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Tegan and Sara

The only annoying thing about filming the Take Away Shows in Montreal from November to March is the cold, which makes it unconscionable to ask the musicians to play outside. Thankfully there are some magnificent indoor spaces, like the Salle Wilfrid-Peletier, where Philippe and I arranged to meet Tegan and Sara one gloomy afternoon.

Surveying the archive of Take Away Shows, it becomes evident that we film female musicians less often. And when we do, it tends to be singers we are awed by, and in front of whom we are prepared to feel intimidated – which generally ends up not being the case, as it was definitely not for Tegan and Sara. To begin with, we were the same size. Mock me if you will, but all the same, when you’re a girl who is only 1 metre 60 tall and working in music, it’s not always evident. Even better, they were friendly, pleasant, not shy (an unusual occurrence), as far from divalike as is possible. Barely five minutes after we’d met, they were telling us stories from their tour that are best not repeated on the internet.

They had prepared three songs. We weren’t worried; without going so far as to say that they are old hands at acoustic performances, it wasn’t exactly an entirely new exercise for them either. We were especially excited to see how they would pare down the more electronic songs from Sainthood .

For the first song, “Alligator”, we took over the cushy seats of the auditorium where they would be playing that evening, which they had nicknamed ‘Enterprise’ after Star Trek. There, without amps, without microphones, their voices became even more impressive. Unlike Ted, their guitarist, who’s a very discreet guy, Tegan and Sara didn’t hesitate to throw a few wisecracks to each other after they had finished playing. They are sisters, after all.

I was secretly hoping that they would sing “Feel It In My Bones”. On the album the song is a collaboration with Testo; it being therefore very electronic I was interested in what it would sound like when preformed acoustically. We needed a bit of reverb, which we found near the green room, a space with an insanely high ceiling. There was construction going on just opposite, but like magic the jackhammer stopped its drilling the moment they started singing. An acoustic version that makes you shiver; the reverb on Tegan’s voice was incredible, almost religious, and the verse where she barely has time to take a breath… Intense.

We headed back into the concert hall just before their soundcheck to record “Nineteen”, and then said our goodbyes, Tegan and Sara still smiling, and us still a little moved by the experience.

Translated by Tara Dominguez