Why Tegan and Sara should win the Polaris Prize

By Brittany Morgan

Tegan and Sara. I’ll try not to rant for too long, but not many artists compare to these musicians (in my humble opinion.)

Twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin, who were born on September 19, 1980 in Calgary, Alberta, have defied pigeon-holing stereotypes their entire career. Not only have they risen above their grass-roots beginning, but they have challenged the roles that society often gives to women in the music industry (the indie-rock music industry no less).

Within their career, Tegan and Sara have endured many labels (twins, Canadians, women, lesbians) all of which could have proven great barriers to the careers of musicians without the heart and passion of these nominated women.

Tegan and Sara released their most recent album, Sainthood, on October 27, 2009, which was their sixth studio album and is the work that have put them on this year’s Polaris Prize Short List. Tegan and Sara is a band which has many elements that have helped in creating its climbing success: the girls never left the dirty work to “professionals,” they took charge of their career, and ensured that they were involved in every aspect- which kept them understanding the industry and remaining level-headed. They didn’t sign instantly to a major label but instead continually grew within every aspect of their music and put the money they made back into the growth of their career. Unbeknownst to many Tegan and Sara fans, the girls do not (until fall of 2008) write songs together, but instead live on separate sides of the country and collaborate only minimally through the internet.

With this, Tegan and Sara is, more realistically, two solo projects that have come together on one album, and because of that, creates a very cohesive record. The twins’ vocals are similar enough that the contrasting songs cannot be told apart to the average ear, yet their separate song-writing styles complement each other so that the fans are both similar and diverse.

Sara is known to write more quirky songs, and expand her horizons by stretching the boundaries and overlaying tracks until her ProTools will no longer allow more. Conversely, Tegan is known to write heart-wrenching, tortured love songs, and pining, desperate (but in a good way) passionate, scream-your-heart-out, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep songs. There are acoustic, sweet songs like Dark Come Soon, and Call It Off; there are rock-out punk songs such as Hop A Plane, and Northshore. There are quirky instrumentals on songs like Like O Like H, and Floorplan; there are songs full of passion and heart like My Number, and Living Room; there are songs that hit your gut with meaning such as I Was Married and inspirational songs like Someday.

Sainthood is a special album in the Tegan and Sara discography for numerous reasons. So Jealous and The Con were the two previous band albums, both of which garnered a lot of publicity and rising fans for this band (Walking With A Ghost on So Jealous was covered by The White Stripes). So for Sainthood, the band took the best of both worlds and used Howard Redekopp (producer on So Jealous) and Chris Walla (producer on The Con) to produce 2009’s Sainthood.

Tegan and Sara Quin also attempted for the first time in their musical careers actually writing together for this album (Paperback Head is the first true Tegan and Sara collaboration on an album) and a few songs from Sainthood are also reworked versions of songs that Tegan wrote with Hunter Burgan in their side-project. Tegan and Sara are known for extensively demo-ing their songs before production but have had trouble at times recreating the songs live afterwards- for this album, they recorded as a 5-piece-band with Chris Walla on bass, Jason McGerr (Death Cab for Cutie) on drums, Ted Gowans on guitar, and of course Tegan and Sara on guitar/vocals/piano. Tegan and Sara continually challenge themselves on each new album and show that their song-writing and musicality only further and develop. They show their desire to improve as musicians and with their solid relationship with their fans, create not only a steady base, but an increase of listeners. Sainthood is a more “glossy” album and although I cannot bring myself to say that it is better than The Con, it is very different. All of the Tegan and Sara albums bring different positive aspects and because of the strides both Tegan and Sara make within each album, can hardly be compared, but looked at instead its own work of art.

Tegan and Sara are raw and emotional- their songs wear their hearts on their sleeves, yet the girls come off not as self-deprecating, but as sweet and their music as therapeutic and relatable.

And what counteracts their emotional, soul-bearing songs is their onstage selves, which are clever, witty, and spontaneous. Tegan and Sara have in fact become known for their onstage banter, to which fans have even created a website for (Teganandsarabanter.com) so that fans can follow the funny and endearing light-hearted stories and jokes that Tegan and Sara share on stages around the world. Tegan and Sara really know how to capture an audience as they have people captivated by not only their music, but also by themselves – their personalities, and personas – their relatablity, their warm-heartedness, their hilarity, their hard work ethic and modesty.

There is so many positive things to say about Tegan and Sara, but I would rather keep this short and sweet. So with that I won’t get into the more specific details about their hard work and long journey throughout their musical career but instead leave you with a beautiful quote spoken by Sara Quin at Tegan and Sara’s concert on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at Massey Hall, in Toronto.

Sara: “…Tegan and I started touring like 11 years ago, and we used to just tour the two of us and there were so many bad shows and so many hard days and so many years where I though f*** this is terrible… I had this thought where we were playing the last song that this whole tour we’ve been in Canada and we’ve been playing to so many friends and family and all these beautiful venues… But I had this moment where during that last song I saw some of my friends that I went to highschool with who are here right now and we’re still best friends and I love them so much and they’ve seen us play so many really really really bad shows and I was thinking about how when you’re doing anything in life-not just a musician- but sometimes when it gets really hard you think, like what gets you through, like almost like a way an athlete thinks, you’re like I’m gonna beat other people, that’s how you keep going, you become competitive. You think I’m gonna show people, I’m gonna make something amazing, I’m gonna play an amazing show or I’m gonna write an amazing song- im gonna show people. And I had this moment when I thought to myself, my God like here we are at Massey Hall, and I don’t want to show anyone, I’m just so glad to be celebrating it.”

Video credit to http://www.youtube.com/wojo4hitz


  1. So… I can’t tell if you like the band or not… Your post has such a sad tone :( You’ve clearly done your homework on T&S… Let your writing have more guts! You keep making grand sweeping generalizations (“Sara is known to… TnS is a band that is…”). Cut out the excess words and juice it up! Tell us some new insights vs reciting stuff.

    • Take my word on this, the author is a huge fan of them.
      Thank you for the comment, always good to have constructive criticism.

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