Tegan and Sara are not releasing a new album and will be doing only a few Canadian live dates this year before a well-deserved break, but that doesn’t mean indie rock’s favourite twins aren’t making international headlines. A recent online feud between Sara Quinn and Odd Future rapper Tyler the Creator swept through the blogosphere, creating a firestorm of comments and even one ill-conceived mashup. At the centre of the feud is Sara’s condemnation of the music industry’s adulation of the group and Tyler’s lyrics on topics like rape and “faggots.”
The controversy caught the attention of Kathleen Hanna, Le Tigre’s outspoken frontwoman. Hanna was quoted widely on the internet in a Spinner interview, where she seemingly suggested that if Sara had ignored Tyler, he wouldn’t be getting the extra attention Sara’s comments were now affording him. Hardly the solution you would expect from the confrontational songwriter who came screaming into the ’90s with the word incest scrawled across her tits.
“We’d never met or talked to Kathleen before this,” says Tegan. “But the day after those statements were released, she actually got in touch with Sara, and they talked for a couple of hours. Kathleen said, ‘I want you to know that writer took everything I said out of context. I hadn’t read your statement. I had no idea who Tyler the Creator was, and I was speaking from a perspective of “Fuck him, ignore him.” Kathleen said, after reading Sara’s statement, that she validated her whole purpose and the entire movement that started in the ’90s. I think like everything, the press pretty much always gets it wrong, and I think it’s because they’re always looking for a story and the story is edited down and it comes out of context.”
Despite the questionable and violent lyrics of groups like Odd Future, their popularity is growing. As the music industry scrambles to stay afloat in an age of downloads, it seems that controversy sells, and the nature of some content is excused or ignored.
“I think the best way for people to understand the Tyler the Creator situation is to go listen to his music and educate yourself,” says Tegan. “Sara is not talking about censorship; she’s talking about the industry being more responsible and not having a double standard. You can’t fine Kobe Bryant $100,000 for saying ‘faggot’ and then say Tyler the Creator has great beats so he can say ‘faggot’ 30 times a day on his Twitter, no big deal. You can’t talk about raping women and then say, ‘I’m a kid, I’m just joking.’ As we saw [at the hockey riots] in Vancouver, drunk 20-somethings are not non-threatening, they are not non-violent, they are not an issue to be ignored.”
Tegan and Sara have received tremendous reaction from speaking out about the industry’s double standard, asking how a source can play one band’s music video this week, then have a crew talk shit on them the next. Since the feud began, many large promoters, managers and TV personalities have shown support and solidarity for the duo.
“It’s about responsibility within our industry,” says Tegan. “If we don’t stand up for ourselves and our community, then who are we? What are we? At this point we are too far into change and the removal of these awful statements to say, Just ignore him. A lot of people still don’t understand misogyny and sexism. It’s systematic. We have to deal with it. It’s just like the gay movement. Our straight allies can’t just say they love and support us; they have to be out there marching with us.”
One huge fan of the pair who will always stand and march with them is their mom, Sonia, who is also active in gay rights issues. During their downtime, Tegan, Sara and Sonia have booked talks at gay-straight alliances in local schools.
“My mom started a GSA at her school,” say Tegan proudly. “I love going in and meeting all these kids and being involved in the community. I wish we had a GSA when I was in school.”
In the meantime, fans can expect a DVD, a collaboration with electrohouse DJ Morgan Page and a live CD in the fall. In the meantime, check out their YouTube channel here. And a little taste below.