You recently described compromise as “neither person getting what they really want.” If it had been entirely up to me, our album Heartthrob would have been called Gemini, and The Con would have been titled Sugar Spell It Out. When presented with support tours opening for the Killers in 2004, and Paramore in 2008, I initially said no and yet both opportunities proved to be professionally and personally important to us both. When I balked at opportunities that seemed too mainstream, your confidence that we belonged in those spaces eventually helped us disrupt industry and cultural expectations held about queer women. That you saw so clearly the risk vs reward of investing in ourselves before anyone else did is a significant reason our band exists. While it is rare that we come to an agreement on most topics without discussion or debate, I don’t experience those outcomes as a concession because it is in that space between your first choice and mine that we find our choice.
In other cases, there’s almost no discussion or debate required at all. For example, in 2018 you walked into our literary agent’s office in New York and pitched a collection of essays about our childhood. On the spot, I found myself responding with an alternate pitch about our band’s origin story, which began in high school. It is now a best-selling memoir, though it was you who believed it would be so much more. In those moments, I like to imagine us as opponents in an endless tennis match. Rallying, in sync, a spectacle observed. Isn’t that what makes our audience return to watch us perform live again and again? There is no denying that what we do, we do well. But is that enough for you?
I think our new album Crybaby is our breakup record. Perhaps inspired by the dissolution of so many important working relationships in our career (managers, art director, record label) or wrenching free from the rhythm of touring, writing, and recording that has ruled our lives for over 20 years. I just couldn’t imagine us returning to the time before March 2020. I don’t want to. I shared this idea while sitting at a table on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles — an album from a band known for writing songs about their break-ups writes their breakup album. I was certain that I’d found our albums logline. I had only a moment to enjoy the thrill of that bullseye when you quickly dismissed it. “For me,” you started with a refrain you use with greater frequency these days, “the album is about all kinds of relationships…” and off you went in the opposite direction.
This band is all I have ever known as an adult and I have based my entire existence around it. Me, outside of Tegan and Sara, like, Me, outside of You, is coming into focus. I’m relieved that we didn’t break up. But, if you only ever play against the same opponent, is there anything left to learn about yourself? I hope we find out.