If you don’t like Tegan and Sara, it makes sense. There are a lot of obvious flaws that you can pick out about their band. In a technical sense, they aren’t great singers, guitarists, or keyboard players. Their songs are short -- sometimes not even hitting the two-minute mark -- often because it seems like they don’t have any more to say. Despite their obvious success, no song seems to flow into the four-to-seven minute full-blown lyrical or poetic masterpieces that you see with great musicians when they really have a story to tell. Their songs certainly contain catchy tidbits and phrases that sound cool and they do sometimes tell a story, but that really doesn’t seem like the description of a great, or even just decent, band.
To hardcore Tegan and Sara fans, none of this matters. They think they are completely magnificent, exactly the way they are. I am a hardcore Tegan and Sara fan. I love their music.
Since high school, I have listened to them on endless loop too many times to count. I know the words to just about all of their songs. When I was feeling ridiculously emo, I knew that Tegan and Sara understood exactly how I was feeling. I heard it in their songs like they sang them directly into my ear (well, I guess with headphones on they kind of did, but you get the idea). I am that girl that occasionally thinks, “Only Tegan and Sara know what I’m going through.”
And I am pretty damn sure that I’m not alone.
Tegan and Sara are kind of like the Ani DiFranco of my generation: people that aren’t fans think DiFranco is embarrassing as a musician and a writer, and people that are fans will punch you in the mouth for saying those kinds of things. An even more important parallel than the freakishly dedicated fan base, and well, a huge part of the reason for their freakishly dedicated fan base, is that, like DiFranco, for the last decade or so that they have been around, they have been the band that queer folks have been coming out to.
If you think you might not be straight and you’re looking for a band to listen to, a band that you can be moody to and rock out to, a band that seems like they understand teenage-queer-angst like no other, Tegan and Sara should be, or probably already is, your favorite band. And an attachment like that is something that other bands, no matter how talented they, simply cannot compete with.
Don’t get me wrong. Straight girls and straight guys of all ages and orientations can be hardcore T&S fans. Their angsty, emotional pop-rock so well captures certain feelings of disappointment, love, and disenchantment, that if you are going through those feelings and you happen to listen to the right Tegan and Sara song at the right time, you will be hooked on them like they are crazy, adorable, andro-crack.
On top of this, they are, undeniably, amazing live performers. If you’ve ever seen a Tegan and Sara performance, or even just watched one on You-Tube, it’s easy to see why they are so famous. Their songs, simply put, work really well live. They are also known for hilarious witty banter during their performances. The banter truly feels unrivaled by most other performers, even performers that seem much cooler than them or have much greater sex appeal.
So, with this background, you can see how it’s hard to express exactly how excited I was to see a screening of the new Tegan and Sara DVD, Get Along, in Hollywood recently.
More on next page...
Fans will know that Tegan and Sara’s characteristic banter doesn’t exactly let you in; you think you are getting the real Tegan and Sara, but there still feels like there is a huge distance between what they are saying and what they might really be feeling. While it seems like they should reveal so much about themselves through their music and ample interviews with the press, they often times feel intangible as personalities and as people.
States, the first of the three Tegan and Sara shorts (two documentaries and a live performance) that made up the Get Along DVD, addresses this mysteriousness.
“Finally,” I remember thinking, “I’m going to get a look at the real Tegan and Sara.”
I was half-right.
Tegan and Sara discuss the fact that they use comedy to keep people at a distance. Their theory goes as follows: as children they were always stared at, so they learned to use comedy to deflect that attention to things that were not them. Or, in the case of them as musicians, to a “performer” version of themself.
Tegan acknowledged that she was much more shy off-stage, and that the version of her that you see isn’t really what exists away from the band. But, while saying those things, she still really seemed like the “performer” version of herself.
The Catch 22 of the movie is this: even though they are explaining that they are inaccessible on stage (and, presumably, the movie is there in part to show you the “real” Tegan and Sara), they can’t actually show you the true version of themselves because they are, whenever a camera is on them, performing in some capacity.
Even watching the second movie, India, which journals their travels around the sub-continent with their Mom and two close friends, I didn’t feel like I understood that much more about them. Sure, I found out some new stories about their childhood that I hadn’t heard. I watched them eat street food, wander through a thicket of supposedly extremely aggressive monkeys, and almost get sick on a rickety boat. They sang in a field with rusted things behind them, and smelled some really smelly stuff.
More on next page...
But did I feel like I really got to know more about them? Not really.
Overall, the films were a bit of a disappointment. I wanted to learn more about them, and I didn’t really feel like I did. What I did see, that confirmed my solid status in the T&S fan club of my heart, was that they were as good performing live as I had always remembered them to be. Whether or not I got to know them more, well… it ultimately turned out to be unimportant.
So, the bottom line: If you are a Tegan and Sara fan, you should definitely get the DVD. Even though I didn’t think the movies were amazing, they were shot beautifully, and had some amazing clips from live performances. And, of course, who could complain about the last film, 70 minutes of live performance?
I’m signing off now, but mainly because I’m going to try and scrounge up some clips of them that I haven’t seen before on You-Tube.