Coachella 2013: Tegan And Sara Tell Us Why Synth-Pop Made Them Better Singers

Tegan and Sara are out west, Thursday night (April 11) bringing “Closer” to the Tonight Show, followed by a late set Friday to help close out Coachella’s opening day. From what we saw of the duo in Austin, we knew the new tunes are punchy and crisp live, but the synth-based sound works especially well on a brisk desert night (last night’s take of “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” even had hints of Giorgio Moroder sheen driving the song forward). What we weren’t expecting was that Tegan and Sara would have one of the most intense light shows of the festival’s opening salvo. But when you realize their Heartthrob material itself is full of bright blasts and strobes, then it’s not so surprising.

It’s clear the twins are more polished and confident than ever, and talking to Tegan Quin a few hours before their set, she revealed that’s a product of forcing themselves to take a new direction. Basically, they discovered better singing through synth-pop. Head below to see what else Tegan told us about Heartthrob (and which late night host she finds to be a heartthrob) and to see photos from their set.

You guys just played the Tonight Show. Are you gonna miss Jay Leno? Because, to be honest, you seem like the Jimmy Fallon types.

I am going to miss him. I love Jimmy Fallon, too. Every night when I go to sleep, I take a moment and pray to the Jimmy Fallon gods that they’ll book us. But I love all the hosts for different reasons, and the experience of doing each show is completely different. I’d say Jimmy Kimmel is the least stressful out of all of them. Because you get to play in front of an audience, so it doesn’t feel like you’re doing TV. But Thursday was really special. They let us do our very public marriage equality thing.

And I will say, Jay, when we came on his show a few years ago and we were completely unknown, he came by our dressing room and said hi. So I might even say he’s the friendliest. And he probably has the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. I have a little bit of a crush on him.


A little bit. He wears all denim.

Yeah it’s especially hard to be sexy when you’re wearing all denim.

Ya know what, though, as a Canadian, I really appreciate that.

You and Sara are both pretty funny, and comfortable on camera. Who’s the funnier of the two?

We have different kinds of humor. I think we’re equally funny, and I wonder if we’re actually funnier when we’re together. We’re storytellers, and we need people to laugh for us to feel like they “get us,” or something. It’s our version of clapping.

So who’s better at stage banter?

Sara sometimes can be a bit rambling, but she gets bigger laughs because of it. People have to stick with her longer, so once she delivers the punchline, she gets the bigger payoff, the bigger laugh. I deliver it quicker. Sometimes when I do the one-liners it’s so quick that people miss it. But I feel like we balance each other out. Sara says I mumble on stage, though.

Yeah there was a good interplay between you two at South by Southwest. Which makes sense, the whole twins thing.

Yeah we kind of have it worked out.

This is your third Coachella. What was the first festival you two ever played?

We did folk festivals in Canada really early on. But the first recognizable one would be Lollapalooza in 2004. It was about 115 degrees and the sun was beating down on us, and Sara made it about 20 minutes. She was doing something weird, and she waved at me and walked off stage and that was it. I finished the set without her, and I walked off to see her laying in the grass with a paramedic and they had ice on her, she completely had heat stroke. We told her it wasn’t a big deal, everyone was hot and other people went down that day. But then when she was resting at the hotel she saw on the news they were interviewing people about the weather, and this girl was like, “My favorite band is Tegan and Sara, and Sara went down!” So she made the news.

Being in the desert today, you must be happy you’re playing at night this time.

Totally. But I was sad to find out we were playing so late, because we have a really young audience. But I also know as a Coachella patron, the nights are when people get crazy.

Who are you excited to see this year?

Modest Mouse, Blur. And I’m gonna have binoculars to try to catch Stone Roses before we go on a few minutes later. We’re not staying the whole weekend because we’re touring, but last year I came and mostly did dance stuff.

Speaking of dance, are you happy with how your new stuff sounds live?

I think we’re killing it. I’ve been trying to work on my confidence on this record. Someone in the industry gave me advice, said the self-deprecating thing was cute when we were 23, but now we need to fuckin’ get some balls and just say it. So, yeah the new stuff sounds killer. The songs are huge, and they complement the old stuff, it’s a nice break in the set. Tonight, with a 50-minute set, it’s like a big, old punch to the face.

I also think we’re delivering the best vocals of our lives. Because we really pushed ourselves and wrote outside of our range. I’m not saying we get every note perfect, but the emotion is really translating to the audience.

Will this be a preview of what we’ll see from you during your tour with fun.?

We get 60 minutes, so probably very similar to what you see tonight. A mixture of new and old, but we don’t wanna rely too heavily on the old stuff. There’ll definitely be singalong moments. We’ve built a really big show, and it’s all about taking the fan on a journey.

Before I let you go…you guys had a couple songs on Grey’s Anatomy back in the day.

Seven, I think it was.

Oh, wow!

Yeah, someone told me that today.

Did you ever think the show would still be on at this point?

Well, I still watch The Young and the Restless when I’m in a hotel room in the middle of the day, so I’m the worst person to ask. But years ago I watched the pilot to decide if we wanted to give them some music. And I asked my friend who was a doctor how the show was and the friend loved it. But yeah, I did not think it would still be going. But I also only got cable nine months ago. And I love TV now! I’m watching Lost.

There’s so much to catch up on. Good thing the album’s done!

Yeah, I’m really into it.