Tegan & Sara’s Boston show highlights new album

Few things can be more surreal than watching your high school experiences played out in living color. The sister duo Tegan & Sara have been doing that for the past three years as they’ve prepared “High School,” an Amazon Freevee series based on their memoir of the same name. The show debuted to much acclaim two weeks ago.

“I guess that if we hadn’t written the book beforehand and not been directly involved with the show, it would have seemed really weird, surreal and intense,” Tegan Quin said this week. “But we’ve been immersed in it since 2019, it’s been a slow burn and so it’s desensitized us a bit. But that doesn’t change the fact that it feels really weird to be at the Toronto Film Festival, watching the premiere with our friends from high school. Part of me is always thinking, ‘Is this really cool or is this narcissism’?”

Has she got an answer for that yet? “Well, I have to remind myself daily that our story is valid– I mean, it’s weird and unique but it’s also universal. We’re identical twins and two queer women who play music, and I don’t see that kind of representation very often. I think it feels more like an indie-rock movie than a Hollywood television show. Being a teenager is hard, and we’re all still in touch with our adolescent selves. I don’t think you need to be a fan of our band to relate to that.”

One constant feature in the show is the presence of music, whether it’s the Violent Femmes in a teenage love scene or the twins’ dad blasting Bruce Springsteen in the car. “That was part of what Clea [director Clea Duvall] brought; she wanted every character to have their musical moments. Maybe our audience isn’t going to sleep out in a parking lot to see Smashing Pumpkins like we did, but they’ll see how important music was to us. We grew up in a household that put musicians and artists up on a pedestal, and we wanted to show that. My dad had huge framed photos of Springsteen and U2 with lights around them. A lot of the music we heard in the ‘90s was fronted by men, but our mom took us to buy records by L7, Babes in Toyland, bands who shaped our vision of who we were– Young, angry, frustrated, desperate to face all the things we felt.”

And yes, they have watched the show with some of the friends, rivals and ex-girlfriends who are in the storyline. “We’re incredibly lucky in that we have an inner circle that we still talk to daily. Clea and Laura [cowriter Laura Kittrell] took some of that and put it in the show, so it doesn’t feel myopic. When our mom saw it she said ‘That doesn’t feel like me, but it does capture the essence of who I am as a parent’. That’s more what we aimed for.”

While developing the show, the twins began work on their new album “Crybaby,” which will be featured when they hit Royale tonight. Different from previous albums, it juggles indie-rock and pop elements without landing firmly on either side. “Every time Sara and I finish a record, we take everything we made, dismantle it and put it into storage. We’ve done pop music and for me, that is the Olympics of playing live — everything has to be perfect and everything is set to a click track. We crossed over to that world and we enjoyed it. But we wanted to get back to playing live being really fun. This album feels like Sara’s and my rebirth. We left our label, left our management and sat down with other and said, ‘Tell me what’s really happening in your world’.”

As a gesture of their new freedom, they’ve released a single with a naughty word in the title (and the probable followup has a different naughty word). “We do swear a lot on this record, and I don’t think that matters– People are becoming a little more unhinged and unleashed lately. We talked to Phoebe Bridgers who wanted [the title of the new single] to be the name of the album, but we drew the line there– You can’t put that on the Spotify billboard on Times Square. But in terms of radio, I doubt it matters — they don’t play many women over 25 anyway.”


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