Put this Canadian duo on your Christmas list

Review





Tegan and Sara, If It Was You, (Vapor Records), 2002



I’m on a mission. It’s a one-woman campaign to tell the world about two women, musicians Tegan and Sara. You’ve probably never heard them or even heard of them.

Then again, you could be one of their dedicated fans who flock to sold-out concerts in their native Canada. Here in the United States, they open for such well-known performers as Ryan Adams, Neil Young or The Pretenders.

Tegan and Sara are sisters – twins, actually – who write their own songs, play their own guitars and are so terrific you can’t help but get hooked once you hear them. My goal is to get you to listen to them. You’ll thank me later.

Their CDs are the kind you play over and over but Tegan and Sara in person are even better. You don’t get their personalities on a CD and that’s a big part of their appeal.

They’re smart, funny, natural and down-to-earth. Their personal connection to the audience may be what makes their fans so devoted.

“I think the people who are into finding music that isn’t on the radio or isn’t being played on MTV 24 hours a day are a rabid bunch,” Sara said in our interview via e-mail. “[P]eople get excited when they are part of the few who know about you.”

Still, it’s slow, hard work to make a name for yourself. “[U]ntil you are absolutely everywhere and people get your new single when they supersize their meal, people just aren’t going to know you,” she said. “It doesn’t bug us, though ... In this business you have to do it the hard way, or the hard way. It’s all about touring.”

Top 40 isn’t on their agenda anyway. “Our five-year plan isn’t to be on the cover of Rolling Stone or to sell millions of records to kids,” Sara said. “We have realistic goals set for ourselves and achieving them means we can continue to tour and record music ... Success for us is being able to make a living doing what we love.”

Tegan and Sara just turned 22 and have only been playing guitar since they were 15. “We ... called ourselves PLUNK. We were kind of wussy punk (no drums or bass) and we were really bad,” Sara explains in their bio.

“We had really funny garage band parties until some guy broke our PA. Our mom wouldn’t fix it and so PLUNK became Tegan and Sara. We entered a contest and we won.”

Their sound is hard to pigeonhole. It’s part punk, but more rock, especially on If It Was You. “There’s definitely more punch to this album,” Sara has said.

“We held back a little last time,” Tegan added, “because that’s where women are supposed to go in the music business: Just be shy, sexy, singer-songwriters. And we’re all those things, but we’re also obnoxious and sarcastic, and intelligent, and, at times, downright overbearing.”

They’re also willing to stand up for what they believe in. “We have done shows for Amnesty International, Rock for Choice and Take Back the Night,” Sara said. “I like standing behind causes I am educated on. Women’s issues were big in our house when we were growing up.”

But you don’t need a “name” to speak out., she’s quick to point out. “There are so many of us in the world who don’t make our opinions known,” Sara said. “You don’t have to be a ‘rock star’ to make a difference.” (Find out more about Tegan and Sara at www.teganandsara.com.)

– Carolyn Rummel (crummel@pww.org)