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Tegan and Sara’s Tegan Quin on Embracing Pop, Battling Parasites and Cleaning Out Closets

Tegan and Sara
Lindsey Byrnes

Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara sheepishly explains how the highlight of her 2013 so far involves rearranging her walk-in closet. The turn of a new year doesn’t mean much to the 32-year-old Canadian, who has her own way of measuring time.

“Since about 1999, I think of years by what record I put out,” she says from Vancouver following a rare two weeks off before embarking on another extensive tour. “Maybe it’s narcissistic, but that’s how I think of it. So 2013 is the year of ‘Heartthrob.’”

‘Heartthrob,’ the twin sisters’ seventh studio record, hits the streets Jan. 29, and the first single, ‘Closer,’ has been getting a lot of radio play.

“It’s our biggest single so far … ever,” Tegan points out. “It’s been really exciting. For us, there was one second of nervousness about how people would receive the poppier sound, but I haven’t experienced any negativity. The video almost has a million views.”

Chatting with Diffuser.fm, Tegan discusses the evolution of the band’s sound, the challenges of touring and the joys of organizing your closet.

What steered the duo’s toward the more electronic, pop sound on this record? Did your DJ collaborations like ‘Feel It in My Bones’ and ‘Body Work’ help plant the seed?

The last five years, our work in that world and our audience growing. It’s encouraged us. For me, it’s so exciting. I’ve gotten to explore sad content with really upbeat music. I would never claim it’s a dance record, although a lot of people are calling it that. It’s the kind of pop record that borrows from Cyndi Lauper and a more retro pop sound. Pop artists like Katy Perry and Pink — we’re really into it, but we also love ’80s pop. It felt like a natural evolution.

How exactly has your pop sound evolved over the last couple of records?

Everyone considers ‘The Con’ a rock record, but if I played all ‘The Con’ and muted the guitars, there are like 20 keyboard tracks. If you’re interested in pop songs, the keyboard has been there, under the guitars. I’ve been nervous to just do it, expose the keyboards.

By the looks of ‘Closer”s popularity, the pop sound is going over pretty well.

That’s what’s cool about how supportive our fans are. Obviously, there are people like, “I don’t like it. I want you to play acoustic guitar.” But mostly at our shows, one minute they’re dancing to ‘Feel It in My Bones,’ the next, they’re singing along to ‘Call it Off.’ They’ve been so positive. I feel like I can go anywhere and collaborate with anyone. At the core of every show, every song is us. It’s always genuine and coming from a place of real feeling. ‘Heartthrob,’ although it sounds more poppy, at its core, it’s blistering, heartbreaking pop songs. I think it’s a f—ing heartbreaking record – especially the songs Sara wrote. They’re really poignant breakup songs. People hanging onto ‘The Con’ and that era, ‘Heartthrob’ has just as much heartbreak. There is so much romance on the record.

Over the summer you were trying to get over a parasite you contracted after touring through India. You were on a super strict diet and were being very careful with everything you consumed. Have you kicked it yet?

It’s funny you bring that up. A couple weeks ago, when we found out we had a Grammy nomination for ‘Get Along,’ our first response was, “That made getting a parasite worth it.” But yeah, it’s still off and on. The drama continues. All four of us are still plagued by the parasite. Obviously, touring and traveling can bring on health problems. That’s one thing about life on the road. There are certain things you have to deal with sometimes. Touring is hard. We’ve had all kinds of problems – the flu, whooping cough. There are still challenges. But f— it.

You’re about to embark on another expansive tour. How is it making the shift from a nice, domestic break to getting back to the grind?

Touring and traveling, that is still domestic for me. You still have to feed yourself, still do laundry. When I’m home, I do all those things but just have to be with my girlfriend. On tour, I gotta get up onstage and tell stories and try to entertain a lot of people. When I get home, it’s simpler. Other than that, my life is pretty similar, maybe because as an adult, I’ve always toured. I make a day sheet for myself. Two weeks off is pretty good for me. I could probably fill another week of socializing. It was just my mom’s birthday, and she said it was her best birthday ever because of all the attention ‘Closer’ has been getting on VH1. She’s obsessed with the new record. She is actually going to go on tour through Europe with us. We’re very lucky. We have such a great life. I don’t know anyone else, except people in their 70s, who get to do what we do.

The ‘year of ‘Heartthrob’’ aside, what has been the highlight of 2013 for you so far?

Well, I just cleaned my closet, and I know this is a weird thing to say in an interview, but that was a big highlight. I have this big walk-in closet. I’ve lived in the same place for five years, and I’ve just been utilizing the space the wrong way. I’ve only been using like half of it. So yeah, my closet is clean, and that feels good.

Watch Tegan and Sara’s Video for ‘Closer’

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