CHICAGO — There are the Tegan and Sara fans who have been listening to the Canadian twins since they debuted with a folksy sound in 1999. And then there are those who became fans in the last year or two thanks to Tegan and Sara’s radio-friendly dance hit “Closer” and their catchy theme song with The Lonely Island for “The Lego Movie,” “Everything Iis Awesome.”
Tegan and Sara Quin don’t mind the newcomers. Most artists wouldn’t. But those long time fans who were drawn to the band’s indie appeal? Well, you can guess how some of them took the slight change in direction and fan base.
“When the first single came out, the die-hards online were like, ‘Why did you do his, blah, blah, blah?’” Tegan said by the phone recently. “People are going to complain. It doesn’t matter what you do. You don’t want to alienate your audience when you make a record, but you also don’t want to bore the audience and make the same thing.
“We tried to find a balance but took risks with (our latest album) “Heartthrob” to increase the fan base. But more than anything, we wanted to inspire ourselves. It’s interesting to see the increase. There are a lot more teenagers, more girls. The thing that is most exciting is that it gives the band new life.”
That’s not to say Tegan and Sara were struggling to find an audience pre-“Heartthrob.” They released six studio albums before that, and their 2004 single “Walking With a Ghost” received radio play (The White Stripes went on to cover the song on their “Walking With a Ghost” EP a year later).
“We were really happy,” Tegan said of the band’s state of mind before “Heartthrob.” “It’s not like one morning we said, ‘We have to be huge rock stars.’”
Tegan insists they still haven’t reached that status. She says they play for around the same number of people and make about the same amount of money as they did before the album came out. Nevermind that “Heartthrob” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, their highest debut to date. Or that they recorded a song for Oreo’s Wonderfilled ad campaign.
In August, the sisters performed “Closer” with one of the biggest acts in music today, Taylor Swift, at her Los Angeles concert. They’ll open for another world-famous female artist, Katy Perry, on her “Prismatic” tour later this year. Sure, Tegan and Sara and the “Dark Horse” singer don’t exactly share the same audience, but it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve dealt with this type of challenge.
“When Paramore asked us to tour with them (in 2010), Sara was worried that they were too mainstream and the audience wouldn’t like us and that what we do, our indie (sound), wasn’t what they wanted,” Tegan said. “She was self-conscious. Me, I was like, ‘Their audience loves a female-fronted act. And Hayley (Williams) is outspoken. We will fit in.’ It ended up being amazing. It did wonders for us.”
What sort of effect will the Perry tour have on their careers? That remains to be seen. But if Tegan and Sara’s popularity has peaked (and it probably hasn’t), Tegan would still be thrilled with the run they’ve had.
“If this is it, I’d be pretty satisfied,” Tegan said. “We’ve traveled all over the world and done way more than I thought we’d do. We’ve exceeded our expectations. Even our parents said, ‘We really did not think you would be this popular.’”