Tegan and Sara on "Hey, I'm Just Like You" and "High School": Origin Story | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, January 17th, 2020  

Tegan and Sara on “Hey, I’m Just Like You” and “High School”

Origin Story

Jan 07, 2020 Photography by Koury Angelo (for Under the Radar)
Bookmark and Share


In January of 2018, when Tegan and Sara finished the tour and promotion for the band's eighth album, Love You to Death, the Quin sisters were confronted with the question of what to do next. After tinkering with the idea of doing a podcast, their managers suggested that they write a book. The Canadian identical twins already had a book agent who was hankering for copy, so Tegan and Sara embarked upon the process of what would become High School, a memoir which, as its title suggest, examines the high school trials,  tribulations, and eventual artistic awakening of Tegan and Sara the artists.

"Probably the vast majority of people have no interest in revisiting their high school years, which makes sense," says Sara. "And probably if the origin story of the band didn't start in high school, we probably wouldn't want to go back to high school and revisit it. Or we would want to do it in a normal way over drinks with friends from high school, not necessarily writing a 300-page memoir about it. But it's where we essentially started our career as artists and musicians and storytellers, and those years were seminal because it was the intersection of our discovering our talent as musicians and songwriters, but also using it as a medium to work through and express our anxieties about life and our future and our identity and our bodies and our relationships and our traumas and struggles with all of those things."

The book is a harrowing account of Tegan and Sara, who identify as gay, struggling with drugs and alcohol as teenagers dealing with issues of their identity and sexuality, before they ultimately find the guitar, which changes the course of the book's narrative and the sisters' destiny. High School chronologically works through each grade of Tegan and Sara's high school years, with chapters alternatingly written by each sister. To write it, they utilized treasure troves of journals, VHS footage, and interviews with old friends (a series of documentaries are being released that chronicle their return to Calgary to work on the project). But halfway through the process of writing, the project expanded when the sisters found demo tapes of their earliest songs, songs that they wrote during this time in high school.

"The more I listened to the songs, the more I was like, 'Holy shit, these are really good songs and this should be our next record,'" says Tegan. "Sara took a little longer to get to them. She had felt like there was this narrative around the beginning of our career as musicians, this idea that we were simplistic and teenager-y, and the songs didn't have any depth, and she allowed that narrative to inform her own ideas of what our early music sounded like. But when she went back and listened to the songs, she couldn't believe how good they were either."

"To some degree, music was a way to talk about and to process that anxiety around my sexuality and my body and relationships," says Sara. "I knew that I was a liar, and I knew that I was hiding this horrible secret, and music gave me a little bit of a window to say, 'Well, if you pay enough attention, you're going to notice what I'm talking about.'"

Unfortunately, journalists at the start of their career, mostly older men, often misinterpreted their art as cute or trite, or perhaps most insultingly, as the simple product of high school girls writing about boyfriends.

"I felt like my hands were up in defense from day one," says Sara of those early days. "So I'm sitting in the library at 38 years old, writing our memoir and thinking, 'God, why did it take me so long to go back to this?' It's almost like I felt I owed an apology to that younger version of myself. Sorry that I bought into all this bullshit, but I'm going to do you right. I'm going to take this music and I'm going to do right by you. These are great songs. You didn't do anything wrong."

Tegan and Sara took the found demos, reworked and rerecorded them, and the result is their new album, Hey, I'm Just Like You. The songs split the difference between Tegan and Sara's earlier guitar-based indie rock and their current pop stylings. The album and book, taken together, are a definitive picture of Tegan and Sara's formative years and what becomes clear is that theirs is a story that is ultimately relatable to all.

"We've been having so many amazing conversations with men who have read the book and who are just like, 'Oh my god, I can't believe how relatable this is,'" says Tegan. "But of course it's relatable. We're talking about being inarticulate, awkward, geeky, shy adolescent girls.... There's so much here that's universal. You don't have to be queer, you don't have to be a woman to relate to Sara and I. I think our story is universal, and there's a piece for everybody."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 66 of Under the Radar's print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.teganandsara.com

Support Under the Radar on Patreon.



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.