Tegan and Sara
wsg. The Courtneys, My Midnight Heart
Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater, Grand Rapids
June 28, 6 p.m. (gates), 7 p.m. (show)
$41 members, $43 public
Meijergardens.org, (616) 957-1580
Like their song from The Lego Movie goes, everything is awesome for Tegan and Sara.
The Canadian identical twins have a smash hit with their song “Closer,” sold-out tours with everyone from Katy Perry to The Killers, and are featured in one of the most popular movies of the year.
Just don’t mistake them for some overnight pop sensation.
In reality, the Quin sisters have been building their fan base on their own terms, bit by bit, for the last 15 years.
Prolifically they’d released six studio albums filled with their signature indie-acoustic, singer-songwriter sound, and chronicled their every anxious idiosyncrasy, or mournful heartache, in bursts of lyrical confession.
But that all changed with their synth-centric, ultra-catchy seventh album Heartthrob.
“I think we both felt like a big shift was needed,” Sara Quin told Recoil about the making of the album. “Being in a band as long as we have been means sometimes feeling like you’ve tried everything and leaves you wondering what is left to surprise people with. It was a personal and professional decision to write and record as if we were a brand new band without any limitations aesthetic or otherwise. The pop sensibility of the final result was very in line with where we are at in our lives right now and that came very naturally.”
Suddenly Tegan and Sara were just that: a new band at 32 years old, reaching younger, mainstream audiences who had no idea they started out touring with Neil Young and The Pretenders, achieved alt-rock success years ago opening for the likes of Weezer, The Black Keys, and Ryan Adams, or that their previous two albums were produced in collaboration with indie-veteran Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie.
And none of it mattered.
“It’s very exciting for us to see a new generation of fans discovering our band,” Sara said. “Knowing that we have this incredible community of loyal fans has allowed us to experiment and grow without the fear of losing our base. We are very lucky.”
Heartthrob debuted at Number 3 on the Billboard charts last year, proving just how much their longtime fans had embraced their daring new sound. More recently they cleaned up at Canada’s Juno Awards, taking home Song of the Year, Pop Album of the Year, and Group of the Year honors.
With all the accolades piling up, and more and more people lining up for shows, Tegan and Sara – who are both openly gay – have also embraced their newfound spotlight in mainstream media.
“We are more comfortable with the idea that we are role models now than ever before,” Sara said. “When we were younger our goal was to be honest and visible as queer artists while also maintaining a broad fan base. There was a natural shift towards being more outspoken and focused with our politics over the years when the message of the many causes we cared about started to naturally integrate with what we were doing and what was happening in the mainstream. It’s been a natural process and we’ve been grateful to have the time to grow at our own pace along the way.”
The duo has frequently discussed their personal politics and personal experiences onstage, and over the years has worked with a number of LGBTQ organizations and charities in both the U.S. and Canada.
“It’s been an important part of our life to help bridge a more liberal and inclusive attitude while also advocating for the legislation that would protect those in the LGBTQ community,” Sara explained. “We’ve been careful to delineate between our music and band and the objectives of our politics, but integrating them wherever possible.”
Songwriting has long been a method for the sisters to make sense out of their lives. So even though their latest set flips their introspective lyrical microscope into something of a universal telescope, they’re still coming from the same place.
“They all sort of end up being about you, if only a little bit,” Sara said about the new songs. “I’ve always found that being honest is the surest way to connect yourself to strangers. We don’t know all each other’s backgrounds but so many experiences are part of the human condition and with the right melody and words you can connect even the least likely of people.”
With Tegan now living in Vancouver and Sara splitting time between Montreal and New York, the sisters surprisingly connected more with each other on Heartthrob than they ever had in the past, when more of their songs originated as either Tegan songs or Sara songs that they later filled out together.
“Mostly we [were] sending demos to each other, but in the case of a few songs, we actually worked on parts in the same room,” Sara said about collaborating closely with her sister. “It was a first and it yielded great results. So I’m sure when we start writing again we’ll continue to keep that process and intimacy open to each other.”
The duo plans to tour until Christmas and then take time off to work on their next album.
“I think there is a connection, [an] intuitive sense that helps us predict or complete musical ideas,” Sara said about being twin songwriters. “We complement each other very naturally and that adds to the flow of both our music and our storytelling on stage. I think it is fairly unique and does give our band a different spin.”
For more on Tegan and Sara, visit teganandsara.com.–Eric Mitts