Beauty & The Beat: Tegan and Sara’s Tegan Quin Talks “Linda Evangelista Hair” And Breakup Ballads
Tegan and Sara weren’t always Tegan and Sara; in fact, when the identical Quin twins, who both happen to be lesbians, started their music career, they branded themselves as Sara and Tegan, since that’s how their friends and family always referred to them. But after printing one thousand copies of their first record, they reconsidered. “We hired a manager, who said people slur our names together and that since Tegan is a more unique name, we’d stand out more,” says Tegan. It stuck—and so did the Canadian duo’s special brand of folk-rock. For their seventh studio album, Heartthrob, which was released this January, the pair explored the challenging world of polished indie pop. “Sara and I wanted to make it different than anything we’ve done before and not cover the same ground,” Tegan explains, a new direction that seems to be going over well; the sister act has an opening slot at Coachella tonight. Before she headed out to Indio, Style.com caught up with Tegan to talk New Kids on the Block, bad romances, and good hair.—Sarah Z. Wexler
The new album is called Heartthrob; who was yours while growing up?
“We were always interested in strong teenager types: Punky Brewster, Darlene on Roseanne, Claire Danes. Then as we got older, it became musicians like Courtney Love and Le Tigre. When we were kids, we were obsessed with Jared Leto and the New Kids on the Block. We really wanted to emulate those people, to be super awesome and amazing and cool like them; girls really liked them, and we wanted girls to like us. It was probably so confusing for my parents [when we came out], because we always had posters of half-dressed New Kids on our walls, so they were probably like, ‘WTF?’”
What inspired this album?
“We’ve written about love and relationships and focused on sad, lonely, breakups. But now we’re not sad or heartbroken, so we wanted to write about nostalgia and romance, looking back on late teens and early twenties relationships. Our previous songs covered that part of being twenty that’s sad, desperate, not sure what I’m doing with my life. Now we wanted to capture the empowering part of breakup, when you know they’re no good for you and you’re not waiting around for them anymore. We tried to explore more positive endings.”
Since you both sing and play the same instruments, how do you decide who’s going to do what?
“We collaborated more with Heartthrob than on previous albums. We tend to write separately, and it wasn’t until we were in the studio that we’d collaborate. Whoever wrote the song sang it and picked her instrument of choice.”
Short hair had a huge moment on the Fall runways, and both you and your sister happen to be very “on trend” at the moment. Have you always had short hair?
“Basically, when we were five, we had hair down to our waists, in big, thick ringlets. We were really chubby, and people would stop us to marvel at our identical long eighties hair, but we hated our hair. We’d brush it, and it was frizzy and a big freaking mess. My mom was a single parent, going back to college, and she said, ‘I can’t fight with you every morning about doing your hair. If you want to cut it off, do it.’ We were overjoyed. We cut all our beautiful hair off into mullets; we basically got our dad’s haircut, because we wanted to look like him. We loved it until peer pressure made us want to grow it out and be girls again, and we kept it long until we graduated high school and then shaved our heads. Shorter hair made more sense and really reflected our personalities. We’ve tried it all: bangs, mullets, hair to the shoulders, really short and spiky. Now I have what I call the Linda Evangelista, or Demi Moore-in-Ghost, look, which is hopefully somewhat feminine.”
How do you style it before you hit the stage—or the desert, as the case may be this weekend?
“I’d been straightening my hair for the past decade, and on Heartthrob, I thought I would try leaving it, and I realized my curls make sense. I had my stylist undercut and shave along the sides and underneath, which makes the curls bounce out. I use Aveda Be Curly, and before going onstage, I just add some hairspray for oomph.”
Photo: Courtesy of Lindsey Byrnes