For 17 years Tegan and Sara have been on the long march to artistic freedom, morphing from indie-rock outcasts to dance-pop chart toppers in the process.
On a winter’s day in January in Pershing Square in Los Angeles, Tegan and Sara Quin were simply a pair of faces adrift within a surging sea of protest; an estimated 350,000 dissidents had gathered for the Women’s March on the day following US President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
For Tegan, one half of the Canadian twin ensemble, the size of the assembled throng was cause for optimism. “It was so big no one’s cell phones worked, so it wasn’t until I got home that I realised how big the one in LA was.
“All of a sudden I was getting texts from my mum saying people are marching all around the world and I was like, 'how fucking cool is that?'.
"Someone wrote [on Twitter] questioning: 'Where were all these people before the election?' and we should resist that. We should say 'great, you’re here now, here’s what’s been going on, let’s get to work'.”
Political activism is not a choice for Tegan; her sexuality and that of her sister has been an unhealthy obsession of the media and the indie-rock community since they released their first album in 1999, often garnering more attention than their acclaimed musical output.
Regarding their music (a career spanning almost two decades) there has been an incremental drift in genre as they slowly parted from the guitar angst of their inception towards glorious pop; an evolution that Tegan sees as an organic process. “We’d always felt very much on the outside in the indie world.
“It was very male dominated, it was very hetero-normative, it was very much men covering the music, male journalists, websites aimed at men, the comments were awful; we always felt like outsiders.
“Dance music was blowing up and it was cool; you know Skrillex was getting artists like us and Metric and Jose Gonzalez to collaborate with him and it expanded our audience so quickly that when we went in to make ‘Heartthrob’, our seventh record, we were really open to using a lot of those production styles.
“We started demoing songs that just sounded really different to what we’d been doing. I think we were just pulling from our long history of listening to pop music and dance music, especially growing up in the '80s.”
The indie-rock faithful were not all enamoured with the shift, but for Tegan this represented just another segment of society stubbornly enforcing limitations upon her identity as an artist and a woman. “I started playing guitar in 1995: I’ve never been interested in being a good guitar player. I just don’t care.
"I hate practising, I hate playing it, I have weak wrists. As soon as we could afford to hire a guitar player to play my guitar parts better than me and contribute parts better than me, we did.
"And I remember people writing about it and being like 'why did you hire a guitar player, why are you getting a man to play guitar?' and I was like 'guitar sucks, I’m making him do the shitty job. I get to do the cool job; I get to write all the songs.'”
Returning to Australia in support of their eighth album, ‘Love You To Death’, Tegan and Sara will play across the nation, all the while simultaneously co-ordinating their new, queer rights advocacy organisation, the Tegan and Sara Foundation.
“It’s time for us to step up and support the most marginalised and demoralised section of our community.”
Tegan and Sara ShowsMon 6 Mar - The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)
Tue 7 Mar - The Gov (Adelaide)
Wed 8 Mar - Melbourne Zoo Twilight Series
Thu 9 Mar - Twilight at Taronga (Sydney)