Following a 14-year career as Canada’s indie-rock darlings, Calgary natives Tegan and Sara are poised for a year of change in 2013. The identical-twin, queer musicians released their seventh studio album, Heartthrob, Jan 29. It has a drastically different sound than much of their earlier work. After a string of successful collaborations with electro DJs, including Tiesto, David Guetta and Morgan Page, the duo decided to create an electro-pop album on their own.
Xtra: What brought about this shift in genre?
Tegan: We’ve been making music for over half our life, and just like music has changed and what’s popular has changed, we’ve grown and evolved and explored a lot of different things . . . from punk music and indie music and more folk-based stuff and our last couple records were maybe a little more indie-rock, but definitely with each record the one thing that’s remained consistent is that we try to change it up. I think that we were just embracing our love of pop music currently and also our pop music love from the ‘80s. So Heartthrob is sort of a product of all of that. But I think at its core it’s still a Tegan and Sara record.
Did you think your fans were shocked to hear this new sound?
Sara: I remember being particularly nervous about “Feel It in My Bones,” the collaboration we did with Tiesto, right before we released [the sixth studio album] Sainthood. It was going to premiere on stereogum . . . I nervously kept refreshing, waiting for the song to get put up and see what people’s comments were. I think we had one of the most commented posts ever on that day. Because there were people who loved it, there were people who hated it, there were people fighting about it. I think ultimately, what I took from the experience . . . was that it really truly opened up our band and our voice to a totally different genre of music. We would have dudes come up to us in the street and be like, “I work out to ‘Feel It in My Bones’ and that had never happened to us before!” And I thought to myself, even if there is criticisms from certain people, or there was a discomfort from our own fan base, it was important to push ourselves.
This is your seventh album. When you started, did you ever imagine you would take on this new sound?
Sara: I’m not even sure we thought we would have a career, let alone seven albums!
Tegan: Exactly! You go back to the time we made [the first album] Under Feet Like Ours . . . what was popular was so different. The way that we were making music and also the music we were making was very much influenced on what was going on in music. It doesn’t feel like we’ve changed overnight. As cheesy and cliché as it sounds to say, we just had a natural evolution over the last 15 years, and this is where we’ve arrived.
Is your process helped or hindered by happiness?
Tegan: When we finished touring [the fifth Album] The Con and our diehard fans came up to me and actually said, “Now that you guys are so happy you’re just not gonna be able to make a good record.” The truth of the matter is, when we’re happy we’re a little more motivated . . . we are able to reflect on the past and we’re able to go back and reprocess some of these terrible things that have happened . . . in a whole different light.
Sara: When you’re in a positive place, reflecting or imagining on the past becomes a little clearer; it’s a little bit less clouded by being in the moment . . . I didn’t write The Con when I was in a bad place. I very quickly became depressed when the record was done . . . whereas with this record I think these songs are actually more intense . . . but I think it’s just because I had this clarity. So take that, people who hate people who are happy!