Seattle VIP Questions!
What dog would I get next and what the hell does "I was in the bitter fun house mean?"
11/18 Seattle Q&A Submissions
· As this leg of the tour ends, how are you feeling about performing in front of fans again? Does it feel like it's back to normal yet?
TEGAN: I liked this question because I had wondered so much about what it would feel like to play in front of people again. So many artists were online saying how incredible it felt to be on stage, and how different audiences felt. So, I tried to manage expectations going into it. I was fearful I’d walk on stage and feel the same as I always had and would be disappointed somehow. The truth is it wasn’t Earth shattering or beyond measure. The feeling of being on stage again was familiar and that in itself was a confidence boost and really satisfying. This year marks 25 years since we graduated high school and started performing professionally and I am beyond grateful that somehow (HOW!?) it still feels so special to be in front of a crowd and to play music. Performing is not just cathartic, it’s at times quite exhilarating, and fun, but also, it’s work. And like my German Shepherd/Border Collie, I LIKE TO WORK!So, it was a lot of things. And it was different. And it was also the same. And ultimately the biggest feeling/thought I took away from a month on the road again is that it’s truly a gift to do what we do, and I don’t take it for granted and I’m so grateful people still show up to see us do what we love to do! And so, to answer your question directly: Yes, it felt normal, and that’s the pinnacle of what I can hope for!
· Which of your albums is the most personal and why?
TEGAN: We actually answered this one in Seattle, but I want to answer it again! I love all our albums for different reasons. But the newest is always so special to me. So, I of course would say Crybaby. I think it’s a record that will always represent so much. It is the culmination of five years of writing and working on our craft. We had time we don’t always give ourselves to really hone in on the themes and words and melodies we were intent on hitting. It’s our first time producing in a decade, and we made the record with our own money, on our own terms and then licensed it to an indie label. It represents where we are and where we hope to go, and it’s OURS. So, it feels special. It’s about our personal journey's the last handful of years and feels raw and specific; it’s about more than us which feels like growth. I just love how personal the album is, and how personal it feels to put it out and speak about it. I can’t wait to play more of it live!
· My child Rosie’s question: Which music video from Crybaby was your favorite to make and why?
TEGAN: I think my favorite video from Crybaby is I Can’t Grow Up. It was such a blast to film it. The team we pulled together was small but passionate and I could really feel everyone banding together to make the day fun for us and to ensure the video was unique and exciting. I love to goof around and felt like the song allowed us to really be playful in a way we aren’t always able to be on camera because our songs are usually so intense and serious.
· How has being in a band together shaped your relationship with each other? I know we all got to see in High School that music really brought you together, if it wasn’t for music how do you think you would have navigated things as adults?
TEGAN: As a twenty-something year old I used to be really fearful of quitting or leaving Tegan and Sara because I worried what it would do to our family, to us as sisters and to our friends. The band doesn’t always feel like a band. It feels like an extension of our family. So, at times it’s felt very claustrophobic to be in it. There is no escape. In a way, I still feel that way. To quit or take a five-year break would create a massive sea change in our family, our personal lives, and our friend groups, and I don’t know how that would affect Sara and me. I trust that we would remain close. We live in the same city, and now that she has Sid, I don’t think I’d ever move to another city (forever) away from her family. I think as we have gotten older, I have realized that I’m lucky to have this connection, not just to Sara, but to the music we have created. It's almost like a kid. Our catalogue of music, our career, the stories and connections and friendships and memories and experiences, it’s all very significant to me. So even if Tegan and Sara ended tomorrow, we’d always have that. We’d share it, like divorced parents share their kids. I think we’d be bonded together forever regardless of what we chose to do with our band. But had we never had the band, I have no idea what would have happened to us. I believe Sara would have still wanted to venture out and do something on her own (move to Montreal). I think our natural differences would have probably driven more distance initially. We were bound by music when we graduated. But I have a feeling we would have come back together at some point. That gravitational pull to family, to each other and to our friends would have been strong. I think we’re family people, so I imagine that regardless of what path we had chosen in life we would have ended up close, and near our mom. Those seem like inevitable outcomes.
· We loved the speed effects in the Yellow and Smoking Weed Alone music videos. Any stories from set about that experience?
TEGAN: Mark Myers who directed, edited and dreamed up the videos was the one who wanted to play with Speed in Yellow. Sara suggested we remake Coldplay’s Yellow, and so in that instance, there was already a template for messing with speed. The original is slow and dreamy because it was filmed sped up. So, we duplicated that process, but then Mark wanted to play with that. That was when he suggested that my parts would be shot at a different speed, so when each of us was singing our parts, we’d be moving at different speeds. I think it’s really special. It was very difficult to shoot. But Mark filmed himself doing it, and we had the track with click to help us count the changes for a week or so beforehand so we could rehearse. It was definitely memorable! For Smoking Weed Alone, we actually searched for an idea for months. We had an original treatment we had pitched a different director, who then tweaked it and sent back something really fucking cool. But it was just too expensive, and timing wise it was impossible to make work anyway. By then we’d done a few videos with Mark and trusted his vision, and he’s a jack of all trades and pitched doing the video for us. We told him the original ideas, and all agreed it was just too complicated to try and pull off. We brainstormed over the course of a few Zooms and eventually came up with the video treatment. Mark once again pitched the idea of using speed to intensify certain parts of the song. He wanted to capture the frenetic, bombastic chorus by exaggerating our movements using speed changes. This one was easier to sing because it wasn’t one fluid take like Yellow, but it was complicated in its own way. Mark had to map out the different movements of the camera to hide us and so it felt mathematical at times. The part that stressed me out was that we had rented the apartment from someone we know in the city, and I was super worried that he was going to see the video and see that we had lit a joint in the apartment (it was oregano) and freak out. He didn’t thank goodness! But fun fact. I stood behind Mark, who was wearing a helmet camera, as he lit the joint. My manager Christine was over his shoulder blowing smoke from a VAPE (no one inhaled that or the oregano joint!). Getting the timing right of the joint lighting and blowing of the smoke took more than a dozen takes. Hence my stress about smoke in the rental apartment!
· So I run dividedtns on tiktok and I've always wondered what you thought about the fan edits you see on there? do you like to watch them?
TEGAN: Yes! It’s such a funny account. We appreciate the effort and energy that goes into it! We can’t wait to talk early next year about the account with you. And we’d love to have you on this Substack to chat about how you get your ideas, and how you make your videos etc.! I wish I cared more about TikTok. I know it’s super important right now and that if we were more active on it we’d reach more people than our other social media accounts. But I can’t find the energy. It’s my Achilles heel. It’s actually my favorite of all the platforms (I spent too much time watching) but I just can’t force myself to make content. Maybe after a little break, I’ll feel more inspired next year to get active on our TT. Who knows!
· What the fuck is a "bitter fun house"?
TEGAN: We answered this one in person! BUT I wanted to comment here too for more people to see. This is a lyric from Pretty Shitty Time! It’s a sample Sara created for the top of the song when we were writing before we went into the studio. It’s actually kind of just gibberish but it sounds like (at least to me) I was in the bitter fun house. And in the studio, we actually sang that and also I was in the better fun house. How I translated that and turned it into something that works with the rest of the lyrics of the song was this:
A fun house is a distorted reality. Trick mirrors, uneven floors, a complicated maze, loud noises, something scary around every corner, the threat of never getting out. That sort of summed up the hard parts of the last three years. Which is what Pretty Shitty Time is about. I have a hard time expressing some of the negative things I feel. I try to always be an optimist; I prefer to say what I want as opposed to what I don’t want. What I like rather than what I don’t. Admitting that I was needy or lonely or hurting was hard. To sing those lyrics was exhilarating but it also opened me up to analysis. What would people who loved me think was going on with me? So when I heard Sara’s sample, to me it sounded like she was singing I was in a bitter fun house or I was in a better fun house and both felt like she was goading me, teasing me, testing me. If it was “a better fun house” it was as if she was saying she didn’t feel the way I did. Her life was better. If it was “ a bitter fun house” that felt like she was speaking for me. I was bitter, angry, and conflicted about my life. Either way it felt like turmoil and conflict and I had so much of that inside me when I was writing the song, so it just fit.
· How have you handled and moved past criticism, especially in your early days?
TEGAN: Some might suggest we haven’t moved past specific criticism (past and present). I suppose that might be true. For me, I like to think I just let it go. I hold it for a while, carry it with me, and eventually, just drop it. Not because it gets too heavy, but I think I like to spend time with it, but still be in motion. And then I let it go. Like. It exists, so I can’t just ignore it, or throw it away. But also, I don’t want to sit with it and be bogged down by it. So, it gets to come with me, forward, but then eventually I ditch it. So, I hopefully learned from it, but if there was nothing to learn, I took it forward with me and showed it to other people, let them help me process it. I don’t know if this will make sense in this format. But I think that’s how I deal with it. I want to be liked. I hate when people don’t like our music or our band. But I also don't like a lot of things. And it’s not personal. So, when someone doesn’t get us, I actually don’t know that I truly care. It’s when someone makes it personal that it sticks with me. Generally speaking, I hate written reviews of music. I know that writers often get a few listens and then have to write their reviews. I don't think that’s enough time with a record, certainly not one of ours, to truly get it. And I feel like that’s unfair. So, to deal with criticism I’ve learned to manage the injustice I feel. I have gotten better at accepting that I am not entitled to someone's time. And that helps.
· You’ve played around with so many genres over the years. How did you liberate yourselves from other people’s expectations of what you should sound like? And what has been your favorite genre to explore?
TEGAN: Quite honestly, we just saw the reaction people had to hearing us remixed (Back In Your Head by Tiesto was the first really big one) and that just excited us. There were other moments from other genres, like the Cancer Bats covering So Jealous, and Alkaline Trio covering Wake Up Exhausted. All of a sudden people NOT typically associated with our genre, and people NOT typically seen as fans of Tegan and Sara were approaching us on the street, at festivals, on social media to talk about how much they liked us after they discovered us through different bands/artists from other genres. And I think we just saw the natural progression of our band, us and our music going anyway we wanted after that. Just like your song being played on the radio, or being added to a movie or TV show, or taking an opening slot for a bigger band on tour, we thought of remixes and collaboration outside our band as ways to reach new people. And as a band, especially one of our sizes, that’s how you keep going, how you stay relevant. We can’t rely on radio or mainstream press, so we have to constantly think about ways to reach new possible fans. And exploring outside our genre or the corner of the industry we had been relegated to felt like the best way to do that! I also think exploring other genres taught us about production and songwriting, marketing and performing. You should never stop taking risks. Never stop learning. I think that’s how you become a career artist.
· If you were to get a second dog, what breed would you pick and why would it be a poodle? (From poodle dog daddies Andrew+Steve)
TEGAN: I know poodles are very smart. But I have some bad first memories of poodles from when I was a kid. And although I have a few friends with Golden Doodles - which are cute – the big ones are kind of crazy. They look like lanky teenagers dressed as dogs. LOL! So, no! Not a poodle. If I were to choose my next dog right now on the spot it would probably be a breed that is not a working dog. Maybe something a little smaller than Georgia, 30 or so pounds? Something wiry. I have no clue. My partner wants an Australian Shepherd, and I told her she is welcome to get one when she moves into her new apartment after we break up. That made her laugh.
Recently I went to an adoption event next to a venue on tour and found a rescue that I made the terrible mistake of sending photos of to Sofia. She begged me to go get him. He was 9 months. Total street dog. But really well-socialized with dogs and people.
I told Sofia it was not the right time considering how hard having one has been for us and how busy we are. Instead, I got a tattoo that day. And Sofia pretended to be mad for a few hours. I think we made the right choice NOT to get the dog, but I do think of him from time to time. When I got home, after six weeks of being away, Sofia’s first words were “I thought you were going to surprise me with the dog.” I was like, WHAT!? We’re unwell. I do think Georgia would love a dog roommate.
Thanks for the questions ya’ll! VIP was such a delight for me. I loved being on stage chatting every afternoon. Appreciate everyone who supported VIP and submitted questions and showed up early! Thank you!
Also, here’s a funny article about me and Georgia (my dog):
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Thank you for answering my question about tiktok!! I enjoy posting on dividedtns so much and I'm so glad you and Sara like the account. It's definitely my favorite social media platform as well. I can't wait to discuss it all with you in the new year!!
I really love that you included that article about Georgia and you. I also wondered what a “bitter fun house was”. Glad that question was answered. If you do ever get another dog, I’d recommend NOT getting a Chihuahua or any tiny purse dog because there is a lot of evil in those tiny bodies. They’re like Canadian Geese…that’s all I’m gonna say about it.