At age 29, twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin are virtually fearless. After their dark-themed 2007 breakthrough The Con, the two Canadians have not only pushed the artistic envelope with the punk-jagged, oblique-chorded new powerhouse Sainthood, but also conducted bold experiments like the new Alligator project, wherein no less than 16 different artists (including Dave Sitek, Passion Pit, and VHS or Beta) were invited to remix Sara's New-Wave-quirky album track of the same name.
The Calgary-bred duo has also just published a three-book autobiography called On In At, and reissued its six-record catalog on swank 180-gram vinyl. In fact, there's only one thing that truly frightens these gutsy gals: Sept. 19 — the day they both turn the dreaded 30.
"When we signed our record deal years ago with Vapor Records, Elliot Roberts, who managed Neil Young, said to us 'Wait 'til your 30s — that's really when you're going to make your best music,'" recalls Tegan. "But here I am, on the cusp of turning 30 and about to start writing my next record, and I'm terrified. I'm like 'What is gonna happen?'"
That anxiety has been compounded by a recent spate of Sainthood interviews, she adds, "where we've been answering questions like 'Six records and you're 30 — is it time to have kids? Are you done? Will you throw in the towel?' And I'm like, 'Oh, my God! We're not dead — we're just 30!'"
The Quins have always had an unusual partnership. Tegan resides in Vancouver, Sara in Montreal. They write and demo their songs separately. But for the Chris Walla/Howard Redekopp-produced Sainthood, they rendezvoused in New Orleans for actual co-writing sessions, which resulted in kinetic collaborations like "Paperback Head."
Whereas much of the new material deals with current relationships, the tracks "Red Belt" and "Night Watch" were, Tegan explains, "written from the perspective of our parents, because Sara and my memories of our parents start right around this age. Like, I remember my mom's 30th birthday. They had us so young, so we were 6, 7, 8 in their late 20s, and it's such a brain-fuck for me, thinking what my parents were like at my age."
Tegan herself has been in a perfectly solid relationship for the past two years. "But I start to have those moments of panic," she admits. "Moments where you're laying in bed at night, staring at the person and thinking 'Is this really what I want?' Or worse, 'What if this person gets hurt or even dies?' Dealing with mortality is a big part of growing up — realizing that the older you get, the more people you know will face things like death, divorce, illness and loss."
One small relief: The day the Quins turn 30 is also their final tour date with Paramore in Anaheim, Calif.; after that they fly to Toronto the next day — where they're nominated for the Polaris Music Prize — and then jet back to Vancouver for the Official Blowout Birthday Bash. They've rented a club, booked DJs, printed T-shirts, and invited over 150 guests. No fear involved in that regard, Tegan concludes.
"Sara and I are Virgos, so we really like to organize things and I like to be in control. So this birthday party is giving me a lot of satisfaction right now!"