The 10th anniversary has become a major event for musicians; a quick web search turns up pop-rockers like Metro Station, an EDM favorite like Bingo Players and singer-songwriters like Kate Nash and Jenny Lewis celebrating an album’s decade mark over the past couple of years.
For Tegan and Sara, the 10th anniversary of “The Con” is a celebration not just of a fan favorite, but of a transition. The collection that featured “Back in Your Head” and the title track was the first to make the Billboard 200 and helped spring the band into the mainstream of American music culture.
The twin sister duo is celebrating with an album-length rework, with covers by guests and friends like Shamir, MUNA and Ryan Adams, as well as an acoustic tour featuring a performance of the entire record and other Tegan and Sara favorites.
amNewYork spoke with Sara Quin about “The Con,” nostalgia and separation anxiety.
Before undertaking this project, when had been the last time you listened to “The Con” all the way through?
I haven’t done that for about ten years. I don’t know how all artists cope with making things and then only being able to hear the mistakes in them, but I know that for me, my defense mechanism is to spend an obsessive amount of time with something when creating it, and maybe then in the window after it’s released to the world, but after that it’s like I disown it. I’m sort of joking.
I love coming back to this album, because the time around “The Con” was extremely miserable for me, and I have enjoyed coming back to this with a sort of healthier mental head space. To be able to listen to these songs and get in and tinker with them a little bit has been really fun, and to be able to share an album of covers — it’s a really fun project for us, because it allows us to hear the songs new and also disconnect from the original recordings. It feels like these are songs, but they don’t necessarily exist only in their original recordings. They belong to someone else. There’s a freeing feeling to that.
So there was no separation anxiety in handing over these tracks to other artists to do with as they saw fit?
No. Actually, I felt the opposite, like “I’m so sorry that you had to cover this.” Our approach was really hands-off. Once we had an artist that was willing to do it, our goal was just to arrive with something. We said, “If you just want to turn on your iPhone and record yourself on a can of beans, go ahead. Because that’s how we demoed most of that album! But if you feel like doing something different … just cover the song however you want to do it — change lyrics, change the key, the tempo, don’t feel beholden to the original.” So any time someone would deliver their cover, I just felt very humbled and grateful.
How do you find the balance between the inherent nostalgia in an anniversary tour and creating something new?
We have eight albums of material now, and it’s been quite a stretch in terms of where we started from in 1999 and where we are now. We talk about this all the time: Do you put a bubble around the music as it was, and play it the same way, or do you bring everything up-to-date, to your most recent work? We talk about those kind of production and sonic things all the time. This project is kind of no different.
One of the ways we’re sort of circumventing all of that is by stripping it down. We’re not necessarily trying to play the songs as they were recorded, we’re taking an organic approach, because that’s what that album was.