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Tegan and Sara headline WorldPride closing ceremony

Tegan talks to Xtra about Pride, Ottawa’s Bluesfest and challenging pop

Tegan and Sara played the closing ceremony of Toronto WorldPride June 29. They will play Bluesfest in Ottawa on July 3. Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

Tegan and Sara rocked Toronto’s Koolhaus nightclub in May. Fans will get another chance to check out the duo when they headline WorldPride closing ceremonies in Toronto on June 29.

DailyXtra

Tegan and Sara are on fire these days. Their 2013 album, Heartthrob, netted them two Junos and a GLAAD media award. They followed that up with “Everything Is Awesome,” the catchy, Mark Mothersbaugh-penned electro-pop ballad that accompanied the popular Lego Movie.

Now the twins are on tour, playing cities across the globe with stops in Tokyo, Portland, Los Angeles and Charlottetown. They touched down in Toronto for a gig at the WorldPride closing ceremony June 29, and they’ll be continuing on to Ottawa to play Bluesfest on July 3.

In an email chat with Tegan, she shared her thoughts on the last year, touring and what it’s like to be part of an internationally famous lesbian indie-pop sibling duo. Here is an edited version of that interview.

Xtra: It’s obviously been an exciting and busy time for you, especially with the success of Heartthrob and your Juno and GLAAD Award wins. What has the last year been like for you?

Tegan: Our last two years have been insane. So much touring and so much success. We feel truly happy and satisfied about it all. It’s been wonderful to make so many new fans and experience so much new stuff after all these years. We’re proud of the support our audience has shown us. It’s been an overwhelming ride!

How do you feel your identity as LGBT artists has affected the music you make? 

I imagine it’s influenced everything about us since it is how we see and experience the world. But, I think, what we have come to understand is that we are no different than most people. Our experiences are similar in almost every way. We are all different. We all have issues. We all struggle. And we just happen to write it to music.

Have you ever felt pressured to either emphasize or downplay your identity as lesbians for a public audience?

Never! From the first day we were “professional musicians” we accepted ourselves, and our team around us did the same. I think it has been an edge for us over the years. We enjoy the challenge of breaking down stereotypes and mainstreaming ourselves.

Your current tour has you playing a ton of dates in a huge variety of places, from Chicago and Japan to small Canadian cities like Guelph and Charlottetown. What’s it like playing such a diverse range of places?

Our band is so lucky to have the opportunity to do something new every night. The venues change; the people change. It’s all very exciting. It keeps things fresh and exciting. Our intention with our band these days is to reach as many people in as many places as we can. Our current tour reflects that beautifully.

You both have spoken a lot about pop music and how it has the potential to be a powerful and artistic genre. How have you tried to explore that potential in your own music?

We always felt we were making indie-pop music. People have called it everything from indie rock to indie folk to rock to alternative rock. So when we were making Heartthrob, we attempted to make a much more bold, mainstream-sounding record.

Our pop songs have been getting more and more attention over the years, and we thought it would be fun to really push our music into a new place.

Our intention was to be more accessible but also to challenge pop music by making an intelligent pop record. I think we succeeded in doing that. Pop to us has always been cool. We grew up listening to pop music. I think pop got a bad rap because we only called pop singers pop, but pop has been here all along.

You’ve sung about queer relationships a lot in your music (“I’m All Messed Up,” “I Was a Fool,” “I Run Empty”), but in a way that actually feels very universal in terms of the feelings you explore. Do you think drawing on your own experiences is an important part of making music that’s genuine and easy to relate to?

Sara and I both love to write about love and relationships. They are endlessly complex, and it is one thing that all people, no matter who they are or where they are from, experience. So we find love to be a great universal emotion to pull from.

We don’t consider any singing we do to be “queer” even if it is influenced by our own relationships. We try and keep things in a universal realm.

How does it feel to be playing at the closing ceremony of Toronto WorldPride?

We are proud to be playing Toronto WorldPride. Our first Pride was in Toronto in 1998! We had just graduated high school and were in Toronto working and staying with family when we saw our first Pride parade. So it’s thrilling to be coming back in such a big way.

After WorldPride, you’ll be heading on to Ottawa for Bluesfest. Anything you’re looking forward to about that performance or artists you personally would like to see? 

We just feel super lucky to be able to tour all over Canada this summer. Our mom will be with us, and we’ll be looking forward to celebrating Pride and Canada Day with her and our fans. Ottawa Bluesfest is one of our favourite in the country. So we can’t wait to go back.

What’s next for you after your current tour wraps up?

Sara and I are touring all of 2014. We have a bunch of festivals and headline shows planned in addition to the Katy Perry [Prismatic World] tour in September. We’re also going to Japan in July. And then we are going to take off most, if not all, of 2015 to write, relax and record a new record.