Calgary·Q&A

'We go back to high school so you don't have to:' Tegan of Tegan and Sara talks new book and future TV series

Calgary-raised pop duo Tegan and Sara's memoir High School will be turned into a television series thanks to Brad Pitt's production company. They will be at a Wordfest event tonight talking about their book.

The pair will appear on virtual Wordfest tonight in Calgary

Tegan and Sara's new album revisits and reinterprets songs the duo wrote when they were in high school. (Trevor Brady)

Pop duo Tegan and Sara, twins sisters who grew up in Calgary, have signed a deal to turn their best-selling memoir, High School, into a television series.

At 7 p.m. today, they're celebrating the launch of the paperback edition of their book in a free, virtual Wordfest event. 

Ahead of that event, Tegan Quin hopped on the line with The Homestretch's Doug Dirks to talk teenage angst, growing up and staying true to yourself. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Q: What made you decide to write a memoir?

A: I always say that high school for us was almost kind of like our college years because we didn't go to college.

We got a record deal right out of high school and just started touring.

High school was kind of a really significant, monumental time for us.

We figured out we were musicians. We were, you know, kind of left to our own devices a lot of the time. My parents worked full time and we got up to no good. We figured ourselves out. That's when we figured out we were queer.

It was a significant time and it was a time that kind of took place before the Internet really got going and social media got going. So it wasn't that well documented. And it just felt like a good thing to go back and document in our own words.

This cover image released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux shows High School, by Calgary duo Tegan and Sara Quin. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/The Associated Press)

Q: I understand you found all of this footage and old photos and old cassette tapes holding dozens of your earliest songs. So, what impact did that discovery have on the memoir in your ninth album?

A: Well, once I got through cringing and judging the way any normal person, healthy, normal person would, then I kind of became obsessed with it, I think. 

I think our memoir is extremely visual and visceral because we had so many amazing photos, videos, notes, journals to pull from. It's a really, really intense recap of that time in our lives. 

I think like most people, we'd written off the first things we'd done. 

And I think for Sara and I, it was really healing to realize even at 16 or 17 years old, we already had a sense of the melody and structure of songs, and we were already well on our way to crafting that Tegan and Sara sound that everybody knows now, and it just felt really deserving of a record.

The book and record came out at the same time — nearly broke us. It was very stressful to promote both at the same time, but I feel so thrilled a year later that they exist.

And I hope more people find both projects, because I think it's a really fun journey, and we go back to high school so you don't have to.

Q: The book, High School, is pretty raw and honest. Why did you choose to go there in it?

A: For us, it was super, super, super, super important to be as real as possible.

I think for Sara and I, if you know us or you meet us, you come to our show, you know that we're just kind of like ourselves. We haven't really changed that much. 

And I think we saw it as an opportunity to really reveal and pull back the layers and also, I don't know, maybe reassure young people or even people like our age or older that that we all kind of start out the same.

We all have to go through those awful adolescent years. Hormones tear through all of us. They make growing up really hard, high school stuff, figuring out who you are, tough, even when you're Tegan and Sara, even when you go on to be musicians and travel the world and get to do all the things we've done.

At our core we're still these kind of weird, awkward, you know, searching struggling teenagers. You never totally shift away from that. It just felt worthy of exploration.

Q: If you could, what kind of advice would you give to your teenage self?

A: I mean, straight up, I know it sounds like a line, but I would just say keep doing exactly what you're doing.

I know Sara struggled more than I did. You know, she really laboured over her sexuality. And also, when we started to become popular and get attention, she struggled with the adult influence on us as teenagers.

Basically, straight up, we just felt like adults came in and ruined everything. They made it into a job. It's like, you know, you've got to do interviews and press. You get a record deal and it's like all the fun of making music disappeared. 

I think I would just reassure us that we're on the right path. I wouldn't ruin the surprises ahead. I think I would just say you are following your instincts and you should continue to do so.

Q: Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B Entertainment, is going to make a TV series based on your book. How do you feel about that?

A: It's pretty cool. I mean, I'm not going to lie. 

It was a great pandemic perk that we had time to work with our very, very dear friend, Clea DuVall, an amazing actor who's moved into writing and directing, has a huge Christmas movie coming out in a couple of weeks with Kristen Stewart in the lead.

And she read the book and called us and said, "I'm not saying this because I'm your friend. I think this is really great. You should believe in yourselves. You should help to create a TV show. You should still be in control of these stories."

Obviously, Sara and I were thrilled at the prospect and we are thrilled to be part of the Plan B, thrilled to have Amazon as a producer and to be hopefully making this, fingers crossed, maybe next year.

One of the things we love so much about the companies we chose is that they were all adamant it should be shot in Calgary. So, I'm like, if everyone in Calgary could just collectively cross their fingers, let's hope that we get a green light.

We could write a great pilot and and the show gets made.

Q: What can people expect tonight from this Wordfest virtual event, tonight at 7 p.m.?

A: Well, I mean, anyone who even remotely is familiar with Sara and I know we love to chat and we love pretty much, at this point, I mean, we are musicians and writers, wrote a book, obviously, but we think of ourselves really as comedians. 

So, I would expect some laughter and cheer. 


With files from The Homestretch.

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