Words by Helen Knott
For almost ten years, Tegan and Sara, purveyors of guitar-driven pop rock, were solidly successful and well loved by a niche, loyal audience. The twin sisters from Canada formed a band when they were in their teens and have been touring and releasing albums ever since.
But in 2013 they made a change, swapping their guitars for synthesisers and teaming up with pop producer Greg Kurstin (who has worked with artists including Adele, Pink and Lily Allen) to release their seventh studio album, Heartthrob. It was a gamble that paid off, with the album reaching #3 on the Billboard 200 singles chart and ‘Closer’ hitting #1 on the US dance chart.
Not only was Heartthrob a commercial success but it also won critical praise, with Entertainment Weekly saying ‘beneath all that gloss, Heartthrob has an underlying toughness and a clear-eyed take on heartbreak.’ Heartthrob also reportedly influenced Taylor Swift’s direction for her ultra successful album, 1989.
And then they released the single ‘Everything is Awesome!!!’ from The Lego Movie. But probably the less said about that the better…
The follow-up album, Love You to Death, was released in 2016 and continues down the synthetic pop route. But for the first time their music explores the twins’ tumultuous relationship; Tegan has described being in a band with her sister as like ‘some weird punishment or prison sentence’. They’ve had punch ups in the past and even had to cancel tour dates, although it seems that their relationship is better now and on album track ‘White Knuckles’ they’re able to reflect on past difficulties with the reassuring distance of hindsight.
Love You To Death also features pop songs unambiguously from the point of view of gay women. In ‘Boyfriend’, for example, a lover is berated ‘You treat me like your boyfriend… But I don’t want to be your secret anymore’.
Tegan and Sara have always been politically active and strong advocates for LGBT equality; both openly gay, they have recently set up their own eponymous foundation which works for ‘economic justice, health and representation for LGBTQ girls and women’. For more information visit, www.teganandsarafoundation.org
‘That Girl’ – Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara perform at the O2 Institute on Saturday 18th February, as presented Live Nation. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.
For more on Tegan and Sara, visit www.teganandsara.com
For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham
For more from Live Nation, visit www.livenation.co.uk