In a career that has seemingly reinvented itself with every new album, every fresh step forward, perhaps the most significant one in the catalogue of Tegan and Sara is their fifth studio album, 2007’s The Con.
Co-produced by former Death Cab For Cutie member Chris Walla, the record took the Calgary-born sisters Tegan and Sara Quin more into the mainstream, further away from their folkier roots and announced them as artists with something to say, better at saying it than many.
So, not surprisingly, before moving further forward, the ladies have chosen to return to that record to celebrate its 10-year anniversary, with The Con X Tour and a covers album featuring other artists such as CHVRCHES, Ryan Adams and Paramore’s Hayley Williams reinterpreting the songs.
Before Tegan and Sara’s hometown stop at the Jubilee Auditorium on Monday, Oct. 30, Sara took time out from the tour to answer a few questions for theYYSCENE.
Q: Hi Sara. Thanks very much for doing this. How’s the tour going so far?
A: It’s been a terrific tour so far!
Q: What can people expect from the shows?
A: The show is two hours and we play The Con front to back and an additional eight songs that we felt were appropriately dark. It’s an intense show, but we break it up with some storytelling!
Q: I know The Con was an important album in your careers. Looking back at it and the songs themselves what stands out to you about that time? Is it difficult to put yourself back in that space? And what do you remember most about the recording of the album?
A: The actual recording of the album was creatively intense and quite rigorous. It feels like it was just yesterday and it’s quite vivid in my mind. That could also be the result of having documented it so throughly for the DVD portion. We knew we were making something really special, but there was also a sense of foreboding that was difficult to name. Shortly after we completed the album I separated from my common law partner and our record label folded. It continued to be a tumultuous period of my life for another two years.
Q: Do you have a different relationship with the material considering how long ago it was? Have the songs also musically changed dramatically since you’ve evolved as women, as artists?
A: Absolutely. It was a pleasure to crack back into the songs without the heaviness. They’re unusual arrangements and 10 years of experience has helped us give them their proper due live. A lot of The Con breaks the rules, there are so many things happening all at the same time that shouldn’t work but somehow do. It made it impossible to recreate live without a bit of mayhem. We’ve cleaned up some of the songs hopefully without defanging them.
Q: In hindsight, knowing that it was viewed as something of a departure at the time and where you’re at musically now, does it make more sense to you and, do you think, your fans?
A: I think we saw it as a next step and less of a departure. It was an album where we didn’t follow rules or the steps of previous albums. It felt intuitive and precisely “us.” What surprises me now is how sophisticated the songs are, even though the recordings captured where we were at technically, the feelings and experiences captured ring just as true to me now as they did back then.
Q: Any regrets about any of the songs or content?
A: Not really! I love the album as is, but it’s been nice to have a chance to reboot some of the songs to feel more lush, or to extend some of them into song territory.
Q: How did the The Con covers album come about? Whose idea was it and how did you choose the acts who would be involved?
A: Tegan suggested the idea and our approach was to select specific artists/bands for each individual song until someone confirmed they could do it. Then we’d move on to the next song and the next list of possible contributors. The process was quite methodical as we wanted to engineer a very diverse group of people who were either LGBTQ or LGBTQ allies.
Q: What are your thoughts on the album as a whole and what surprised you the most about how people were interpreting your work?
A: I think it’s quite cohesive even with so many genres and perspectives and sounds represented. We always felt the album was mature and addressed the big topics of life (death, depression, loneliness), so it’s fascinating to hear the songs connect with the younger bands and the older established artists in a way that feels authentic.
Q: Do you have a favourite (loaded question, I know)?
A: It was quite surreal to hear Cyndi Lauper cover Back In Your Head!
Q: What’s next? Do you think revisiting The Con has or will inform the next album?
A: I think the experience of performing music without an emphasis on pop arrangements and production has been really refreshing. It’s allowed us to be more flexible with the show and I think that the audience appreciates the human error involved. We forget lyrics, play the wrong notes, stop the song to make a comment … it wasn’t unusual for us to perform like that 10 years ago and it’s been exciting to revisit that freedom on this tour.
Q: And finally, you likely won’t have much time in Calgary, so what’s on the must-do list?
A: Friends and family!
(Photo courtesy Pamela Littky.)
Tegan and Sara perform Monday, Oct.30 at the Jubilee Auditorium. For tickets please click here.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.com. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at email@example.com.