Tegan and Sara's Sara Quin talks about snowshoes, 'Grey's Anatomy' and funny Canadians
“We just finished a winter Canadian tour,” Sara Quin said recently by phone from her home in Montreal. “You gotta pack your full snowsuit and snowshoes in hopes that it’ll be absolutely freezing, and the whole tour will be filled with snow.”
Okay, you can add “Not having to pack snowshoes when you go on tour” as another benefit to living in Florida.
Quin, however, doesn’t mind. As half of the Canadian indie-pop identical-twin duo Tegan and Sara, she’s accustomed to life on the road. When the duo hits the Tampa Theatre on Saturday in support of their latest album, Sainthood, it’ll be their third gig in Tampa Bay since 2005 — each one in progressively larger venues. (The show is at 8 p.m.; tickets are $38.50; click here for details.)
Before Tegan and Sara crossed back into America, we chatted with Sara Quin about Canadian climate, touring in Florida and bantering onstage with her sister.
I gotta say, a Canadian tour doesn’t sound like the most appealing way to spend the winter.
To be honest with you, I love winter. I moved out to Montreal about eight years ago, and it was the middle of February, and it was absurdly cold. I didn’t have any of the proper attire for winter at that point in my life, and I froze my ass off for two years, trying to be cool. I love the seasons. I love how insanely cold and almost unliveable winter can be, and then spring comes, and it feels more natural, and all of a sudden it’s the middle of summer and it’s so hot and you’re dying and it’s humid, and then fall comes again, and then suddenly it’s winter and you can’t believe you were wishing it would be winter again, because it’s so horrible. I love that cycle. So I actually prefer touring in winter. I feel like summer makes me lethargic and hot and lazy. Winter always makes me feel like getting up early and making coffee and putting on 48 layers of clothes and listening to a podcast and snowshoeing through a park. I feel like I’ve turned into a 50-year-old outdoorsman.
How far north do you tour? Have you been to the Arctic Circle?
We’ve not been to the Arctic Circle. I think I’m the only one who is a cold-weather enthusiast. The last time we went to Australia, the band and crew, the majority of whom live on the west coast in Vancouver, Victoria, L.A., San Francisco, whatever — they all had the time of their f---ing lives, because it was a vacation. They were surfing all the time, every day off was a bloody surf trip. I hated it. I never wanted to see any of those people in bathing suits. It completely traumatized me. I would prefer to go to Iceland for a tour.
Tegan and Sara have played Tampa Bay several times over the past few years. I’ve notice that a lot of northern indie-rock bands of your stature don’t come to Florida, for whatever reason. Is there a reason for that? When you’re planning a tour, how do you decide how far south you’re going to come?
Each band has a different process. For us, it’s a lot of factors, like how many tickets you sold the last time, and how many records you sold in that place, or if you’re getting any radio play. Those things will factor into what sort of venue you play and what sort of guarantee you’re offered to come down there. We don’t sell as many albums as I think people probably assume we do, but we do sell a lot of concert tickets. We know we have fans down there, and it’s important for us to build an audience everywhere. For other bands, if they haven’t gone there before, and they’re not selling records, it’s hard to know if people will be there. Promoters and agents and that part of the industry, it’s harder for them to take that risk.
You’re playing mostly theaters on this tour, right?
I love playing theaters. We just did the whole Canadian tour in theaters, really beautiful concert hall-type places. By the end, we were all like, 'We can’t wait to play a club again!’ ... It’s so hard to know what the audience really wants. When we play small rooms, people complain about the sound, or you couldn’t see us, or it was too squished. I think in theaters, you’re able to get a lot of people in the room, but because it’s seated, and there’s kind of a calmness to a theater, people really feel like it’s intimate, and they are able to connect to us. Usually the sight lines are better. This is so boring. And now, back to the weather! Let’s jump back into the wind conditions here in Montreal! (laughs)
No, I’m fascinated by this stuff! You guys have had a lot of music played on TV, Grey’s Anatomy especially. Do you guys have anything to do with your music getting on TV, or is it all a publishing house or label? Does it matter to you?
Grey’s Anatomy — that was during our So Jealous campaign, and up to that point, the world of publishing and TV placements and all of that stuff was so foreign to us. Grey’s Anatomy was a remarkable part of what felt like a real momentum in our career. We were doing this tour with the Killers, and we had got a lot of alternative radio play with Walking With a Ghost. We were six or seven years into our career, and we finally had sold 50,000 records. That was a big deal for us. All of a sudden we were getting these placements on television, and you’re tapping into a completely different market. The number of people that watch those television shows — even a show that’s maybe not the biggest show on television, you’re still looking at hundreds of thousands, even more than a million people. That’s more than Letterman or Leno or Conan. So I have no issues with it. I remember around the time when we first started getting placements, there was this almost snobby (idea of), “Who would do that? Why would you be on a television show or a commercial?” I can tell you, that sentiment sure has changed. I am shocked by the bands that will do car commercials and television shows.
You guys are known for your funny stage presence and back-and-forth banter. Have you ever considered doing stand-up, or something that’s specifically comedic, rather than only musical?
When we do radio or television, they’ll see us onstage and people will be like, “You should have a TV show!” or “You should be mimes!” or whatever. I think what makes it funny is that it’s not scripted. The moment we’re supposed to be funny, or we’re supposed to read off a cue card, we immediately become lobotomized. I think Tegan and I have a good banter because we’re a scientific accident. We probably are the same person. People probably find it funny because I’m bantering with myself — like it’s my internal dialogue, but it’s outside, externalized.
Who’s the funniest musician you know? Aside from Tegan.
Oh my god, I know so many funny musicians. I have a soft spot for Canadian musicians, because I think deep down inside, we’re all actually hilarious.
Yeah, all Canadians are funny. All Americans know that.
It’s true. We are. (laughs).
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*