It might be hard to believe but Tegan and Sara have been making music for close to 20 years. The sisters began their musical evolution in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1995.
“This record, Heartthrob, is our most pop sounding record,” Tegan told Fresh 102.7/New York during the duo’s performance at City Winery. “But I think that we’ve been on a musical evolution since we started back in the ’90s.”
The gradual transition in their music writing style has been natural to the sisters and supported by fans, from the guitar dominated This Business of Art to their popular fifth studio release The Con. Despite the eclectic sound they have produced over the years, which Tegan describes as not having a “place in a record store,” there has been one common characteristic binding their catalogue.
“I think that most importantly we are songwriters,” say Tegan, who admits she wanted Heartthrob to be more of a “Tegan and Sara record,” as opposed to one that sounds split by the two very different perspectives of the twin sisters. “This record is definitely pop leaning but it’s still Tegan and Sara songs. There’s still a lot of heartbreak, a lot of longing, a lot of sadness and there’s actually some romance. For the first time we’re not totally unhappy trolls!”
The happiness and romance is something relatively new in Tegan and Sara’s music, which seems to sync with the evolution of their ever-changing sound. Songs like the lead single “Closer” and “Drove Me Wild” reflect that, something Sara noticed in Tegan’s songwriting.
“The feedback from me lyrically to Tegan was that she really is in a happy place in her life,” explained Sara. “I do think heartbreak songs really resonate differently with people but I do think you can still have depth to a song and still be singing about something that is happy.”
The upbeat nature of the aforementioned tracks doesn’t mean the classic angst audiences heard on The Con are absent. Heartthrob displays them prominently, notably on the Sara penned “How Come You Don’t Want Me” and “Now I’m All Messed Up.”
“When Sara sings that s*** live I’m all like, ‘Are you OK?,’” jokes Tegan.
A second common denominator required for all Tegan and Sara records is their ability to connect with their audience. The two have a tried and true system to meet those needs that hasn’t failed them yet.
“What is always a must have for a Tegan and Sara song is that it can be taken down to its most basic form,” explains Tegan. “So if Sara and I can’t sit in a room and play a song acoustically then it doesn’t make the record.”
That system appears to have worked on Heartthrob; the album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 and sold 49,000 copies in its first week, the band’s highest chart position to in their nearly 20 year career.
-E.J. Judge, Fresh 102.7/New York City