Tegan and Sara interview

Tegan and Sara Quin on growing up as identical twins and their newfound synth-pop sound in the latest album 'Heartthrob'

So often regarded as a cult indie-rock outfit since they were formed in 1995, identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin achieved mainstream success last January when they released their seventh record, 'Heartthrob', to positive reviews. Armed with a newfound synth-pop sound, the pair can look back at 2013 with a sense of satisfaction, having performed alongside pop princesses Taylor Swift and Katy Perry at sold-out venues. We caught up with the Calgary supertwins at last November's Urbanscapes.

As children, did you guys ever swap places à la 'The Parent Trap'?
Tegan
: [Laughs] We didn't! We never trusted that we looked enough alike. We always had a strong sense of self and people did seem to know the difference between us. I'm sure we could've pulled it off, but we never tried. 
Sara: We were boring twins.

It could've been quite a story. 
T: We should have, but we totally missed out. 
S: We actually grew up with a lot of twins in our world. I could think off the top of my head of six other sets of twins we went to school with. It's not that being a twin wasn't special, but I don't think it was as unique in our case. 
T: We didn't have other siblings, so the emphasis when we were growing up was always on being individualistic. We always had separate classes, plus our parents didn't play it up too much.

Moving on to 'Heartthrob', there was a lot of talk when it was released about the band's change of musical direction. Do you feel there was an overreaction about your new pop sensibilities? 
T: Every time we put out a record, the media really focuses on how different it sounds from the one before. We take that as a compliment because that's the whole point. We want to be career artists. We compare ourselves to artists like Bruce Springsteen - all his records sound different. For Sara and I, each time we go into the studio, we go in with the actual intention of making something unique. The fact the media picked up on that is a good thing.

There was a spin in the beginning where it felt like we were abandoning our roots, but the record is absolutely Tegan and Sara. I think they are our best songs. It's a very deep, heartfelt record, which is why I think it ended up being so successful. It's different and that's good. After 15 years of making music, you have to make something different every time.

Do you think some of the criticism was unfair? Considering how bands also get panned for staying too consistent?
T: You've just got to follow your instincts. Sara and I let the songs lead us. The songs we were writing were leaning towards pop music, so we let them direct us and they've done well by us. Or we've done well by them I should say [laughs].

So it wasn't a conscious decision to go more pop? 
S: I think it was very conscious. I don't think we ended up with a record that surprised us. We had set a goal to make a record like the one we eventually made. I think as soon as we went into the studio with Greg Kurstin [producer], it surpassed what we hoped would happen. That's when the excitement started to build internally - we knew we were onto something and we had made a strong choice. For us, there's always been an unspoken mandate - we do what we want, not necessarily what the critics or everybody else want. That has sometimes made us a fairly unique band in terms of our sound; other times it has meant that we have crossed into something culturally relevant.
T: When we finished 'Sainthood' [2009 album], we talked very openly about it being a decade-ender. We were using metaphors like 'changing of the guard' to speak about our band. We were gently laying a foundation for the fact that we were going to do something different. We knew that and we wanted our fans to be ready for that. It's an exciting time - we are in our 30s, we are confident and I think we are extremely accomplished. Everything we do now is icing on the cake because we've had so much success. It's now about enjoying it and contributing even more great music to the public.

The twins' latest LP 'Heartthrob' is now in stores. www.teganandsara.com

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