ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JUNE 2015
I knew there was something wrong in the world.
I was in Newfoundland on business (yes, they have business there), when in my hotel room I saw a video of identical twin sisters singing a very catchy tune. While in the local record shop looking for traditional Newfoundland music I inquired about this dynamic duo, Tegan & Sara, and shown their CDs. I bought the one with the song on it. The L.P. was called So Jealous. It had just been released. These being the days before I had any type of mp3 player I listened to it on my laptop and in my car at home. I was mesmerized by one voice, literally put into a trance, and soothed to sleep with another. For a man who had a stressful job in the Oil Patch it was just what the doctor ordered. When I discovered on the internet they had a release called If It Was You, I went to Best Buy at home to pick it up and they said they didn’t carry it.
And that’s when I knew there was something wrong in the world.
How was it possible that the largest compact disc retailer in the United States wasn’t carrying Tegan & Sara? I pondered this question as I spoke to other store personnel who looked up the label and said it was only available in Canada. The twins, so they told me, were from Calgary, Alberta, someone happened to know, and thus it was distributed there.
Canada? What? Since when did the Great White North have the corner on good music? I mean, I love Neil Young, I saw Bryan Adams in the Astrodome in ’94, and in general thought I had an appreciation of Canadian music as evidenced by my huge collection of Newfie CDs, including but not limited to Shanneyganock, Blair Harvey and the Dregs, and every other band that could afford to record on George Street three sheets to the wind. Why these were not available in the States, I understand.
But Tegan and Sara? What the fuck is wrong with my country?
Further proving I lived in the cultural shitter was the impending release of The Con in 2007. Having gotten wind of it on another trip to Newfoundland, I went to an ‘Indie’ record shop in Houston one day well after its release to find it was not available.
Who the fuck is not stocking The Con in music stores?
Now yes, I lived in Texas, and yes, I lived in Houston, but let’s get real. First, it’s not like I live in Pocatello or Ithaca. For Christ’s sakes, it’s the fourth largest city in the United Goddamn States. Second, I’m willing to bet that besides Buffalo, there are more Canadians living in Houston than anywhere else in the world due to the Oil Patch. Thirdly, the inner city of Houston (the part that doesn’t live in racist imposed poverty) is extremely bohemian and would love Tegan & Sara, especially the Montrose Neighborhood for which I will address in a later article. I had to wait until my rotation to Newfoundland again to get The Con, as no website would deliver it to me (I found out later, to my extreme embarrassment, that I was in fact wrong, that teganandsara.com would have made sure I would receive it, but for the purposes of the article, just pretend I’m not an idiot doucebag). Once armed with The Con, I found it was, in my opinion at least, So Jealous Part II, and that was just fine with me. It was like following Revolver with Rubber Soul. The Con enjoyed a healthy rotation in my car and in my office, but my home life prevented me from focusing on anything regarding Tegan & Sara but their music.
For instance, though I could distinguish their voices, I did not know who sang what song, and scarce photos and no time for research that did not involve supermodels meant that I could not tell one from the other. In the long view, this was healthy for me, as these two albums never left the ten in circulation for the next five or six years. To listen to those two records was an intimate look into the lives of what appeared to me to be, two very damaged women who clearly had relationship issues but had survived to express themselves to me of all people. How lucky was I?
On a chance trip to Calgary on business I heard On Directing on the radio and new immediately, that Tegan and Sara had released another L.P. I ran to the nearest independent record shop that google found and purchased it (Sainthood) and spun it forever and ever. It was more stripped down than the previous two, but that made it seem even rawer in emotion. Sainthood bumped No Jealous and when I went back home I found it was available for order but not in stock. Well, my backwater redneck country was just moving right along the progression turnpike.
As circumstance would fucking have it, I wound up moving to Calgary shortly after that visit, and threw myself into my new job, which guaranteed 80 hour work weeks during the winter amid minus forty degree weather, BUT it also had Tegan & Sara on the radio as it was their hometown and when I brought them up to people under the age of thirty, they knew who the twins were. I even had a direct report who had gone to high school with the Twins and met them a few times, though he was actually not that big of a fan.
TWO DEGREES OF SEPARATION (as evidenced by a high school yearbook).
The collective impact of these experiences, immersing myself into their music, their psychological love problems, memorizing chord and key changes as if my life depended on it, paled in comparison when I discovered via a link of a link of a link to a Rolling Stone website link that they were recording another album.
Suddenly, all I could think of for the next four months, was Heartthrob.
It was unhealthy. For the first time, I devoured their videos on youtube. I spent an unbelievable amount of money on itunes getting everything available, I scoured the internet for copies of the Plunk! E.P. and color issues. Somehow I had missed Tegan & Sara Get Along (I had this thing constantly in the way called a job and two little people at home that WOULD NOT LEAVE ME ALONE). Well, shit, I ordered that, too. States, a film about the band on tour, struck me as being just as important as Gimmie Shelter, Let it Be, or No Direction Home.
Within ten minutes on youtube I declared everyone an idiot who could not tell them apart. Within ten more minutes, they looked similar, but had distinguishing differences. A half-hour convinced me the two of them looked nothing alike. They weren’t twins! Were they even sisters? This was the REAL con.
Likewise in the same amount of time (after Back in Your Head) I knew who was singing what and with glee started arranging playlists on my iTouch in addition to my TEGAN&SARA playlist a TEGAN playlist and a SARA playlist. Over the next few weeks, I discovered I listened to Tegan more, and wondered if I always had, or if I had developed this post-surgical strike. Then I wondered if it was fair, separating the two. After all, they were a BAND. I didn’t separate out my Lennon from my McCartney.
These late nights on my Mac were followed during the daytime by an unhealthy jaunt into pre-Heartthrob research. Within the next two weeks, I WOULD KNOW FUCKING EVERYTHING THERE WAS TO KNOW ABOUT TEGAN & SARA. And I wasn’t ashamed. I knew which neighborhood they moved around in (near my work) I learned their personality traits via hundreds of published interviews on the web (though they are both funny, Tegan comes off more of a witty comedian and Sara more of a philosopher) and in a weird way, this made their music which I already knew intimately, even more intimately. Part of this was due directly to the Twins living their lives quite literally in the open and unabashedly, which I find endearing and brave. Part of this is what I came to see as the Tegan & Sara Machine. They were with the WB at this point, but already by that time, they had a brand, they knew how to sell it, and by God they were fucking geniuses at it.
The push towards the Heartthrob release left me obsessed with wanting more. More free shit on iTunes. The Newark Folk Fest. A listed but hard to find NPR concert. Road reviews. And among these was an advert they were going to play the Shaw Center in Edmonton in March.
March? Edmonton? FUCK! It’ll be minus forty up there! FUCK IT! I was saved only by the revelation that even earlier they were playing at the University of Calgary. I just barely got tickets before they sold out. Though in my youth barely a month went by when I did not go to a concert (this went on for ten years or so) by this time I had not been to a concert (drunken forays on George Street did not classify) in at least four years. I think my last one was Rush on their Snakes and Arrows Tour stop at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Now all I had to do was survive the impending wave of pleasure that the Heartthrob release would cause and try not to get committed to an asylum before I could see them in concert.
Then, as if the Twins understood my plight, they released the album streaming the weekend before the release. I played it non-stop for three days. I never left earshot of my Mac. Folks, I had a problem. I had it bad. I needed help. This was worse than my constant repetition of Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto album. I listened to that everyday sometimes twice a day for six goddamn months. I was, however, able to reign in my interest. Everyone already knew, for example, who Chris Martin was shacking up with.
My fascination and investigation into the lives of Tegan & Sara was shameful and I am in fact embarrassed about it. I only repeat it to warn others. You think its okay. You think it’s acceptable, even preferable to say, stalking. To me, it was a repeat of my behavior regarding The Beatles when I discovered them in my youth. Or the Doors. Holy shit, how many books had I read on Zeppelin? Surely my Tegan & Sara obsession didn’t border impropriety? There was a definite period of a week there when my wife was not too sure who I wanted to be married to because of the articles she found open on my mac, the music running on the earphones on my ipod while I was sleeping, the desktop image at my work, and my humming of Drove Me Wild while doing dishes. Thinking back, perhaps it was overboard, or was I being hard on myself because unlike The Who or Def Leppard, they were women. In this case, I was actually being sexist against myself, and as someone who thinks of themselves as non-gender biased, this upset me.
I pulled back. I reconsidered what this meant, for my marriage. For my parental duties. For my job. After all, I was on a work permit and didn’t want the Canadian government to figure out what was going on and toss me out of the country for fear of being an obsessed fan. Calm down, I told myself. It’s okay to put My Number on eleven and rock the fuck out. It’s perfectly fine to mention in passing to someone Not Tonight is a special song to you. It’s all right that you’re only one of a hundred people who can repeat the refrain in The Ocean accurately and clearly. Just…dial it back. Who gives a shit who Tegan is dating but Tegan? Take the bookmark off their youtube page for Christ’s sake. I collected myself. I moved on. I was ready for the post Heartthrob world.
THEN I FUCKING DISCOVERED TWITTER!
It had always been there, on my blackberry, awaiting just a flick of the finger. I had a work blackberry so everything was blocked out. I went through three blackberries due to crap RIM technology and one shameless pawn-up to get a Bold to replace my Torch. All of the icons, the Facebook, the Youtube, had been deactivated as a part of corporate policy. So I was surprised when I tried to turn my BB to silent that I accidentally hit the Twitter preinstalled icon and up came the home page. I previously had an iTouch so I kept up with Joel McHale and Kevin Smith for laughs, but as Closer was playing on my radio while I discovered this, the possibilities were endless!
So now, I, like an addict, know where they are any given time of day, what they are doing, and what they are thinking, and I don’t have to feel like an obsessed fan because I’m not the one doing the obsessive researching and digital stalking. There’s no need for that now. Why?
Because they fucking tell me what’s going on now, like I’m their bitch. And let’s face it, hundreds of dollars into my obsession, that’s what I am to the Tegan & Sara Machine. I’m their bitch, and like a submissive little creature I keep up with everything they care to tell me…and they care….they care to tell me a lot. So when I make it to their next gig, it’s all good. I won’t need to stand at the front. I’ll do with just a moderate floor view, I’ll cheer them on, and I’ll quietly check off their setlist against my wishlist. Tegan & Sara are one band that won’t ever have to get back in my head, because they would have never left.