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'If You Don't Leave Blood On The Track, Why Even Do It?' Tegan and Sara Quin Open Up

'If You Don't Leave Blood On The Track, Why Even Do It?' Tegan and Sara Quin Open Up

Tegan and Sara
Courtesy of Audible

The iconic pop duo talks about love, legacy, boundaries, sisterhood, and sharing new parts of themselves with the audience through their new project, Under My Control.

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The first time I met Tegan and Sara Quin face to face was at San Diego Comic-Con, where the duo was speaking to an audience about their graphic novel Junior High, a slightly fictionalized version of their middle school years, rife with pre-teen angst and self-discovery. As I waited for the show to begin and people took their seats, waves of fans approached the duo for their moment to chat with them, all sharing the meaningfulness of the Calgary-born twins’ music. One even introducing the duo to her daughter, Tegan — yes, named after the Quin sister and, by the way, “she is also a part of the LGBTQ family,” said the awestruck mother about her equally awestruck daughter.

I couldn't help but reflect on what it must be like to have this be your life: where everywhere you go, people feel compelled to express their admiration — and feel like it’s OK to do so because of the parasocial relationship the artists’ music has forged with the fans whose lives it touched. This was just one day in what must be, by definition, an extraordinary life.

With their latest project,Under My Control, a Words + Music piece released through Audible, the sisters share even more of that extraordinary life with their audience, in what they admit is perhaps one of their most intimate projects ever. In Under My Control, the two tell their story from its early beginnings of doing concerts in their rooms for friends, going on to win a local battle of the bands, and hitting the road on their first tour (which frankly sounds equal parts exhilarating and terrifying) through each of their subsequent albums. All of which is interspersed with paired-down versions of the twins singing some of their most iconic songs, including "Walking with a Ghost" and "Closer". It's a rockstar biopic but told totally in their own words, through audio only, and the effect is powerful.

While they are best known as a duo, and sonically are so enmeshed, in recent years their projects have focused on the sister individuating, whether that be in their TV series High School, or the aforementioned graphic novel. That theme rings true again here, at least for the beginning chapters. “That's a big theme for us, especially since right around the time when all of these projects started, we moved to the same city for the first time in our adult life and so individuation became important,” Tegan tells PRIDE. “Figuring out what was ours, and what was important to each of us individually. And then what we wanted is a Tegan and Sara entity.”

For the duo, they see sharing the story of their career so far as the first step toward what is next for them as a band and as people. “Unlike a lot of bands these days who put a record out and then are out there and everything's out there about them, we put out four records before anyone noticed or paid much attention to us. So there was a huge part of our life and our early career that I think went sort of unnoticed. So I think all of these projects, the sort of driving force behind it is just a desire to sort of expel these stories,” says Tegan. “Now we're entering this next era. And I think it's been really important for us to clear the shelves in a way and get all the stories on the record while it's all fresh, and then we can move on. I feel like to create something truly new, we had to revisit all of this stuff.”

Clearing the shelves meant having to open up about new aspects of their career, relationships, and lives in ways they hadn't in the past, which makes for an enthralling listen but also requires a lot of self-reflection and vulnerability. Sara shares not only stories about relationships but breakup — and movingly about starting a family with her partner. “We approve of it, and it feels really valuable still to put that kind of stuff out there. But I think it's also really indicative of the time that we're living in where what if the project didn't have any of that? It would be like, Well, why even put it out? You know, like, that's the feeling now is almost like if you don't leave blood on the track, why even do it?” Sara tells PRIDE.

This willingness to (thoughtfully) be so raw leads to Under My Control feeling the most intimate of gigs. The musicians reveal both the inspiration behind the music, and the underpinning tensions and joys in the lives that inspired them, good, bad, and at one point violent, as they described a moment where the sisters came to blows while on the road during the tour for The Con. But the key here is that all those things are being shared in their own words, in their own way, and under their own, well, control. From a meta-perspective, that title speaks to the sisters' decision to take total control of their narrative and their history, but it also serves as a throughline of their story as touring teens thrust into the spotlight only to have a narrative put upon them. Everything from the genre of music they play, to what it means to be queer musicians, to how they were allowed to feel and express themselves about it all.

“We went into the conversation with a strong... thesis or an outline, we didn't just randomly have this conversation,” recalls Sara. “But over the course of the recording, the audio 'control' kept coming up. This idea of when we didn't feel in control when we did feel in control, how we get control, [or] sometimes having less control is a desirable thing, especially in creating art, or in touching on parenthood…it was really through the process of the interview that we landed on the title.”

All of this is infused into their storytelling and the confidence and eloquence in which they tell it. It's an extraordinary life full of the big moments that made them stars, and the small moments that made them human — and going back to where this all started has made them so approachable. It's a balancing act that few could pull off, but these two have it all under control.

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.