Lesbian ‘Heartthrobs’ Tegan and Sara headline Dinah Shore Weekend.
by Megan Smith
Photo by Lindsey Byrnes
Pop duo Tegan and Sara’s acoustic singer/songwriter sound may have evolved with the addition of electronic beats over their 14 years in the music biz, but one thing definitely hasn’t changed: the band’s members, openly gay Canadian twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin, have always been fierce activists. They have worked closely with organizations such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign, and received praise from the LGBT community for featuring same-sex lip-locking in the video for their hit song “Closer” off their most recent album, Heartthrob. To put it simply, Tegan and Sara, who are also behind The LEGO Movie’s insanely catchy song “Everything is AWESOME!!!,” are pretty darn awesome themselves.
With a history like that, it’s no surprise the duo was asked to headline this year’s 24th annual Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend April 2–6 in Palm Springs, California. Considered to be the world’s largest lesbian event, Dinah Shore Weekend 2014 promises pool parties, a comedy night, a film festival, appearances by stars like The L Word’s Leisha Hailey and Kate Moennig, and much more. OutSmart had the pleasure of speaking with Sara about the band’s upcoming Dinah Shore performance, their ever-evolving sound, and their continued activism.
Megan Smith: It’s definitely an honor to headline Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend! What does performing at an event with such a long history mean to you guys?
Sara Quin: We have always been honored to have a strong gay following, and performing at events like Dinah Shore is a thrill for us! Being a sometimes-marginalized community, I think it’s important for people to have a destination/event that shows the strength of our fraternity.
The lineup includes some other amazing artists such as Seattle-based singer/songwriter Mary Lambert. In addition to her deeply personal “She Keeps Me Warm,” Lambert was also featured on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Same Love”—a track that has gotten mixed reactions. While some rejoice that an LGBT-themed song has become a Top 40 hit, others feel that a straight man shouldn’t speak for the LGBT community. What’s your take on the matter?
I think it’s important to ensure that our community speaks for itself. But I also think there is tremendous strength in having straight allies. For many years I expressed frustration with the straight male musicians around us who very rarely were informed or inspired to stand with [the LGBT] community. I’ve seen a significant change, and I try to focus on that!
I was at dinner with a friend the other night telling her how excited I was about getting to do this interview, and she said she had never heard of Tegan and Sara. I just looked at her in shock and said, “Get it together! What kind of lesbian are you?” Though I was obviously joking, you do have a large gay fan base. Do you two feel like role models for the LGBT community?
Yes, we do. At times in the earlier days of our career we saw ourselves as peers more than role models, but as we got older and our success grew, we realized we had an important role to play as queer women in the public eye. It’s an honor.
One of the things I love most about you guys is that although your music has drastically evolved over time, it’s still so easy to connect with. Older tracks like “Terrible Storm” hit home just as much as newer tracks like “Drove Me Wild,” off your latest album, Heartthrob. What would you say is your one constant?
We’ve always tried to be very honest and open in our music. These songs connect to one another because they are still just stories about us. However the aesthetic or instrumentation changes, our voice—both musically and lyrically—is the same. So that helps keep a cohesive sound even as we evolve.
Many view pop music negatively, but you two seem to have reclaimed it, and turned it into what you call “intelligent pop.” Can you tell us a little more about this concept?
For us, pop music can mean many different things. Broadly, pop music has a traditional structure and memorable melodies [or hooks]. The universal appeal of certain music is fascinating to me, as I don’t think it’s as simple as people think. In fact, writing pop music, for us, has been an incredible challenge. I think the “intelligent pop” tag is really about us challenging people to hear hooky, ambitious music that has an important message.
Your recent hit song “Closer” got a lot of press and radio play. How do you feel about being in the spotlight more than ever before?
We were really thrilled about “Closer” doing so well on the radio. As a band that has been around for a long time, we thought it was important to continue to expand our fan base and reach new people with this album. Radio is a big part of that for us right now. It hasn’t changed our personal lives, but it really has helped us reach a new generation of fans!
With January having marked the one-year anniversary of Heartthrob’s release, can you give us a hint as to what’s next for you guys?
Tour, tour, tour!
Tegan and Sara perform April 5 at the Palm Springs Convention Center as part of Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend. For more information and tickets, visit thedinah.com.