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Pop’s hottest duo talk summer in Vancouver, their Junos trifecta, touring with Katy Perry and more
Even though Tegan and Sara Quin were born and raised in Calgary, the twins have a long history on the West Coast. At 19, the budding musicians headed west and settled in Vancouver, a city where they had spent numerous summers throughout their childhood. While Sara eventually made her move to Montreal, Tegan has remained here for more than a decade and now hangs her guitar in Vancouver’s Main Street neighbourhood. BCLiving caught up with the western half of the pop duo to chat about the band’s remarkable year, including their Juno-winning hit album, Heartthrob, their upcoming local shows and all things VanCity.
You’re originally from Calgary. What is it about Vancouver that made you move and stay here?
My stepdad’s family lived in Vancouver and Nanaimo and Shawnigan Lake, so we spent countless summers here and it always seemed like the most obvious place that I would end up. I mean, I love Calgary. I think of it as the place I grew up, but Vancouver feels like home and I love that it feels like a small town but it still has all the big-city stuff that you expect. And I love that it’s on the West Coast because I really do love the vibe here – it just feels laid-back, the food is incredible and people are chill, and I really like all of that.
Where do you like to hang out in Vancouver?
You know, I’m like a weird sort of tour guide. I’ve lived here for so long now that I’m familiar with a lot of areas. I spend probably the majority of my time between Main Street and Gastown, but I also love the Commercial Drive area and my parents live in Hastings Sunrise, so I spend a lot of time up there as well.
When Sara is in town, does she have a list of must-dos and must-sees in Vancouver?
Oh yeah, totally. Well, Sara moved here with me until 2003 so she’s got a lot to catch up on. When she gets here, she gets really excited, you know, the city has changed so much. But she owns a place in Gastown and is a big fan of a lot of the same places that I am. We both love Pourhouse and we love Diamond and we go to Salt, so she’s a pretty big Gastown frequenter.
Who’s your favourite Vancouver band?
I’ve gotten incredibly obsessive about a band called The Courtneys – our cousin Jen is actually the drummer. We’re taking them out to do our whole U.S. tour in the summer. Without any help from us, they’ve managed to drum up quite a following and also a lot of buzz stateside, and they’re getting a lot of offers from labels. I think that musically and stylistically they’re just doing something unique and it’s a total throwback to the ’90s that we love.
You consciously created the songs on Heartthrob to work in an arena environment, but did you ever imagine you’d be opening for Katy Perry?
No, we didn’t, but when we closed our eyes, we tried to imagine the music being big enough to fill an arena. We started this record out by opening for The Black Keys in arenas, and then went out and did this big outdoor summer tour with Fun, and now we’re sort of ending the record opening for Katy Perry and it feels great. It feels like we allowed ourselves to think bigger and in turn we were rewarded with a nice big jump in terms of growth with our band and I feel like the music really does fit that world and it feels pretty awesome.
Are you Katy Perry fans?
Absolutely. Yeah, actually, the day our record came out she tweeted about us and how much she loved “I Was a Fool.” And she saw us a couple of weeks later. She’s a really bright woman, interesting, a really powerful performer. She’s honestly one of my favourites from that huge sort of female pop movement because she is so outspoken and I love that she talks about her body and about feminism and politics. And she takes a lot of interesting up-and-coming artists to support her on tour… so we feel pretty thrilled to share the stage with her for a few months.
Congratulations on your Junos hat trick. How did it feel to win your first, second and third Juno Award in one night?
Thank you, yeah, we were excited. I mean, I know it’s like the very Canadian and very humble thing to say that you didn’t expect to win, but we actually really did not expect to win anything – not that we were feeling self-deprecating or not believing in ourselves – we just felt like it was a pretty stiff competition kinda year to be up against some big Canadian acts. We were thrilled. We were overjoyed. I think we’re still probably in shock a bit.
You purposely went for a more pop feel with Heartthrob. After taking that creative risk, was it validating to win these awards?
Yeah, absolutely. I feel like with every record we make, we take a big risk… so every time I feel a little bit terrified of how people will respond. But I do think it’s important to take risks like that musically. So to be acknowledged – not just in Canada but around the world – and to have so many of our fans embrace it and to get so many new fans really did feel extra special. It was a very big record for us. And to have it be capped off with those nominations was more than exciting, so to win it just feels like icing on the cake.
You’re headlining the CBCMusic.ca Festival at Deer Lake Park on June 14. Do you feel any extra pressure when you’re the headliner?
[Laughs] Yes, absolutely. Before we confirmed, we were like, “OK, what other bands are playing? It’s a big venue.” So, yes, there’s lot of pressure, but that’s what I like about Vancouver: that so much music comes through here and people are pretty laid-back. We obviously love CBC and we love the whole lineup so we’re looking forward to coming back and playing outside.
Speaking of the lineup, who are you most excited to see perform at the festival?
Oh my god! That’s horrible to make me pick a favourite – it’s like picking a favourite child. I mean, we’ve toured with Spoon before so I’m excited to see them. Our old drummer Rob is in Belle Game so I’m excited about them being on the lineup with us. I like the Arkells a lot. But we love Hannah Georgas… haven’t heard a ton of Wake Owl yet. Chad Van Gaalen – I mean, it’s just an amazing festival, great music, and I love that it’s a pretty wide spectrum of music.
Favourite things to do in Vancouver in the summer
I like going to Stanley Park and watching the movies outdoors. I went and saw Goonies a couple of summers ago with my parents and that started off a tradition. But I’m a big beach person. I love going to sit on the beach and read all day. A bunch of friends and I just like to go and play cards and enjoy the sun. I’m definitely a big fan of eating outdoors – lots of BBQs, lots of patio sitting. I love riding my bike around Vancouver, so lots of outdoor stuff.
I’m easy… but I like going deeper into Stanley Park, so maybe like Second or Third Beach. I like getting as far away from the noise and all the populated beaches as possible.
Favourite place to picnic
We do a lot of picnics in Stanley Park. It’s just so beautiful.
I love Bao Bei in Chinatown. They don’t have a patio year-round, but in the summer they set up seating outdoors.
Favourite place to get a hot dog in Vancouver
I don’t mind going to eat a Japadog. I am not afraid of street meat. I’ll eat a hot dog anywhere, really.
Favourite summer song
I don’t think I have any specific summer songs, but I have a huge vinyl collection and if I put on any old Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty, it feels like summer.
Favourite summer show
A few years back we toured a little bit with Cyndi Lauper on her True Colors tour and a couple of weeks later, when I was home in Vancouver, I found out the tour was coming to Deer Lake Park. I took my family and a bunch of my friends and we got to meet Cyndi afterwards and I just remember that night being pretty magical. I’m pretty sure I ate mini donuts that night, too.
Favourite fair food
Oh my God. Mini donuts. Please. Please. I mean, we go to the PNE at least once a summer and we get hot dogs and we get cotton candy and mini donuts and then we basically have to cleanse all summer.
Favourite PNE ride
Oh, the roller coaster – the wooden one is terrifying – it’s exciting. It’s really great.
Vancouver Pride traditions
We’ve been so lucky to have such an international career that I’m not often in Vancouver on Pride. But the last couple of times I celebrated, I have a really great group of friends and we go watch the parade, and then we usually have a picnic or go walk around and get snacks. Vancouver has a nice chill laid-back Pride, so I just basically take it in and enjoy what I can of it.
1. Bring sunscreen
“It’s very important.”
2. Pack a reusable water bottle
“Most festivals have water stations where you can get free water.”
3. Have a bag with some supplies
“I’m, like, a total nerd but I bring a sweater, something to sit on and some reading material for in between bands.”
4. Get to know the bands
“Educate yourself about what you’re going to see ’cause there are so many great bands at music festivals these days.”
5. Don’t drink too much
“As a musician who sees people puking and passing out halfway through a festival, pace yourself. It’s a long day.”