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Back to School: Calgary artists Tegan and Sara continue to build their media empire with new graphic novel

It’s asked rather flippantly, but, well, an answer to the affirmative wouldn’t have been too surprising.

What’s next? Tegan and Sara: The musical?

Tegan Quin laughs but doesn’t dismiss the idea outright.

“You know, people have talked to us about it,” she says from her home of Canada’s west coast where both the Quins dwell. “People have approached us about it.

“There’s definitely some things in the pipline that are outside of the music space, but everything sort of touches music.”

She and her sister, Sara, have, over the past few years branched out from simply making delightfully catchy pop music, such as their latest release, 2022’s Crybaby, into other mediums.

There’s a book — the cowritten biography of their formative years growing up in Calgary called High School. There’s the acclaimed TV show based on that book, which was created by Clea DuVall, filmed locally, starring Cobie Smulders, and is awaiting confirmation on a second season pickup (it’s already scripted, just waiting on the green light).

They also have a popular Substack site, I Think We’re Alone Now, where fans can get an even greater look into the lives of the twins.

There’s also the work and outreach they do on behalf of the LBGTQ+ community.

Podcast? Of course.

And now, well, now they’re making their way into the graphic novel market, with a new, somewhat fictionalized work called Junior High, which was scripted by the pair and illustrated by award-winning artist Tillie Walden. Set in the modern day, it reimagines what life would be like for the two, growing up queer, making music, just living the Junior High life.

The duo will return home to celebrate its release with a Wordfest event June 6 at the Patricia A. Whelan Performance Hall in the Central Library.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Sara also became a mom, her son Sid having just turned nine months old.

So, yeah, they’ve a whole lotta stuff going on.

“We’re still ambitious, but our ambition is different. It’s now can we have a full life rather than just a big life,” says Tegan, before pointing to the newest family member, who she calls incredibly “easygoing,” having accompanied them on their last tour in support of Crybaby.

“He’s added to that. Just being around him and keeping him alive for nine months for Sara, that’s her biggest accomplishment. It changes her focus, which is really cool.”

He — as well as their many other new artistic outlets — have allowed the Quins to take stock of where they are, how far they’ve come, and reassess their priorities moving forward.

As Tegan says, it feeds into “a lifestyle of being at home and (creating), it’s really appealing.

“It’s a really interesting time creatively, that’s for sure.”

And as Tegan says, while they weren’t expecting it, it also helped them branch out and reach their fans in different ways when Covid shut things down for a couple of years.

Far from being prescient, she says they’d signed the deal for both High School and Junior High back in in 2018, and were happy to have that time to create and find their way around these new forms.

“Not to say that we wanted a pandemic,” she says, “but I think that time of the road really allowed us to really fully lean into and explore and have fun.

“If we had just been on the regular treadmill, I think we would have just been pushing them out, like, ‘OK, we have to stay on schedule …’ 

“So the pandemic didn’t inspire us going out and trying new things, but it definitely gave us the freedom and the time to explore them that felt really rich.

“And I think that being at home for longer than we’ve ever been, ever, in our adult lives … I think it definitely changes some of our brain chemistry.

“It feels insane to imagine leaving for months at a time.”

She laughs.

“I don’t understand what we were thinking.”

That’s not to say the sisters are ready to pack it in and give up their day jobs. In fact, as Tegan says, all of these other avenues are all relatively music adjacent.

That includes writing a soundtrack for the audio book version of Junior High, which is due out this summer, as well as a sequel to the comic, which will likely further follow them down the path of becoming Tegan and Sara.

“It’s not that I don’t like putting out new music, I love putting out new music, but I don’t want to just pump out a new record every year, just to do it. We want to be really cognizant and it to be very premeditated with what kind of music we make” she says.

“So the writing has allowed us to explore other music stuff.

“And also, with the books, we have to write them together, so there’s a lot more collaboration, that’s actually seeped into the music. I don’t sit and think, ‘I have to finish this song, it has to be mine,’ I’m more inclined to share it with Sara and say, ‘Well what would you do next?’

“It’s cool, it’s really helping us evolve.”

As to where else that may take them, well, wait and see.

“We’re definitely like, ‘OK, should we do a musical?” she says and laughs again. “I don’t know.

“We’re asking those bigger questions. As a legacy artist, we can go out and tour every couple of years, and we can definitely make some money.

“But it’s not really about money as much any more. Now it’s about how do we satisfy ourselves, how do we be creative, how do we scratch that itch, how do we reach this audience that we really like, and how do we do this thing we like without breaking our backs and without destroying our personal lives.

“We’re definitely having to shake up a new cocktail.”

Tegan and Sara will appear June 6 at the Patricia A. Whelan Performance Hall in the Central Library for a Wordfest event. For tickets and more information, please go to wordfest.com.

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