Sara Quin Extended Interview
Sara Quin, half of Canadian pop/rock twins Tegan and Sara, is in the midst of a final tour before working on the duo's sixth album. The rising music star told CP about her process of learning to handle fame, fans, and the future both in and out of music.
City Pages: You're doing some unreleased songs and older songs on this tour; saying fans will be surprised by the shows on this tour. What went into making that decision?
Sara Quin: Quite honestly I wasn't totally sure we needed to be doing another tour in the states right away. I kind of like the 'the leave them wanting more' kind of vibe. But we've sort of experienced a lot of growth and interest. So it felt like we were going to do this tour and I was like 'God, it feels like we're just going back to do the same old thing.' We wanted to diversify, I mean we want to play all the stuff everybody wants to hear, and we enjoy playing everything too, but we wanted to put some new stuff in and some old unreleased stuff just to keep the set exciting for us.
CP: I saw you once in Columbia, Mo., and during one of your quieter slower songs, you stopped playing and scolded a group in the audience for talking too loud. Do you still do that now that you're playing to larger audiences in larger venues?
SQ: It's a case-by-case thing. Sometimes I'll be very sensitive if I feel like people are being really noisy or rude or whatever. And then other times I just couldn't care less, I recognize that it's a concert and people aren't there to act like nuns in the pews at church or whatever. I'm sometimes shocked at how absurd the behavior can get especially if people are drunk or whatever. I'm like, 'Oh my god, we're alive. We can hear you! You're actually being annoying and disturbing. We're not television.' But I don't want to be seen as a tyrant. I think when I react it's usually because the audience is experiencing the same aggravation that I am. And I'm helping be an ambassador for politeness.
CP: What are some of the worst things people have done at your concerts?
SQ: I recently got in a bit of spat with girl. She was being belligerent and abusive for the entire show then at one point decided that wasn't enough, and during a couple of songs had her hand up in the air giving us the middle finger. That kind of pissed me off. In moments like that it's difficult because as the artist you're supposed to overlook all of that stuff. But I always tell everyone around me that if someone walked up to you at your job and was giving you the middle finger, wouldn't you be like 'Excuse me, please fuck off. Go do that somewhere else.' But yeah we try to be as well behaved as possible.
CP: You used to stand at your merch stand meeting fans and signing stuff after shows. On this tour you're playing larger venues and you've become quite popular, do you still try to do that?
SQ: Just due to sheer numbers, it's not responsible at this point, in my mind, for us to go out and stand at the merch table in terms of clearing the club out. The truth is, when I was growing up, I didn't necessarily expect to see Bruce Springsteen standing at the coliseum door going 'Thanks for coming the show. Have a great night. High-five!' And clearly we're not at that level. We're a band that sells 150,000 records; we're not superstars. But there was a moment in time, especially doing support gigs opening for the Killers or Ryan Adams it was really easy because we were the opening band and we weren't that well known. It was easy for us to stand at the merch table and pimp ourselves to people.
CP: You have a lot of extremely devoted fans, maybe more fanatical than other bands.
SQ:Sure. We were just doing a festival with The National, who I absolutely adore. But as we were standing backstage there were all these girls standing at the fence screaming and waving at us and we had this conversation about how our fans really do treat us (as stars). Almost like heartthrobs. It sort of embarrasses me that there are people like 'I love you!' Somebody recently said that we were like David Cassidy. Which feels so awkward because I feel really short and geeky and very much not like a sex symbol or heartthrob. It goes beyond music, there is sort of a fascination with who we are. You know, when you look at what's available for kids to pine over or look up to or get a crush on in terms of alternative music, in terms of queer girls or whatever, Tegan and I are two of very few. Those kind of girls, I can see why they need to be like, 'Oh my god, I love you! You're so cute, oh my god!' That's OK, they'll grow out of it, and it's totally OK. But we also try to not encourage it either.
CP: Are you two at a point in your career that some solo albums or solo touring are becoming likely?
SQ: I definitely think solo material, solo albums and side projects- we've always thought we would do those things. We write very independently, so there's tons of material that I'll write and think that this wouldn't fit with what Tegan and Sara, quote unquote, would do. It's sort of like 'later, later, later,' but noticeably I've felt like ok, we're about do album number six, it might be time to do other stuff just to keep it fresh. As much as it was something we said in the past, I actually think we're both working on other things right now. But I'm not even sure it's just music. I've started working with a band in an artist way as a bit of a mentor. It makes me think that maybe one day I would like to be involved in more of a business capacity with other bands, maybe like a consultant. And writing; sometimes I want to be a librarian. I'm just not really sure.
CP: What can you tell me about work your sixth album?
SQ: Me and Tegan started trying to talk about it last night, and we both got like 'I don't know! I don't know!' We're just not really sure. We've written a billion songs already and a lot of it is great. We started writing songs when we were 14 or 15, but we've never written together. So we're going to rent a house, we're looking a couple of different places, New Orleans maybe, and we're going to rent a house and write together. It's terrifying. Writing independently has always helped us circumvent our combustive, combative dynamic. This is probably a bad idea, but we'll see what happens.
Check out Sara Quin and her twin sister, Tegan, and City and Color and Girl in a Coma at the State Theater at 8 p.m. on Saturday. $32.50.