Twin sister electro-rock-pop duo Tegan and Sara have been bringing the “Hype” since 1998. The song from the Canadian identical twins’ first album released two decades ago gives the perfect title to the buzz that their following 15 discs have created. “We’re old pros,” Tegan Quin says. “Some of those first years, the tours were tough, the pay was shit, and we were really struggling as sisters to find our way in the world with each other. Each failure was a new fight, but we found our way. To still be making this music so many years later is a true high of our career.”
The duo has made the journey from high school house jams to international arenas, but it didn’t come without some momentary sacrifices. “Most of our friends were striking out on their own, going to college, and making their own path, and I think both Sara and I felt a little trapped together,” says Quin. “We were hard on each other those first years, but we learned to balance the work and the personal until we got to the place where we could collaborate easily with one another.”
Tegan and Sara’s bond has grown stronger over time — not only from the musical connection they share but from their involvement in the LGBTQ community. Both sisters have been out since forming a band, and they’ve seen a lot change in regards to rights and acceptance over the past 13 years. Meanwhile, fans, radio, and mainstream media have been very supportive. “Sometimes, we felt like it was too talked about, but we realize now looking back that us being open and out and proud and successful brought a lot of hope and relief to young fans watching from home. That’s been our biggest contribution to the world I think,” Quin says. The sisters try to attend LGBTQ events as often as possible and stay regularly involved with revelandriot.com, a site promoting awareness and equality through art, graphics, writing, and T-shirts.
The twosome have been a part of a lot of cool collaborations in the music industry as well. They toured with Neil Young right after high school, which threw them headfirst into the profession and everything that comes with it. “It helped us develop a foundation for the artists we are today,” Quin explains. “We had a lot to learn and everyone was incredible to us.” Their most wow collaboration besides opening for Young was with Tiesto. The sisters grew up listening to electronic music and going to raves, so joining the genre with an international star was pretty euphoric.
For the past two years, Tegan and Sara have shared the stage with The Killers, Katy Perry, The Black Keys, and Fun., learning from these artists all the while. “We’ve been diligently watching their shows, seeing what works and what doesn’t, making notes, and attempting to liven up our own show,” says Quin. The Let’s Make Things Physical Tour will be putting all those observations and experiences to use, as it’s old music with new arrangements and stage effects. “Our goal is to make everyone feel like they’ve had a unique experience, and so we try and keep the show as fresh as possible,” Quin tells us. Charleston showgoers can look forward to recent radio hits like “Closer” and “I Was a Fool” from the ’80s and ’90s-inspired Heartthrob, plus innovative renditions of old favorites.
When the sisters aren’t on tour, in the studio, or being activists, they live in separate houses in entirely different provinces in Canada, and they only talk on the phone occasionally. “We’ve found a way to make the touring part of our life feel like ‘work,’ but when we’re off the road, we talk like sisters,” Quin admits.