A-Sides Music: Tegan of Tegan & Sara Talks 'Heartthrobs' and Covering The Stones (and The White Stripes!?!)

Pop music was just so much better in the 1980s. The cheesy songs worked because they made you want to dance and you were just oblivious to the fact that the whole era was a big pound of Pizza the Hut. But, we loved it. We still love it. I love it. You love it. Does Lyle Lovett? Anyway, Tegan & Sara have taken that 1980s, retro, nostalgic feel with their first single "Closer," and unearthed a burst of fruit flavor for your ears. It's no wonder the song is killing it right now on alt-radio stations, and has been featured on some VH1 promos already. Not surprisingly, the new pop-infused sound for the Canadian darlings has led to articles being written suggesting the twin-sister duo are going all pop now and leaving their indie spirit behind. The question is irrelevant. Good music is good music.

Sure "Closer" rocks like Electric Dreams did back in the day, but it's not like the sisters Quin are reinventing their style altogether. They're still the same sibs who have been recording meaningful and catchy (albeit depressing) music for 13 years. Their seventh album, Heartthrob, just finds their same style within a pop production. In other words, sad songs can sound happy. Just ask Foster the People.

In any event, the album (produced mainly by Greg Kurstin, who worked with everyone from The Shins to Ke$ha) arrives Jan. 29 and it's retro sound will make fans feel something and I'm guessing it'll be positive. I know the first single and music video alone makes me long for the days of Trapper Keepers or perhaps I just miss loose leaf in general. Let me think about this while you read my interview below with Tegan.

It may just be me, but "Closer" really sounds like a throwback song to the 1980s. I can say the same about the album's cover art, which would do Hall & Oates proud - back in the day anyway. Was this intentional?
Yeah. We felt the record should be nostalgic not just in the way it sounds, but we were playing with the idea of aesthetically doing it as a throwback, too. The title itself - Hearthrobis a bit tongue in cheek - the romanticizing of idols - we loved the idea of messing with that concept.

So much is being made of your pop and polished sound. I've read somewhere that perhaps you guys are too happy to make depressing songs or maybe that's just inferred. Is that true? I mean is it such a bad thing to be happy? Or maybe pop music just gets a bad rap....Loaded questions are fun!

Yeah. The fact of the matter is people definitely write off pop music. You hear pop music, and think it must be about a positive thing. But, this is probably our saddest, most heartbroken music ever. We just experimented with the pop music sound, but the songs are...devastating. It's so sad...but whatever... We're trusting our fans don't care about the production. For some, The Con was there favorite, but So Jealous was before that. After hearing this, hopefully this will become their favorite.

Since there are rumblings about your change in course, do you find bloggers and music sites help or hurt you and/or the industry?
I don't read a lot about music. But, I don't think the Internet is all bad. I don't ignore it. I read a lot of blogs, and am socially aware. There are definitely examples of it where music was ruined by something [written] but I think we've had more success because of the Internet: our fans, bloggers...journalists. There are some things that accidentally come across and I'm like 'eeeeh!' but there's a million other things that [work].

But, I don't spend much time reading about music. I think it's noble, exciting and very hard. I could never do it. It's hard to write about music. I just listen. I form my opinion.

Is it difficult to write songs or does that depend on a case-by-case basis?
Some days are tough. We're both probably the happiest we've been. We're both in long-term relationships, and feeling good. But, I work the opposite. I write such great sad songs when I'm happy. When I'm sad, all I want to do is lay around.

Are there any of your songs you wrote in the past that you can't stand now?
As a writer, you don't have this ability. It's immediate. But when you finish a song or work on album, you have months. You can go back, and swap something out. Pretty much - what sees the light of day are things we choose. We wrote 40 some songs on this record, and only 12 made it. I look back at the first three records, and might think I should've spent some more time on it or 'we rushed that' or 'I wish we had more money.' But, for the most part, I tend to be harder on live performances.

You have a cover of a great Rolling Stones song on the soundtrack for Girls and - as we know - The White Stripes did an awesome cover of your "Walking with a Ghost." What was it like covering such an iconic band, and additionally, would you ever consider returning the favor to the Whites and covering a White Stripes song.
Lena Dunham reached out to us, and requested that song specifically. We had never heard the song before, but we were stoked. The only people we covered were Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Cyndi Lauper. We'll probably do more.

As for "Walking with a Ghost." We were absolutely blown away, and are still living off the fumes of that. As for covering a White Stripes song? I kind of like that! Thanks for that idea.

Last question... Rick Moranis is a fellow wonderful Canadian. Can we possibly join forces to get him back to working in movies again?
He is. [Laughs] I don't know...maybe. You'd probably have to work through his kids and build that relationship first.