Something sealed the lesbian-dating deal for Tegan Quin: It was her identical twin, Sara. Save for music, the alt-rock duo – known for their quirky arrangements, ear-appealing melodies and crushes on chicks – hardly share a list of commonalities the size of a kid’s Christmas list.
The one thing Sara did have, though, Tegan wanted: “When Sara started to date a girl (at 14), I was like, ‘I wish I could be doing that,'” she says, breaking into a conniving laugh, from Philadelphia back in August. It was just days before they headed to Europe on their seemingly endless tour – a new leg brings them to Detroit at 7 p.m. on Nov. 28 at St. Andrew’s Hall – to support critically-applauded summer release “The Con,” a tight experimental project and follow-up to 2004’s hit-heavy “So Jealous.” Sure beats traveling on a Greyhound bus with a menagerie of oddballs – which is how these Canadian chanteuses revved their way to the top. Since then, they’ve scored umpteen musical spots on “Grey’s Anatomy.” And free pizza!
The record company keep the women nourished during interviews, Tegan says, to compensate for the, uh, tiring talk-about-myself banter. “You’re just like, ‘It’s 20 minutes! And I’m talking about me and my music,'” she laughs.
Tegan’s not complaining, though; every day’s not a pizza party. Especially the last couple of weeks, when the guttural crooner went without clean clothes, sporting inside-out socks and reversed undies. Now able to slip on something that won’t repel people, Tegan can breathe – and so can those around her.
“Fuck,” Tegan says, trying to name the most ball-busting burden of having a lesbian twin. “I don’t know the difference between having a lesbian and a regular one – ’cause I don’t have a regular one.”
The two never played tug-of-war with friends. Never stole clothes from each other’s closets. And never seduced the other’s woman. Really, there’s only one thing they squabble over: Communication. Yes, with their tomboyish ‘dos, tatted-bods and androgynous look, they appear the product of the same DNA. When they open their mouths, deciphering who’s singing what becomes somewhat of a test. Here’s a cheat sheet: Tegan boasts a throaty delivery and opts for pop-punk tunes, while Sara accords a gentler, melodic touch.
After all, even if though they once shared a zygote, they’re still independent women. Who are lesbians. Kinda.
“I dated boys all the way up until I was 20,” Tegan admits. “I mean, I went back and forth for sure (and) never classified myself as really anything – ’cause I really didn’t feel like it was something that I had to do.”
Punk. Folk. Lesbian. Musicians continuously are being pushed into different corners – and Tegan and Sara are no exceptions. Sometimes it’s just easier, Tegan says, to go with the flow. She waited until she was 17 to give a woman a shot, which she calls a “sweet” experience and her first true love. Still, she seesawed between sexes until she was 20 – but never had a lesbian heart-to-heart with Sara.
“Sara and I are not typical,” she says. “We just don’t talk about that kind of stuff, and it was never like, ‘I’m gay and should I tell mom?’ It was like, ‘You’re not invited to the sleepovers with me and her anymore – because you know why.'”
A five-year-long relationship was the muse for Tegan’s seven songs on “The Con,” the duo’s fifth full-length studio album. It fizzled shortly before recording the disc, and her lyrical stylings resurrect regret, her anxiety and what was, she says, ultimately “traumatizing.”
It reminded her of relationships during her teen years, and the infatuation that drowns someone who’s deeply in love. The woman, though, was emotionally vacant, leaving Tegan alone in love.
But she never intended to write directly about the relationship – even if it sounds like she did. “Sara was like, ‘Aww, that’s so sad; you’re writing about Jen,'” Tegan recalls, laughing.
Before landing in the studio with producer Chris Walla of indie-group Death Cab for Cutie, Tegan and Sara swapped demos, finessing them like a kid does Play-Doh over eight months. Pre-“The Con,” time constraints, cash shortages and a dependence on producers made Tegan and Sara more like a fast food joint, even if the complete meal remained consistently hellacious.
“There’s definitely more depth, and sonically it feels, for me at least, like we were a lot more experimental, which was really exciting, ’cause this … reflects us more,” Tegan says.
And “us” won’t just be something of the past. Sure, Tegan has side jobs – like creating music with Hunter Burgan of rock band AFI and critiquing friends’ sonic endeavors – but this elevator’s only going up. And up. And up.
“I am in no rush to climb back down the ladder that I’ve been climbing for the last 10 years and get into a van and start some sort of little weird side project just for fun.”
And risk losing comped pizza? Hell, no.