On a balmy Wednesday in May, the Montreal airport’s international lounge is swollen with waiting passengers and the subsonic moans of departing planes. Tegan and Sara, the embryonically sympathetic rock duo (they’re twins), are traveling to Los Angeles to tussle with their record label over the treatment of their stupendous new album, The Con.
“I actually come from a very broken home,” says Sara, “so I have some skills for this.”
“We’ve always been somewhat self-conscious about how trivial it seems to be in a band sometimes,” Tegan adds. “Sometimes it seems like it’s more about selling product than meaning. That’s where The Con stems from, like, ‘Is this really just all a con?’ Having a career, buying a house, getting married—do any of these things really give us comfort?”
The Con is the twins’ fifth album, arriving in the wake of 2004’s So Jealous, a career-defining moment that garnered a Juno Award nomination, a slot supporting The Killers and the admiration of The White Stripes, who paid the duo a backhanded compliment by recording a ragged cover version of Tegan and Sara’s breakthrough U.S. hit, “Walking With A Ghost.” A darker and more adventurous affair than its predecessor, The Con was produced by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla.
“During mixing, the board set on fire twice,” says Tegan. “[Walla] stayed really calm.”
In the airport, passengers continue to waddle out of the customs checkpoint, carrying shoes and repacking bags. “You don’t want to write about the road or things most people won’t understand or care about,” says Sara. “I wanted to make an honest record about the things that were stressing me out. For the most part, this record is an anxious one for me.”
A departure announcement crackles from an overhead speaker. “Like, you know, what is the point of being here?” asks Tegan. “The record is sort of the Tegan and Sara version of that—if you don’t have a deep-set faith in religion or spirituality, you have to ask that question every day. For me, it will probably remain unanswered for my whole life. But I’m trying to become more comfortable with asking it.”