(Photo: Sarah Fobes)
Tegan And Sara have changed things up for their seventh studio album. For starters, they’re switching between three producers—Greg Kurstin (Foster The People, Mike Posner, Kelly Clarkson), Mike Elizondo (Regina Spektor, Eminem) and Justin Meldal-Johnsen (M83, Beck)—and using three different L.A. studios to record it. Long-time collaborator/AFI bassist Hunter Burgan is again hanging around the proceedings; so is expert drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, Elliott Smith). On top of that, Tegan And Sara co-wrote a song with André Anjos from the RAC production/remix collective (Tokyo Police Club, Ra Ra Riot) and another tune with the dance duo Sultan + Ned Shepard.
“I think people are going to be really excited,” Tegan Quin says of the still-untitled album. “I think we have a really good batch of songs. I know on the last record [2009’s Sainthood] we were experimenting a lot—like on “Paperback Head” and “Arrow.” Not all the songs landed, but certain tracks really did, and I think with this one, this is going to be more in the vein the way people got attached to So Jealous and The Con. They’re all really good songs—really good stories, really good intentions.”
When the album will see the light of day is another story. “Our hope is to mix in May and part of April as well, so hopefully we’ll have a finished record by June,” Quin says. “And it really all just depends on the label. If the label is really excited and doesn’t want us to put it out right away, then we’re actually pretty committed to that. We’ve seen a lot of different bands who held their record. Adele’s record was complete for almost six months before they put it out.
“I want to say the record will be out by the end of the year,” she adds. “But there is a possibility that the record will actually come out in 2013. Who knows?”
Interview: Annie Zaleski
You guys have a whole cast of characters in the studio with you, including AFI bassist Hunter Burgan and drummer Joey Waronker. What is it like working with the latter?
Tegan Quin: When we started figuring out how we were going to do this record, it became clear that not only did Sara and I have more than one favorite to do the record, but also the universe threw us lots of curveballs, so everyone we were interested in was not able to take three months of their life to make a record with us. All of a sudden, we were like, “Okay, well, maybe we’re going to kind of change things up for the first time and make a record with a bunch of different people.”
I got really excited by that right away, because almost immediately all three different producers were like, “Oh, I want to use this person for bass and I want to use this person for drums.” I was like, “Oh my god, this is like Christmas Day for us, because we get to use all these musicians that we’ve been hearing and reading about for years who we’ve never been able to use.” Just when we’re starting to first maybe feel exhausted by certain songs or certain people, we get to go to a different studio with a different producer for a couple weeks, so it’s been wonderful for perspective—something I don’t know if we necessarily always have. It’s nice to have forced ourselves into a situation where we’re going to be constantly readjusting.
That’s good. I think a lot of people might find that exhausting or really hard to deal with changing gears.
Honestly, after making six records…the experience of going to the same place for two months every day with the same people and the same list of songs, it actually can feel a little monotonous. Especially on the last record [Sainthood], afterwards, I was like, “I don’t want that feeling,” because I look forward to writing and recording so much—and I look forward to making records so much—and sometimes I just feel exhausted while we’re doing it.
This process is already—at least it seems at this point very early on—it’s actually cutting all that monotony and boredom and repetition out of the process. Every two weeks we switch back and forth between these producers, and we switch studios and our drive changes every day. One guy likes to work 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the other guys likes to work 1 p.m. until 10 p.m. We’re used to the road, where every day is different. There’s monotony there, too, and repetition, but every city’s different, and you’ve got different people and different audiences and different venues. I’m not used to going to the same job every day, so making records can be psychologically very difficult.
What’s it like working with Greg Kurstin? Whenever I hear a song and I’m like, “Oh, I really like this,” it tends to be that he has produced it.
[Laughs.] I kind of feel the same way, actually. So far, it’s been awesome. He likes to work really normal, very human hours. We’re working 10 ’til 6 every day, so I come to work every day very happy and well-slept and I don’t feel stressed out. He moves very quickly, and he’s very efficient and just a wildly talented musician. A lot of his production for us so far has been arranging and editing what we’ve already recorded at home and then just piling on a bazillion great ideas on top of it. The songs are forming really quickly. He has a wicked dry sense of humor, which also helps when you’re in the studio.
We wanted to work with Greg—he was our number one pick—because he’s done things like the Shins, but then he’s also worked with Kelly Clarkson and Ke$ha and all that stuff. [On this record] Sara and I are really interested in pushing ourselves to places we haven’t been before. We’re certainly not making a Ke$ha record, but I don’t think we need to shy away from the part of us that grew up listening to pop music and still likes pop music. We also listen to hip-hop and acoustic music and we listen to a lot of electronic music. I think for the last couple of years, we’ve been experimenting in the dance world so much that I wanted to make sure we didn’t hire a producer who’s only worked in one genre. And Greg, he’s the guy if you want to do pretty much anything—he can do it. The sounds are crazy. We finished vocals on a song and he spends 20 minutes remixing everything and doing this and throwing on this and doing that. All of a sudden he’s playing it and I’m like, “Oh my God, the record is done.” [Laughs.]