about. And just to give context: When I was in high school, my mom was the same age basically I am now — her late thirties. So I remember it being, you know, Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks; these were artists that I was totally aware of, but I was a punk teenager taking drugs and going to raves. I was not necessarily listening to that music.
GLAMOUR: In 2010, did you have any reservations about playing the revival?
Tegan: In a perfect world, all festivals would represent across-the-board diversity: women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. It goes without saying that I wish every festival had that mandate. To me, it's completely a no-brainer; at this point, there's no excuse for why festivals have such low numbers. I truly believe it's complete laziness. I call out all festivals. I think it's absolutely embarrassing, and we're friends with lots of people who throw festivals. It’s shameful. But that being said, I think that there's value in having an all-women festival, even if there were women represented on everything.
Sara: I always have this feeling of [wanting] to be included in all the festivals. I don't want to just have to be on a festival for women or for a festival for gay people or whatever it is. I like the idea that there are festivals that are diverse and speak to a variety of types of genres and music and people. That's where I sort of eventually ended up. But I do believe, at the time, it was a real revolutionary thing.
GLAMOUR: Do you think that Lilith Fair would work today? Would you play the festival?
Tegan: I want to believe it would. When I think about a female-fronted festival right now, with a range of huge artists, from P!nk and Alicia Keys to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry to smaller artists like Tegan and Sara and Shura and MUNA and Grimes, there's just so much incredible music. Look at how successful the Women's March was. Obviously, we have millions of people who feel that women need to still be empowered; young girls still need encouragement and people to look up to.
Sara: I would totally play it. I have a lot of different opinions. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to have to be isolated in subgroups based on my sexuality or my gender. But then on the other hand, I think maybe there's space for all of those things.
GLAMOUR: How would you describe the brand of feminism that Lilith had — and how do you describe what the crowd came there wanting?
Tegan: We were so young when Lilith first started that I wouldn't put words in Sara's mouth for why she did it. But I'm assuming now that we've had 20 years in the business, she probably did it for the same reason why I would want to: because there's such a lack of women at festivals. Even the really alternative festivals — actually, the more alternative the festival, the more men. It opens a whole other can of worms as to why we felt so embraced by punk-pop and pop music because when we were considered an indie-rock band, we were surrounded by men all the time. It's a very white, very heterosexual, and very male world. I often felt like we were outsiders because we weren't even just a female-fronted indie-rock band, we were a queer band, and that didn't always make us feel like we were accepted. It just made us feel awkward. I imagine that a lot of these huge touring rock festivals had no women, or hardly any women, and you look at this lineup of Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls, and Dixie Chicks combining to have a festival, and that seems ideal to me. I feel nervous and awkward playing festivals because there's so much jockeying for position and camaraderie between certain kinds of bands, and often as the only queer band and the only female-fronted band, I feel awkward and left out.
GLAMOUR: Are there differences between the feminism of that time during Lilith Fair and the feminism of now that you've observed?
Sara: Oh, yeah. 100 percent. I think one of the things that has been required of all of us is recognizing that you can't look at feminism or antiracism or being a good LGBTQ ally without considering intersectionality and all the different types of folks that are often grouped under these sort of umbrellas. Again, I was a teenager, and my politics were radical. They were also shaped by my mother, who was a feminist, a therapist, and an activist. I actually feel like it's so refreshing because it's an awakening for so many people. Things are so much better now. I have friends who are in bands that are in their early 20s, and they're talking about these things that we felt so isolated about when we were first starting out.
GLAMOUR: Do you think that there are any ways in which the environment is not as progressive now as it was in the nineties?
Tegan: I think that when you take a step forward, there's often an inevitable pushback. And I don't think there's enough research to explain why. There are lots of hypotheticals thrown out. For instance in Brazil, when they passed gay marriage, there was an increase in hate crimes. Now, were there actually more hate crimes, or are we just documenting them better now that there are actual laws to protect LGBTQ people? The early aughts was just a real intense, testosterone-fueled cock-fest. I don't know if that was in response to Lilith Fair, but certainly there was an increase in that. That's also when boy bands, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears blew up that late-nineties female-fronted era of music. There might be a parallel there. Maybe when we just have too much of one thing, it tips the scales and then we have to balance it all out. Right now, there are a lot of amazing female artists who are doing incredible things, are the top-selling artists, and are selling a lot of records. There's a movement to diversify festival lineups, and there is change coming. I do believe it's a cycle, for sure.
GLAMOUR: Do you think that the shift in mainstream music from mostly rock in the nineties to mostly pop now, or pop-oriented music, has helped women or made things more comfortable for women in music?
Tegan: As a woman who started more in a rock band, the first five years of our career, there was this incredible desire by people to classify us as folk, even though we were way more indie rock than rock. Jealous, The Con, and Sainthood were incredibly well-received [records], incredibly critically acclaimed, and did really well for us, and we had a lot of alternative radio play. But while we were much more respected and much more successful, we also received the most amount of homophobia and misogyny. And I think that was due to the fact that we were playing guitar. That sort of is [considered] male territory, and I think that there's more men who get angry when you're holding a guitar because they're like, That's mine. There is still very much a drought and a lack of women in the rock world.
|Posted by Beck on July 6, 2017 at 6:40 PM||comments (0)|
Tegan Quin: I’m curious about how you approached being “out” in the music industry and in your band. Was it a conversation with everyone? Or were you always out?
Lynn Gvnn: I came out to my family when I was 18. I don’t remember there ever being a conversation amongst the band or management regarding me being “out,” but I do remember a big debate in my head that existed for a little while before things with PVRIS fully set sail. I never wanted to compromise in fear of others’ approval, and I recognize the importance of being “out” as far as representation and visibility. [But] the debate existed from a different angle [for me]… I wanted to be “out,” but I wanted it to be the last thing people paid attention to. I didn’t want to be known as a gay woman playing music; I just wanted to be a musician who also just happened to be gay.
TQ: Do you feel comfortable talking about being queer in the press? Do you even identify as queer? Or as a lesbian? I know more and more young people are shaking off labels. Do you feel comfortable sharing how you identify?
LG: Initially, when people began to ask me about it, I felt uneasy. Not because I didn’t feel comfortable speaking about my sexuality, but because I always questioned the intentions of the interviewers and the intent behind the questions being asked. And again, I never wanted the topic of my sexuality to draw away attention from our music and art. However, now more than ever, representation and visibility is absolutely crucial in my opinion, so I feel more than happy to talk about it. As for how I identify, I absolutely love women and have yet to feel the same way about men, so I definitely just identify as gay!
TQ: I’m also wondering how your identity plays a role in your band. I know the rest of your band is male. And since my band is just [my identical twin sister] Sara and me, my identity and Sara’s identity play a huge role in the music, the lyrical content, our imaging, etc. Is it the same for you? Or different because you share the band with two other men?
LG: This is a great question. I’ve never really thought about it? I write all of our lyrical content and come up with our creative concepts and visuals, but I always try to make sure everything I’m saying is representative of and applies to all three of us as a unit. It happens pretty naturally.
TQ: Sara and I felt VERY much like we had to be out. It was never a question if we were going to be honest or keep it private. We felt a responsibility to our audience who were quite young and female, to be honest about who we were and the challenges we were facing and what we were writing about. Did you feel this way? And what role or responsibility do you think public figures like yourself have to play in being out or being involved in the social justice of LGBTQ rights? I’m also wondering how you feel now that you’re further into your career. Has it changed? Do you feel it in any way marginalizes your music or success?
LG: Absolutely! I definitely always recognized the importance of representation and visibility, so it wasn’t even a question as to whether I was to be open with my sexuality or not. The only hesitancy in my mind existed in what I explained earlier. That mindset still applies for me nowadays, but the hesitance around it, regarding press and the media, has definitely dissolved. In today’s climate, I think it’s crucial to talk about. As for other public figures, I can’t speak for them because not everyone has been given the same circumstances, so it definitely inspires me, to be involved for those who can’t be, and I hope that can inspire others as well.
TQ: Can you give me a quick overview of what you have coming up in the next year? What does the rest of 2017 look like for PVRIS!?
LG: So much! We’ve got a new record coming out in August, so [there’s] that whole process! After that, just lots and lots of touring, filming for more videos, and everything else that comes with a new record cycle. [Laughs] The biggest thing on the list though is to enjoy it!
TQ: And then lastly, any advice for a band on their eighth record who’s been touring for 20 years? You must have some awesome tour/life/industry hacks, being 23, that I could adopt to ensure I’m on the cutting edge of the music biz!? SERIOUSLY THOUGH!
LG: [Laughs] I’m probably the worst person to ask… I was hoping to ask you YOUR secrets!
LG: I’m not familiar with your’s and Sara’s coming out stories… What was your experience? Did you both figure out your sexuality and come out around the same time?
TQ: Sara came out first. There were some bumps initially with some family, but they came around pretty quickly. I came out next. Sara had weathered most of the trauma of coming out, so my coming out was a pretty easy affair. I’d go so far as saying it became a non-issue once Sara was “out.” I think everyone just assumed I was gay, too. I think it was pretty obvious. My haircut didn’t help.
LG: The amount of LGBTQ representation, support, and acceptance has obviously progressed so much over the past 20 years. What’s it like to look back to when you began and see where you are now? What were some of the biggest struggles just starting out? Which struggles that existed back then are you still seeing today?
TQ: While we never even considered being closeted, I think we definitely sensed awkwardness about our sexuality with the industry when we first started in the ’90s. That left us often speaking very little about it initially, but we never lied or hid it.
I think there were genuine fears and concerns that being “out” would hinder our success within our team or the label, but, for us, we saw no future in the mainstream, so once we were embraced by alternative music, we just pushed forward full steam ahead and accepted that we were going to be seen as a “lesbian band.” And we were okay with that. I think being women held us back much more often than being gay. We worked in alternative music for 10 years before we moved to pop. And that’s a man’s world. Us being gay may have helped us there rather than hurt us.
I think everything has changed. And nothing has changed. All at the same time. Depending on the day or which way I squint my eyes, I can be here or back then in a second. It’s just the way it is… but we’ll keep fighting.
LG: You and Sara recently launched the Tegan and Sara Foundation—which is so incredible, by the way. How long of a process has this been to organize this and finally launch it? What other organizations were you involved with prior?
TQ: We’ve always been politically active and interested in giving back to our community. Over the years, we discussed starting a foundation to legitimize and hopefully expand our activism and ability to give. This year it just finally made sense to do it. We’ve always focused on giving to grassroots organizations and leaned towards LGBTQ orgs or women’s organizations. So the foundation will do the same. We have access, privilege, and visibility right now. And we see it as our responsibility to use those things to access funds and funnel them to the LGBTQ organizations working in the trenches. Women and girls are underfunded, underrepresented, and under-researched in the LGBTQ community. We want to work to change that in any way we can. For us, this is not a vanity project. We truly see ourselves as activists and wouldn’t have the career we do if not for the support of our community.
LG: Over the past few years, the band and I have noticed a drastic shift when we play live, because we’ve seen a sort of LGBTQ “safe space” developing at our shows… Was this a similar thing for you and Sara? Was it a slow growing process or was it something that was present right off the bat?
TQ: We figured out really quickly that, as openly queer women in a band, we were going to see a lot of LGBTQ people at shows, even if they didn’t know who we were, as our shows became community spaces. People came to see their friends and support the community. Music is a wonderful way to bring together different people, and so we focused on ensuring our shows were open-minded, all ages, LGBTQ-friendly, and a “safe space” from day one. But, in recent years, we absolutely continue to look for ways to ensure it’s truly a safe space. From bathrooms to culturally competent security to our messaging from stage, we ensure our fans feel comfortable, safe, and welcome at our shows.
LG: This question is slightly serious, slightly kidding… I think LGBTQ people are absolutely fucking MAGICAL. I genuinely feel like there’s something magic that exists in us that I have yet to identify. Do you agree? If so, what do you think that “magic” is?
TQ: [Laughs] I agree! Seriously. I feel special for sure. I have always said, through thick and thin, good and bad, highs and lows as a gay person, I feel so lucky to have been born this way. I feel like my perspective on life and love and myself and society, is so unique, and I also feel like I’ve used my otherness to become a more empathetic person. I feel like I haven’t ever felt like I’ve been on the same path as anyone [else]. My life feels so unique. How people engage with me is so unique. It’s made me feel very magical at times. Definitely.
LG: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself in the past 20 years of touring that you don’t think you could have learned any other way?
TQ: This is going to sound silly, but I think I learned that I love business. I am seen as an “artist.” And I am. But I think what I truly love is solving problems. Details. Efficiency. Running a team. Being involved with a team. Marketing and strategy. Through eight records and 20 years, we’ve really only had mainstream success a few times. Mostly we have worked in the underground, just below the surface of the mainstream. So we had to learn how to thrive and succeed with very little mainstream support or radio. The challenge of gaming the system and stretching a dollar has become my obsession!
LG: I found myself completely burnt out after only two to three years of nonstop touring, how in the WORLD have you managed 20 years of it? What’s the most important thing you’ve learned over the years to stay in a relatively healthy mental state through it all? How have you stayed excited and inspired?
TQ: The best piece of advice I ever got was after nearly two years of being chronically sick on the road. Our managers sent me to a family member who was a naturopathic doctor. She prescribed a bunch of natural remedies and gave me a strict diet to follow, to help battle my low immunity and post-antibiotic body. But also, she took me aside after the appointment and said that I needed to allow myself to be sick and also to get better; that it was obvious I felt like I had to do everything, be everything, say yes to everything, be okay all the time. And that I was not going to be able to do that. And that I literally had to ask everyone around me—including my band and crew—to be sick, to lay in the back and just... get better. She basically was the first person who brought “stress makes you sick” into my life. I changed EVERYTHING after that.
We have slowly been learning to say no. We also eat as well as we can. I also pretty much refuse to do any press before 1pm. I think getting enough sleep on the tour bus is pretty much an oxymoron—like, I wake up exhausted no matter how many hours I get—but I think rushing to do early morning things leads to an early band death. You need to find joy in every day. It sounds silly and trite, but it’s true. If by the time you step on stage you’ve been working and talking and doing press and taking photos all day long, how can you possibly enjoy the show? I think separating press and promotion from the musician part of your day is super important.
I think we’ve managed to do this for 20 years because it’s not just our passion, it’s our purpose. Our audience, LGBTQ rights, being visible for our community, traveling the world, learning empathy, and experiencing the connection with hundreds of thousands of people over the past 20 years, fuels me in the lowest, most tired times. That being said, I am definitely burnt out. [Laughs]
|Posted by Beck on July 1, 2017 at 6:30 PM||comments (0)|
Pride is a time to come together and celebrate the variety, vitality, and beauty of our community. It’s also a time to pay homage to our history. So much has changed and improved for LGBTQ people, but it’s also important to remember the fight. Many LGBTQ people still feel like outsiders in their day-today lives.
When we started playing music in 1997, we were not under a lot of pressure to keep our sexuality a secret. Our music was pretty alternative and we spent the first five or six years fairly underground. We got to live as out artists and build a community around us who knew who we were entirely–which was wonderful.
We definitely experienced regular run-ins with homophobia, sexism, and misogyny from the press, promoters, other bands, and the general public. We were lucky to have a great support system, great friends, each other, and an unusually high sense of purpose and self confidence to power through.
The reality, however, is that over the last 17 years, the list of homophobic injustices, remarks, sad stories, and embarrassing moments that we’ve experienced is long and continues to grow. By continuing to fight them, we hope we’ve made things better, even in a small way.
Before taking a tour of the Los Angeles LGBT Center last year, we had no idea how many different areas it touches. It’s really impressive. The headquarters building itself was just so big and so beautiful and the staff was so helpful and knowledgeable. We were truly moved (and surprised) at how expansive and broad the programs
The Center is a wonderful example of how community still exists in the LGBTQ world.
are, but we were particularly wowed by the Transitional Living Program for youth who are experiencing homelessness, and by the services for seniors.
At the Center’s medical clinic, we were shocked to learn about the insufficient training medical students receive regarding LGBTQ health. We’ve heard story after story about LGBTQ people who struggle to advocate for themselves in a medical setting and don’t know what type of questions to ask their doctor. Even today, too many people avoid going to a doctor simply because they don’t want to out themselves. At the Center, no one ever has to worry about that.
We will continue to focus our energy on funding organizations that are making the world a better place for LGBTQ people and to support programs that address the unique issues experienced by women and girls in the LGBTQ community. It would be incredible if the leading edge, LGBTQ specialty care offered by the Center was available to people throughout the country. Sadly this isn’t the case (yet), but we are fighting to make it a reality.
The Center is a wonderful example of how community still exists in the LGBTQ world. The spectrum of programs is invaluable to people of all ages and provides an incredible foundation for our community. By supporting the Center personally, and through the Tegan and Sara Foundation, we’re stepping up our efforts to raise more and do more for LGBTQ women and girls who have supported us for nearly 20 years.
Learn more about the duo’s foundation at teganandsarafoundation.org
|Posted by Beck on June 23, 2017 at 10:05 PM||comments (0)|
Tegan and Sara are just as disappointed as we are that Hillary Clinton is not the President, but in some ways, the Donald Trump administration is actually aiding their fight for economic justice, health and representation of LGBTQ women. Here’s how.
This interview, held shortly before Tegan and Sara performed at the Kiehl’s Pride celebration in NYC on June 22, has been edited and condensed for clarity. Because life can be unexpectedly magical, it’s part of a series of interviews I’ve been conducting with Tegan and Sara. You can read the others here, here and here.
Your Kiehl’s partnership first launched in Canada, now here. Welcome to New York!
Tegan Quin: We’re really thrilled because we knew the U.S. was interested in doing something, and because we’re playing New York Pride, it worked out that we got to do this event. We’re truly honored to be able to partner with a company that cares so much about the LGBTQ community.
Sara, do you want to add to that?
Sara Quin: Everything Tegan said. Everything she said, but twice as good.
We had some bad news today with the Obamacare replacement bill. When so many organizations need help, how do you prioritize what to support?
Sara: We’ve been told by many people who have been working in philanthropy for much longer than us that you have to stay focused on what your cause is and what your issue is. For us, healthcare is obviously a concern, and how it affects lesbian women, and we’re trying to stay focused on how to connect [specifically] women with the best healthcare providers and culturally competent people. The rest of you have to figure it out for yourself! [Laughs]
With the Tegan and Sara Foundation, you’re doing more than ever for the LGBTQ community. In a parallel universe where Hillary Clinton is President, how is your effort different?
Sara: We started this Foundation before Hillary Clinton did not become the President. There are literally dozens of issues that we need to focus on that would have been a problem under Hillary Clinton or a problem under Obama. The fact is that the systemic issues that exist are not going anywhere. We have to dismantle some of these f*cking problems. And it would have been a focus for us under Hillary Clinton, too. It’s worse under Donald Trump, but we feel that that’s actually amazing leverage for us to get people really invested.
I like to think that, too. Switching gears here, can we expect any new material as we go into The Con X Tour?
Tegan: I think people are going to be really excited about future Tegan and Sara. We have lots of really fun stuff up our sleeves!
Can’t wait. Also, where’s Ted? [Ed. note: Ted Gowans was the guitarist in Tegan and Sara from 2004-14, notably during the Con Era.]
Sara: Oh. Ted. That wasn’t a joke! I–
I’m telling him you forgot about him.
Sara: Ted is doing great. He was playing with Kesha…
Tegan: Actually, Ted and I just did some co-writing together. We just did some songs.
Sara: Ted is family.
Tegan: I think it was exciting for him to be able to go out and do something different. We love Ted. We’ve been thinking a lot about him because of The Con Tour for sure.
That’s where I was going with that. Could we expect a Ted cameo on any of the dates?
Tegan: I don’t think so. But you never know!
|Posted by Beck on June 23, 2017 at 9:50 PM||comments (0)|
Tegan and Sara have spent much of this summer working around cartoonish, candy-colored inflatable letters on stage — a “T” and an “S” with an “&” in between, naturally. These neon additions to their live show are a perfect visual foil to their poppiest effort yet, 2016’s Love You to Death, and the exuberance that the twins encourage onstage is every bit as buoyant as these balloon-y props, which feel like they could fly out above the crowd and up into the stratosphere should the right bass line untether them.
The joyful vibe is meant to bring balance to Tegan and Sara, intentionally in contrast with what is in many ways the most difficult and transformative work of their career. “We see ourselves as a political band and a serious band, but we also see music, spaces, and shows as places to go and escape and to have a good time,” says Tegan Quin, taking a breather in Los Angeles between weeks on the road. “We’ve crafted a pretty upbeat, big, fun live show for festival season, because we really do want to leave Love You to Death on a high note.”
This goes beyond balloons. Last year, the Quin sisters stepped up their activism to a whole new level when they launched the Tegan and Sara Foundation, an advocacy and fundraising organization focused on women in the LGBTQ community. As they gear up for their headlining set at NYC Pride on June 24 — plus the acoustic tour they’ll mount this fall to mark the 10th anniversary of The Con, the album that launched them to international acclaim — they’re reflecting on all that they’ve learned.
We spoke with Tegan about it all. Read on for our Q&A.
[Editor's note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.]
This has been such a huge year for you two, between Love You to Death, the launch of your foundation, the upcoming anniversary of The Con, and more. It’s also been a brutal year — the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the 2016 presidential election, the acts of terrorism and violence that dominate the headlines. How are you doing with all this crazy change?
Tegan Quin: No kidding! Sara and I never want to gloss over any negativity, but we’re action-oriented people, and we’re optimists. We’re the type of people that when things get bad, we get up and we fight. We fight hard. We’re taking some good breaks this year to focus solely on the foundation, so we’re working really hard to try to raise funds and fight back within our community against a lot of these awful rollbacks of rights, and attacks, and representation of LGBTQ people — especially women — in the mainstream.
This fall, going out with The Con, I feel like this was a really important record to us where we really caught our stride. This was really the record where we were truly in the driver’s seat. To bring that to life and celebrate it with the fans who themselves have attached such meaning to the record is going to be really amazing. We haven’t done a proper acoustic tour since I think 2004. It’s going to be really meaningful. I hope it is, anyway. I hope to end the year that way, to clearly create a community and a space for all of our fans to come and end the year on a high note.
It’s a stylistic shift from Love You to Death, as well: You’re going from your most pop-centric, electronic effort to date to an intimate, unplugged rendering of your indie-rock breakthrough. How does that return to an acoustic approach affect your connection to your music?
Tegan: When we started out in the late ’90s and well into the 2000s, I thought it was extremely offensive that people always wanted to categorize us. When they called us folk, we were indie rock; when they called us indie rock, I was like, “That’s offensive! We’re indie pop!” It wasn’t because I didn’t agree with the label. I was just like, “Why do we have to be one thing? Why must we be pushed into one category?” As we got older, stronger, more confident, and more capable, and we collaborated with all different kinds of artists — in dance, hip-hop, rock, punk — all of a sudden it was like, “The people holding us back and putting labels on us — we don’t have to accept the label. We can be anything we want.”
When we put The Con out, we played it with a full rock band. We’ve never sat in a theater with 2,000 people and had the opportunity to tell the story in a much more intimate way. It was such an intimate record for people and such a moving, emotional experience: To amplify it by stripping it down is kind of our goal.
Also, Sara and I never want to be comfortable. Now I’m super comfortable with pop, so I pretty much never want to do pop ever again. We need to make ourselves uncomfortable again. There’s nothing more uncomfortable right now than going out [with] no tracks, no backing vocals, nothing — just us again. We have to earn it back again, you know? That’s cool.
We’re a few months into a U.S. presidential administration that feels pointedly hostile to the LGBTQ community. Has this pride, and the sets you’ve played over the course of the month, felt different to you as a result?
Tegan: Pride has always been important, but because of the current administration, our elevated status, and the foundation, we see it’s more important than ever before to be outspoken and be advocates. Even at the start of this record cycle, I felt a little miffed — I would be talking to journalists, and they’d go, “OK, gay marriage passed: What are you going to focus on now?” Almost as if the fight is over. But typically speaking, in every country that’s approved gay marriage, in the years following, hate crimes and resistance to that comes out. The fight isn’t over. Just because they legislate something doesn’t mean that things magically aren’t homophobic or transphobic. While the marriage fight is really important, the T in LGBTQ has pretty much been abandoned throughout this entire fight.
We always joke that we, like so many who work in the arts, have imposter syndrome; we think that someone is going to come in and go, “No, no, no, no, somebody made a mistake. You aren’t good enough to hold this place.” We always do every available opportunity, and do all the good we can in the world, because maybe next year nobody will give a shit. This year, we’re trying to raise as much money as we can, raise awareness, and push as much as we possibly can. Certainly the momentum from the election and the Women’s March is really helping.
At Bonnaroo, Sara did a whole shout-out about pride, and it was amazing to be in a farmer’s field an hour outside of Nashville, and there was a massive cheer, and people were clapping and holding up rainbow flags. It’s amazing how far we’ve come, you know? We also really try to amplify a positive message, that we can all work together and push back. We’ve got each other’s backs. We have a strong community. Pride isn’t just about a parade: It’s about honoring those who have come before us and pledging to work together in the future, and looking at how strong we are as a community, because we are!
This year especially, there have been tons of vocal allies and artists in the LGBTQ community who have spoken out against hate and inequality — Laura Jane Grace’s protest of the North Carolina bathroom bill comes to mind. You and Sara have always worked activism into your music and your live show, but how do you think the rest of the music industry is doing?
Tegan: A lot of really important, iconic, mainstream artists have used their voices and their platforms for good this year. A lot of these artists who have a strong LGBTQ base, I’m glad to see them stepping up and fighting for the LGBTQ community. Statistically speaking, LGBTQ people buy more music, see more concerts. Community is really important to us, and music ... I’m profoundly disappointed by some people for not stepping up and not saying something. It feels unfair that people can just tap out, and not speak out. It sucks, because we need them. Every time Sara and I go and pitch our foundation, we open with, “I’m sorry that we’re literally it.” We’re lesbians and musicians, but [as for other] openly LGBTQ artists topping the charts — people will jump in now and tell me Halsey, and I’m like, “OK, but who else?”
But people are stepping up. Even outside of our industry, look at Jessica Chastain at Cannes the other day talking about how sad she was by the [lack of] representation of women in the arts. That’s tremendous, that’s huge! I love that. I really think that there’s a movement truly happening that’s not just a headline. Sara and I don’t see ourselves on a pedestal; we’re reeducating ourselves, working to understand our privilege, and looking back in our history to see where we could’ve worked better on representation. There’s always more for us to all do, and in light of everything happening in the world, there’s more of a reason to do it [now] than ever before.
Now that you’re a few months out from the launch of the foundation, what has the whole experience taught you? Are those lessons applicable to other aspects of your endeavors as Tegan and Sara?
Tegan: Similar to the music business, the social justice and activism world has all sorts of different levels, right? You’ve got your top tiers, like the Human Rights Campaign, but then you’ve got layer after layer of smaller, nuanced, more specific types of organizations. Sara and I have been trying to wrap our minds around that: Who’s doing what? Who’s working with who? Where are the gaps? When we started the foundation, the first thing that we wanted to ensure was that we were not duplicating work already being done. We weren’t trying to create programs we weren’t running ourselves. We are creating an opportunity for people who know who we are, but wouldn’t necessarily know who the Astraea Foundation is, or the Audre Lorde Project — two incredibly important organizations that are central to LGBTQ women and women of color in the community.
We took time this spring for anti-racism training, to do redistribution of wealth training, to go in and do media training in relation to transgender people and how to talk about some of these LGBTQ issues in the mainstream so that they’re understandable, but also not watered down so they become offensive and useless. It was weird, because I thought I would’ve known a lot of these things — but the truth is, I didn’t. I learned a lot of it when I got out of high school, because both Sara and I were quite political and ran in political communities, but things have changed in 17 years. The language we used, the terminology we used — it all changed.
A lot of people I know don’t want to speak out because they’re terrified of saying the wrong thing. Sara and I, we’re not terrified: We acknowledge that we’re probably going to mess up and say the wrong thing at some point, and we want to be there to take responsibility, to learn where we should be focusing our time and energy, and step up and do it. It’s been a lot of reading, a lot of meeting, a lot of listening. It’s fucking cool.
One of the most frequent adjectives your music inspires is “empathetic.” You’ve already established yourselves as women who champion connection and understanding onstage and off. How crucial is empathy right now?
Tegan: When I was saying we could do better, for so many years, really until recently, I felt like I had a connection to our audience, like we were really the same. Sometimes when people would experience or vocalize alienation from us, especially around the music changing, I didn’t understand — I wasn’t angry, but I was confused by that. I thought, We have such a connection with the audience, why don’t they trust us? It hit me a couple years ago that we aren’t always actually the same as our audience anymore. We have become the one percent within our own community. We have power, we have a platform, we have money, we have success. We’re white, we’re from Canada, we have health care. We have two loving parents. We had a decent public school education. A lot of people in our audience weren’t checking those boxes anymore, or never did. The music and what they were relating to about us, if we weren’t outsiders anymore, they didn’t feel like we were theirs anymore, and that we’d lost that friendship.
Sara and I are really committed to understanding that. Reconnecting with that part of our audience, part of that was educating ourselves. We really had changed, and I just thought it was about the music, but it’s not — it’s about us. It’s not enough to play shows. We’re giving back to our audience, but we need to go out and use the access we have to get money for our community. We have to get energy and people to care. We need to call on those people who are claiming to be LGBTQ allies in our industry, especially those with power at the top, to step the fuck up. That was what we could give back: to show that we hear them, we see them, and we care. It’s not just about who’s producing our records; it’s about who’s producing us, and where are we putting our time and energy. Without our audience, we wouldn’t be Tegan and Sara, I wouldn’t live the life that I do, I wouldn’t be the person I am. And statistically speaking, our audience, more than ever, needs support.
|Posted by Beck on June 22, 2017 at 10:15 PM||comments (0)|
Tegan and Sara are more than a band (though they’re great at doing that, too.) We caught up with them at the Village Voice Pride Awards on June 21 in NYC to talk standing up for the LGBTQ community, their summer tour and why you won’t be seeing Sara’s cats on stage anytime soon.
This conversation with Tegan and Sara Quin has been edited and condensed for clarity, meaning that I’ve toned down my fangirl comments for everyone’s sake.
Why is it important to you to lend your voices to events like these?
Sara: Honestly, we’re just delighted to be invited. There were many years where we felt sort of isolated and sort of marginalized within the LGBTQ community at large. Some of our politics are more radical, and there was always a movement that felt to me a bit more mainstream. Especially when I was in my twenties, seeing things like marriage being such a significant common denominator for so many people, I didn’t necessarily feel that myself. But I started to really see there was a response and a responsibility for us to be involved, even if our own personal politics didn’t line up. Now, to be at these types of events and see that we’re something a little different, and that we have slightly different politics, it’s nice to be here and be welcomed.
Why NYC this year, as opposed to L.A. or Canada or anywhere else?
Tegan: We haven’t played a lot of Prides, and I don’t actually know the reason for that–
Sara: –We probably weren’t popular enough.
Were they like, you’re not gay enough?
Tegan: Yeah! Who knows? But we were really thrilled. This was our first time being asked to play in New York Pride, and it worked in our schedule. We did prioritize this year, trying to do more LGBTQ events, and to be more visible and participate in this. We love New York City!
Now we’re in what you’ve named the “Inflatable Era.” Who designed the new set? It looks like Lisa Hanawalt’s work…
Tegan: It does look like Lisa’s work a bit!
Sara: Our lighting director — the woman who designed it — is Abby Portner. She’s the sister of one of the guys in Animal Collective and is mostly with them; she does all of their visuals. We thought she was really cool and we wanted something different than anything we’d done before. She pitched us a couple of cool ideas that were maybe a little too adventurous, like my cats were involved…
Yes, we all know that Holiday and Mickey wouldn’t agree to anything.
Sara: No, my cats are real assholes. It would be way too high a commission for them. But Abby’s wonderful; we love the fun, crazy vibe of the show.
Tegan, what was your reaction to finding out that Sara had written two songs about you — “100x” and “White Knuckles” — for Love You To Death?
Tegan: I was thrilled! Sara and I are very lucky that we’ve been able to make 8 records, but with each record, the new challenge is, how do we create new sound, how do we use everything that’s worked in the pass without using the same work, how do we talk about something new, how do we uncover new feelings and emotions?
Sara and I have now spent our entire adult life in a band together, and it’s inevitable that we’re going to have to write about that friction. We’ve always been invested in writing about relationships, and this is a relationship. We make hundreds of decisions every week together. We’ve had to learn how to resolve conflict together, we’ve had to learn how to share space and share the limelight, and I think it’s a really valuable topic to cover.
In a strange way we’ve gone through our entire adult lives in the public eye, with so many people being a part of that journey with us. It’s a part of who we are, to share that. I would hate to think that Sara would have written that then have to keep it a secret.
Finally, what’s the weirdest or most unique venue you’ve ever played?
Tegan: We’ve played malls! We’ve stood in a mall…
That’s not that weird.
Tegan: It’s horrifying, actually! It’s embarrassing. I had to play music for unassuming, unsuspecting shoppers.
Sara: Maybe a swimming pool. We played next to a swimming pool once. That was pretty odd.
|Posted by Beck on June 22, 2017 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
Tegan Quin – of Canadian pop duo Tegan And Sara – has spoken out about the political division of politics in America, and the fight to keep people engaged despite their ‘exhaustion’.
Talking to NME, the singer discussed the shifting mood she’d noticed among the population while touring America in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency.
"I think there is general unrest and division, for sure. There is no doubt that there is palpable anxiety around health care and immigration. I think the average person is absolutely wondering about some of the issues the media fixates on (Russia, jobs, healthcare). Certainly I think people are still engaged in general. But, I think people are exhausted and the noise of it all is making people turn off. Which is dangerous. Wear people down to the point where they stop paying attention. That’s scary. So. I don’t really know the answer.
I think people are divided. There is unrest. I think people are engaged, but exhausted. I think the media is definitely trying it’s best (in some cases) but … even good media feels like click bait. And I believe a lot of people have just returned to their normal lives and aren’t yet experiencing anything “bad” or any “changes” so they don’t care. So. I guess your TV might be reflecting back a small portion of the populations day to day, but the average person is just…back to their lives?”
Asked if the current political landscape might inspire them musically, she replied:
"I think for me music is and has been an escape. So, I don’t know if I were sitting down to write a record today if I would write about the “dystopian nightmare” but, I do think my emotions and feelings around life, relationships, love, the future are coloured by the “dystopian nightmare” so in theory I would kind of be writing about it even if I weren’t actually writing about it… As for what music should or should not be for — I think every artist has to define that for themselves. You should write what you know, what you are moved by and inspired by. And that doesn’t always have to be reality or current affairs. So I think in times like this we get both. Reality and escape. Which is good. Balance is good.”
Quin did state however, that the current political situation had inspired the pair to step up their activism for the LGBTQ community.
"We started a foundation to fight for LGBTQ women and girls, The Tegan and Sara Foundation. And we are working closely with social justice organisations and political organisations to ensure we are giving back to our community but also using our platform to elevate important causes and ideas. We are very motivated right now to do more than just tweet. We want to inspire people to action. So. As an artist I feel like I want to continue to play live to give people an escape and a place to feel connected and see their community.”
|Posted by Beck on June 20, 2017 at 2:55 PM||comments (0)|
Tegan & Sara are performing their beloved record ‘The Con’ in its entirety on their upcoming fall tour, and if you’re waffling over tickets, here’s all the convincing you need from Tegan Quin herself. Below, she tells us everything we’ve been dying to know (sorry!)
Over email, Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara answered all of our desperate inquiries about the tour we’ve been waiting for our whole lives. These answers have been edited and condensed, but not overly so, because you’re going to want to hear what she had to say.
Congratulations on The Con’s 10-year anniversary! Now that the tour is underway, what can we expect from the shows?
The Con X Tour is going to be very “unplugged.” We battled over what word to use. “Acoustic” is where we landed. We will have electric guitars on stage to create some of the original melody lines, and we will have other instruments. But fans can expect a very organic, intimate, stripped-down-unplugged-acoustic-style show. We intentionally chose to make it a seated theater; an “evening with” type event. Expect stories and lots of laughs! We have also chosen 7 or 8 other songs from the catalogue that we will similarly strip down.
What about the non-music elements of the tour, like merch?
We’re thinking hard about which original merchandise to bring back. We are also going to set up a special interactive experience in the lobby! We have some other treats up our sleeves, too.
Will “The Lost Forest Fones” ever return??
LOL! I freaking hope so! Maybe as a podcast? Next year? Thinking out loud here…
Any plans to release acoustic or otherwise reimagined studio versions of songs from Love You To Death?
We’ve talked about it. Maybe. I’d love to. The demos were pretty stripped down, but we did so much rewriting in the studio it didn’t make sense to release those. We have absolutely talked about it. Maybe we’ll record them next year!
What about the remixes we’ve been hearing on the LY2D tour, like “Northshore” and “Alligator?”
They’re so epic! Right! We loved working on those. We are looking into recording them properly, too. The good thing is, we aren’t going anywhere. And we really love the idea of updating our music and giving the fans what they want. So likely!
What would The Con era Tegan and Sara think of LY2D?
I think they’d be STOKED! The Con specifically was when we started to truly feel like we had turned a corner and “made it.” We dictated the terms of that record, and the experience in the studio was the first one where we felt in control and like we truly influenced the sound and look and feel of our band. It was also the first record where we were selling out the rooms we were playing and were able to get a tour bus and staff our tour properly. After 8 years, it was the first time Sara and I were able to have our own hotel room — can you imagine? We were 27 years old and had still been sharing a hotel room. So, I think that era of T+S would look at the current situation and be stoked.
We still have 100% control of our records, we dictate every move, every note, the look, feel and vibe of our entire project. We have the same management and a lot of the same staff. We get our own hotel rooms! LOL! We even got to fly business class for the first time to Europe! Years of slogging it out in the underground to get to here would absolutely please Con Era T+S. They’d be proud.
I think they’d hate our new hair, though. Too normcore for those weirdos.
Do you know how many shows you’ve played?
A lot. I mean, let’s say we average 100 each record, and we have 8 records. But then we also do radio shows, record store shows, special evening with, fan performances for specialty stations…a lot.
Sara — you’ve said you would make music videos for old songs that don’t already have them. What would be priority? Would you remake any of your music videos?
Sara can’t come to the phone. But I think we would love to go back and make videos for our previous records. Maybe starting with The Con…
Will there be a music video for “Ground Control?”
I hope so! I’d be supportive of that.
Anything else in the pipeline?
We have the second half of our The Con X dates coming in July! Stay tuned. And we have something big to announce soon!
|Posted by Beck on June 19, 2017 at 10:20 PM||comments (0)|
Happy Pride Month! Ahead of Tegan & Sara’s headlining NYC Pride show on June 24, we caught up with Tegan Quin about what we can expect from the epic outdoor event, plus an update on the vital work that the Tegan and Sara Foundation is doing these days.
Over email, Tegan Quin of Tegan & Sara gave us a preview of what’s in store for New Yorkers during Pride Week. (She also made a compelling case as to why she’d be our best President ever.) These answers have been edited and condensed, but not overly so, because you’re going to want to hear what she had to say. Oh, and check out our other Tegan & Sara interview about The Con: X Tour!
What are you most excited to bring to NYC Pride this Saturday?
We hope to bring a colorful, upbeat, high energy T+S show to NYC Pride. This year (but really every year) Pride is so important. I think it truly does give us an opportunity as a community to come together and see how strong we are and how many of us there are! And our allies get to come out and show support too, which is super important now more than ever!
Any updates you’d like to share about the work that the Tegan and Sara Foundation is doing?
We spent most of this [first] year getting the infrastructure built and in place. We also traveled the country meeting all the awesome LGBTQ organizers, social justice organizations and current foundations that are doing amazing grassroots work for our community. Our focus is LBGTQ women and girls since they are underfunded and underrepresented. We are starting to write grants and fund organizations now, which is very exciting. More to come in the next year — big plans!
I wish you were the President. What’s the first thing you’d change?
Very nice of you to say. Straight up — it does NOT seem easy to be in politics. It’s a pretty thankless job for the many who don’t get to the top of the pyramid. So, while the President is the top, I see the people in Congress, the House and on municipal levels doing a lot of great work, fighting for their people without much fanfare. We often don’t even notice those levels of government unless we are unhappy. So I do think of the many people who are working on that level who are just as frustrated who can’t get anything done. Ugh! All that being said — whatever level of government I was lucky enough to work on, I think I’d be very open to trying to establish what the most important issues were to the people I represented. I have to hope that in times like this there must be some common ground between the different sides. I’d also be fighting for minorities’ rights, and for the bills currently in place that protect LGBTQ people. I believe the model in Canada — while far from perfect — is one that reflects a more modern, balanced and fair society. I’d try and influence the current American system with our Canadian ways.