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Tegan and Sara Reinventing Queer Stereotypes in Rock Music
2005-06-08

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by Albert Rodriguez

'We're the most famous band in Canada you've never heard,' says Tegan, one half of the Canadian sister act Tegan and Sara.

The alternative rock babes have zipped up everyone's 'look out for' list in a short amount of time with their critically acclaimed CD So Jealous, featuring the single 'Walking With a Ghost.' The track is receiving solid airplay on major radio stations around the country and is featured on MTV2.

The Killers, the red-hot group with the current smash 'Mr. Brightside,' were such big fans of Tegan and Sara that they invited them on their spring North American tour. 'I want to say they're the nicest people we've ever toured with,' says Sara about The Killers, minutes before going on stage for a performance. 'They came out to see us in Vancouver both nights we were there. It's our hometown. Apparently, we were doing group hugs and spinning and dancing on the dance floor.' The camaraderie has continued throughout the tour, which just wrapped up at Chicago's Riviera Theatre May 11.

'We're still getting along with them well,' adds Tegan. 'We've been hanging out a lot. We've been playing in these 1,000-seat stadiums, so we see them in the hallways.'

Indeed, The Killers are quite visible in the hallways before the start of tonight's show. Lead singer Brandon Flowers and bassist Mark Stoermer are encircling our interviewing area at the moment, consisting of two ultra-soft couches and a cluttered coffee table. Flowers, known for making gay boys and straight girls weak at the knees, matches his boyishly cute looks with an adorable personality. 'Yeah, he's very cute,' notes Sara. 'He's just very sweet and he's got his little funny outfits.' When I mention the effect he has on gay men, Tegan and Sara both smile and nod their head. 'He thinks everybody has crushes on him,' quips Sara.

While they don't have a favorite 'Killer', Tegan and Sara do love hanging out with drummer Ronnie Vannucci. 'He's always poking his head in the dressing room and trying to get us to go out with him and have pie.'

There's something else worth mentioning about Tegan and Sara. They're both lesbian. And they're proud to represent our community in an industry that is finally taking notice of gay artists and gay consumers. 'It's great to be a part of a new movement where people don't have to fall under certain stereotypes,' states Tegan. 'To align ourselves with that ( gay ) community and to be supported by that community is great for us, and for our music.' Sara agrees and emphasizes she and her sibling are part of a broader group of gays. 'We want to say to the gay community that our community is everybody.'

At times, Tegan and Sara have had to defend their sexuality in the workplace. 'I remember being in New York and we were in Time Out magazine, on the cover of the entertainment section,' reveals Sara. 'There was some mention of our sexuality and one of the guys from the ( record ) company was really irritated. He was like 'We want to break you into a different market. We want to show that you're not just a band that would appeal to those people.' And I was like 'Don't talk about it like it's so bad. Don't forget I'm one of those people you're talking about.'' She continues, 'I know how I was born and I know that I have no choice. I know it may not show on the color of my skin, but I know it's in my heart and in my soul.'

Tegan and Sara, based evenly in Vancouver and Montreal, are extremely confident and talented, two key elements of a rising career. 'By doing it and not questioning it is making a statement,' affirms Tegan. Sara quickly responds, 'We weren't having these conversations 20 years ago and now we are. That's progress.'

With gay culture now in the mainstream media more than it ever has been, Tegan and Sara have the opportunity to be listened to and supported by music fans from various demographics. Whereas k.d. lang and the Indigo Girls lean heavily on a lesbian-core following, the alternative rock duo can claim many fans on both sides of the sexual fence.

Tegan enjoys the mixture of gays and straights attending the duo's concerts. 'It's weird seeing guys high-fiving each other and yelling,' she says, laughing. 'These are stereotypical jock guys who we thought would never like us, and there they were in the front row singing Sara's background vocals. They were singing 'Where Does the Good Go' like it was their mantra.'

'I feel like what we're doing is making it easier for 16-year-old hoochie girls and queer boys from small towns to come together,' relates Sara. 'We're not intimidating and they're not intimidated to like us.'

If you happen to catch these Canadian twentysomethings live, you may want to show a little enthusiasm. 'Granted, if you pay $18 to go to a concert, you can do whatever you want to do,' said Tegan. 'But to clap your hands every three minutes, is that so hard to do?! Nod your frickin' head along and clap at least!'

When not rocking out to their own tunes, Tegan and Sara are individually enjoying hot, fresh CDs by fellow rock artists. Sara is digging new stuff from M. Ward, Antony and the Johnsons, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Matt Sweeny, while Tegan is totally loving Brendan Benson's The Alternative to Love, and discs from Spoon and Garbage. 'I got the new Garbage,' says Tegan. 'They are so fucking heavy! That's a massive sounding record.'

Tegan and Sara's So Jealous was featured on CNN.com's list of 'Best CDs You Didn't Hear' of 2004. For more information on this dynamite music act, check out their official website www.teganandsara.com, where you'll find tour dates, photos, downloads, discography and the pair's on-the-road diary.


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