Canadian twins ride new wave of intelligent pop music
Tegan and Sara Quin, the Canadian twin-sister duo that recently rose from the indie to the pop world, are continuing their well-received supporting-act run with Fun. during that Grammy-winning band’s “Most Nights” tour.
The Quin sisters are playing a few headlining dates, too, including a Sunday night show in New Orleans.
Lately, the Quins made some high-profile special guest appearances. On Aug. 3, they joined rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis in a performance of their song, “Same Love,” at the Osheago Festival in Montreal. On Aug. 20, Tegan and Sara sang their own exuberant hit, “Closer,” with Taylor Swift in Los Angeles.
Superstar Swift introduced the duo by citing their latest album, “Heartthrob,” as one of her favorites of all time. “If you’ve ever had your heart broken, you need to have their album,” Swift advised her fans in the Staples Center.
“It was kind of terrifying,” Tegan Quin said some days later about sharing the stage with Swift. “It kind of passed in a blur, but it was good.”
Despite their pre-“Closer” indie status, the Quins are not strangers to big venues. They’d played the Staples Center before, with the Black Keys. This summer they’ve been performing at amphitheaters with Fun.. They’ve played for crowds as large as 30,000 at festivals. The Swift show was still something new.
“I wasn’t terrified so much by the people as by being on a show that size,” Tegan Quin explained. “There’s so much production! Stage lifts and staircases and wireless mics. That was the first time we’ve ever been part of a show with that level of production.”
Regardless of Swift’s intimidating production, being there with their celebrity fan was exciting.
“We made a record that we hoped would reach more people,” Quin said. “So, although my instinct sometimes is to be like, ‘No, I can’t get up on stage and do that,’ I tell myself, ‘This is what we wanted. We have to get up there.’ ”
Tegan and Sara learned that Swift was a fan of theirs some years ago when they toured with major act Paramore, featuring singer Hayley Williams.
“Hayley and Taylor know each other from Nashville,” Quin said. “Hayley told us that Taylor was coming to a show and was a fan. We were like, ‘No! That can’t be true!’ Then, over the years, Taylor was quoted as saying she likes us. And when ‘Heartthrob’ came out, Taylor talked about it and they reached out and asked if we wanted to be one of her special guests.
“It’s been a cool year for stuff like that,” Quin added. “We met a lot of really great bands and acts that I would have never have thought would even know about us!”
The high-charting “Heartthrob” album and “Closer” single represent a mission accomplished for the Quins.
“Yeah, the big thing for us was that we wanted to get played on radio,” Quin said.
Previously, Tegan and Sara found rock radio impenetrable.
“Because rock radio is so male-dominated, it’s such a tough nut to crack,” Quin said. “You rarely hear women on rock radio or alterative radio.”
So the Quins looked elsewhere.
“Really, our only options were Triple A (adult alternative), Hot AC (adult contemporary) and pop radio,” Quin said. “But before our records had been just too indie-rock for them.”
A changing pop music environment opened a path for the Quins to radio. After all, they’d grown up loving ’80s pop music in Canada.
“There’s been a resurgence of intelligent pop music,” Quin said. “Fun. is a good example of a band that’s writing really intelligent pop music. So we thought, ‘Finally, maybe music is at a place where we can cross over.’ ”
And so they did.
“It’s been really amazing,” Quin said. “There’s nothing like us out there in the mainstream. Being on mainstream pop radio and seeing us on the charts, it’s a thrill, because music is our passion.
“But I think our purpose is bigger than music. I think it’s to reach people like us, to help change the mainstream and make queer culture and alternative girls and tomboys cool. I’m glad to be a part of a wave of people trying to infuse heartfelt, real pop music into the mainstream again.”