Tegan and Sara know how to throw a holiday party. The Grammy nominated Canadian sisters recently packed the rooftop of the historic Hollywood Tower, giving typical holiday get-togethers a run for their money.
Not only did the duo perform at their own shindig -- treating fans to hits like 'Walking With a Ghost,' 'Back in Your Head' and several new tunes -- they channeled Father Christmas by mandating that guests wear ugly sweaters to the 98.7FM-sponsored soiree (see concert photos).
Prior to the festivities -- while Tegan was off in search of unsightly cardigans -- we caught up with Sara to discuss the forthcoming album 'Heartthrob,' out January 29, living across the country from her sister, and planning a year ahead.
What's going on in the Tegan and Sara world these days?
We're just wrapping up a tour with The Killers that has been going on since early November. We're going to take a little break for the holidays and then start up again in the New Year and getting ready to release the record. We're in promoting and tour cycle mode.
Are you excited to have 'Heartthrob' finally coming out in January?
It has been completed for a while, but we were really happy that we were able to take as much time as we have to release it to make sure that it is properly released, internationally as well.
Sometimes it feels like you just want to get it out, especially these days where it's like one day you put something out and it feels like the next day, people have already forgotten. It feels like you have to be ready to put something out again the next day to keep people excited and invested.
We gave ourselves a full six months to do press, to take some support tours and to get back out meeting and greeting and playing some shows. It's actually been kind of nice not to feel like, "Oh my God. The record’s out. We have to get out there and get it in people's hands."
It was refreshing to take some time. It also meant that we got a lot of rehearsal time in and a chance to perform some of the new songs live so I think when the new record does come out and we're performing our own shows, then we'll be at our best.
What can we expect from 'Heartthrob'?
I don't read a ton of press. I feel like it's a bit of a weird feedback to read what other people say about you and your project. One thing that I have seen though is that there still seems to be this kind of thought that Tegan and Sara are known as a folk band or acoustic music or something and then people will say that the new album is a totally different thing. That to me is inconsistent with what we've been doing with the last three albums.
We've always sort of seen ourselves as a rock band or an indie pop band and so it's hard for me because I feel like this new record is a natural step. It's sort of a more fully realized pop record compared to our last record but I think for some people, it really is a shock.
I'm trying to let that be a good thing and not let that be a bad thing but it is funny to hear people talking about how different it sounds because I'm like, "Really? Does it sound that different?"
Maybe because we're so close to the material, it's difficult to separate the experience with writing it and recording it and performing it now live and the average person who says, “I know what Tegan and Sara sounds like” and then they put this record on and they are like, “This is not what I imagined.”
I think it's going to be a really exciting thing for a lot people to hear how different it sounds and how poppy it sounds. I'm fairly certain that the people out there who are Tegan and Sara fans will feel like it's something recognizable and there's hopefully something in there that they love and they'll continue to come see us and support us.
What was the album inspired by?
We're storytellers. We're always using details from our own lives, and there are songs that are much more straight forward than others. I think with this album, it's a little bit broader.
A lot of the time, we will take a chunk of time off and then we'll write a record so sometimes the material is more consistent with an experience that is happening or a relationship that is happening.
For this record, we took a lot longer of a time to write, so it was a lot more of a challenge to come up with an overall theme. We were trying to name the record, for example, and where Tegan was at and where I was at, it felt very different but I think that's really neat too.
Sometimes the records age really quickly for me. I'll really be writing about something very specific and by the time you record the record and it comes out, you're already a year or a year and a half into a totally different thing or a new relationship or a new part of your life. This record doesn't feel like it's aging with me. It feels universal, and I don't feel like I'm thinking about writing new material. I feel very invested in this current set of songs.
"It became so much about what our personal interests and likes and dislikes were about cities... Tegan loves the cities that she spends time in and I just happen to love spending time in different cities." -- Sara
Since you do pull from your own life experiences, do you ever release a song and then feel vulnerable about sharing those lyrics with fans?
I think the music itself, I don't necessarily feel uncomfortable about but there certainly is a deconstruction that happens when you're asked questions in the press or when you're talking with fans or even sometimes when you're talking to people in your life -- when they hear the music. That can be a little bit strange and I think those are the times that I feel vulnerable.
There's a manipulation or an obscuring of the details that makes it seem not so personal; even though the songs are incredibly personal, they don't feel completely raw. But then there's something about when you have to talk about them. It's like, “OK. How do I maintain that sort of atomicity for the people involved or for my own self? How do I keep it feeling intimate for the listener and then not too intimate that it makes it too confessional?" I think you have to strike kind of a fine balance.
What are your favorite tracks off of the album.
I know everybody says this but you kind of start to love all of them the same. I feel so proud of the record that I hate singling one out. We're playing 'Closer' and 'Now I'm All Messed Up' and they feel so great live. I'm feeling like this record is going to grow and be much bigger than even the recording of it.
Are you and your sister still living on opposite coasts? Does that make it difficult to be in a band together?
Yes. I wouldn't say it's more challenging than if we lived in the same city, though, because we often record in cities that we don't live in and we do a tremendous amount of touring.
There's a few little concessions sometimes that one of us will have to make if we're spending more time on one coast than the other but ultimately the band is a satellite operation and we've made it work with songwriting and sending each other tracks and taking time to make writing trips and get in the same room. All of those things have really become part of the process for us.
It became so much about what our personal interests and likes and dislikes were about cities. It wasn't necessarily to get away from her as much as it was to find a place that felt right for me. Tegan loves the cities that she spends time in and I just happen to love spending time in different cities. It has allowed us an autonomy with not just being sisters but just being in a band.
You do spend a ridiculous amount of time together so when you have a chance to break off and do your own thing, I think it does force you to be more independent and create a different life outside of the project. I don't know what it would be like to live in the same city with her now after 10 years but I think if we were, we would end up spending some of our personal time apart just so that we wouldn't go crazy.
It's probably good for songwriting too...
For sure. Especially when I moved to Montreal -- I had never really experienced that life and music scene and I fell in with a totally different type of group of people that inspired me.
I'm really involved in the activism community and all these things and I remember Tegan and I spending six months apart and then getting together and we were totally on different sides of the music industry. She was really into punk rock and rock music and art and culture and I had holes in my jeans and was listening to Peaches. It was so funny because we suddenly had seen each other so differently.
What's the plan for 2013? Going strong all year with touring?
At this point, it's sort of crazy but we're already looking into the year after that. We're already fairly certain what will be doing till next Christmas but then it's like we're starting to talk about, “Then what do we do?” It's kind of crazy but it's about the ambition and wanting to get to a lot of different countries and then also making time for having a life.
We do a tremendous amount of touring, but we want to also make sure that we're having time to work on side projects at home and just chill out.
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