Talking like we're teens?
Perhaps during the busiest moment of last year, Max, the lead singer from the band Arkells emailed asking about collaborating on a sad ballad of theirs called Teenage Tears. The song was going to be on their new album Blink Twice. I liked the title. It reminded me of our song On Directing where we sing the lyric “I get talking like a teen” But you and I were super busy working on our own record, onboarding new management, and I was headed to the US for a few months, so I wasn't sure if we could take it on.
You and I had been going to therapy together for months at that point to work through what we wanted next in our career and from each other as a band. We often overload ourselves, take on too much, and have trouble turning things down. I joke that everything we do feels like shoving a boulder up Everest, even when someone is offering a helicopter to the top. But we’ve attempted the last few years to change that. We talk a lot about priorities lately. We’re learning how to say “no” — something we don’t do enough of in our career.
So, when Max wrote asking us to collaborate, even though I loved the song, I wasn’t sure I’d have a choice in the matter. You had a lot on your plate and it was going to really be up to you if we said yes.
I wrote Max:
Let me get back to you regarding singing on Teenage Tears. I sent it to Sara. My instinct is we have too much going on, but the song is beautiful. Let me see what Sara says.
What I didn't tell Max was that after hearing the first chorus of Teenage Tears, I knew we were going to do it. I didn't tell him that as I didn't know for sure, obviously. But I just had a feeling. I also thought you might suggest I do it, and we just put both our names on it, which we do sometimes.
I sent the song in an email to you and said:
Max from Arkells wants us to sing on a song of theirs for their new album. The song is attached. Called Teenage Tears.
My instinct was no, it's chaos soup right now and I'm away all month. But then I listened and it's pretty, and sweet, and it could be a really cool collaboration. Haven't done one in a while. Thoughts?
You wrote back four minutes later:
I am open to it actually. Song sounds cool.
I emailed Max and his manager Ash with you on copy to let them know we were in.
Cc'd here is Sara! She loved the song, so I think we want to try and do something!? Sara was curious about seeing lyrics and taking a crack at personalizing the second verse a bit and perhaps messing with pronouns, I'll leave it to her to explain herself, but if you could send lyrics as a start that would rule! Also, we are not in the same city currently, but we are going to be home in Vancouver for about a week in December. If we are going to tackle singing on the song we'd love to book ourselves into The Warehouse with an engineer, to help record the vocals if that works for you all?
We cut our vocals in early December and quickly had the final version of the song in our inboxes. I stayed in touch with Max; he’s always reaching out, saying hi and a friendship grew out of all the casual banter, as did my anxiety because he was just so damn nice and helpful; I wanted to ensure we were the same when it came time to promote Teenage Tears. In the spring, Max asked if we had ideas for the video treatment. I was on set in Calgary, working on High School. I saw the email come in and left the soundstage to go to our trailer and write the idea that popped into my head. They loved it, but as we told Max and his manager Ash, we needed to wait until August to shoot. You and Stacy would be welcoming your new baby Sid into the world at the start of summer. They were fine with that.
Mark Myers, who had just directed the video Yellow, flew out with Max in early August as planned. We took over Kingsgate Mall in Mount Pleasant, my old neighbourhood, after hours to shoot the video.
Earlier that day we’d gone to Hastings Mill Park to shoot the video for Faded Like A Feeling, also directed by Mark. And the day before that, we’d shot one for Smoking Weed Alone. I think we were both exhausted by this schedule, no? You more than me for sure, with the new baby and all.
When we arrived at Kingsgate Mall, I was nauseous from two hours of non-stop swinging on a swing set. You caught up with Max, while I scarfed a burger and fries from A&W to settle my stomach. I instantly felt better, which is not always the case when I eat A&W if I’m being honest.
We got into our second outfits of the day, and I sat with Max as he got a sideburn trim and powdered for the video. I had worn a wig in the previous video, so I had to soak my head in the sink at the mall. As my hair dried and Max and I caught up, I felt the fatigue of the hot and busy summer day set in.
You came over when Max left to start shooting understandably flustered; you were anxious about having left Stacy and the baby for so many hours. I related; after I got Georgia I felt anxious if we left the house for more than three hours. Even after two years, I still hate to leave her for more than that. We got our hair and make-up touch-ups as fast as we could and then we joined Max and the team to start shooting.
I had learned three songs in the days leading up to the shoots (Faded Like A Feeling, Smoking Weed Alone, and Teenage Tears) and so my brain was mashed potato-like as we settled into our first position at nearly eleven pm. I was worried about you. Your life is not your own right now; had you learned your parts, I wondered as the camera started to roll. (You had.) The next few hours flew by. We shot alone and with Max, all laughing a ton as we weaved our way through the mall, using different parts of the empty space. They wrapped us around 2 am; Max stayed to finish his solo parts and I packed up and caught a Lyft home.
I collapsed into bed quite satisfied that night. As I drifted off, the melody of Teenage Tears dominated.
As I write this to you, I still haven’t seen the cut of the video for Teenage Tears. I hope it’s good, that we like it (this is Tegan from the future adding that we do very much), and don’t have to give a lot of comments. I hate coming off high maintenance. In the past, I don’t know that even got to weigh on videos we did with other bands. Do you remember? Anyway. I think the video will be great. Even if it’s not perfect. Nothing is ever perfect, and I don’t expect this video or any video to be. If anything, I find the little moments that aren’t perfect in our latest videos make them more special, more like us. It’s a gift of getting older: letting go, loosening up, and accepting things for what they are.
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It used to really stress me out to shoot videos, to record with other bands, to tour, to generally manage our business and band with you. But more and more I’m letting go. I’m reminding myself before, during and after these busy times that it was mostly fun, mostly collaborative, and mostly easier than I thought. Our therapist suggested we aim for good enough rather than perfect. And I live by that lately. I’m less worried and more excited, less stressed and more focused. And things are good enough. Which is pretty great. You and I have been working full-time at this since we were teenagers, and though things have changed a lot — our lives, our career, us — some things never change.
But there are far fewer tears. Wouldn’t you agree?