Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is 'The Con' by Tegan and Sara.
Built on the perfume of new love and first heartbreaks, Tegan and Sara’s fifth album, ‘The Con’, enthralled a generation of outsiders just as they were coming of age. A perfect storm of anger, intrigue and sexual exasperation, ‘The Con’ provided a map through the complex intricacies of interpersonal relationships. To dismiss ’The Con’ as some sort of teenage manual, however, would be a mistake; at 27, the Quin twins were perfectly placed to assess their individual development and survey their successes and errors in judgement whilst their anger and regrets were still palpable in their minds. The weight of sharing a face with each other and the pressures of being in a band had only served to heightened these successes and failures. The death of their grandmother also cast a dark shadow across proceedings.
Death Cab For Cutie drummer Jason McGerr, ex- Weezer bassist Matt Sharp, AFI bassist Hunter Burgan and guitarist Kaki King were amongst the assembled musicians brought in to flesh out the songs. Death Cab For Cutie’s Christopher Walla (who co-produced the album) also appears on various instruments throughout. The strenuous nature of the period may be reflected by the fact that Sharp only appears on songs written by Sara, and Burgan on songs by Tegan.
However, this separation also serves to heighten the authenticity of the confusion contained within the songs to their betterment - the push and pull of broken hearts with fond memories spiked with regret, the starkness of being faced with your own mortality whilst grieving for family members and the amplified pressure to achieve and honour their legacy that that can bring. ‘The Con’ takes us on journeys to uncomfortable destinations with unrelenting care and detail. However, It is this honesty is what makes it so engaging.
We caught up with Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara back in February ahead of their show in Vicar St. and didn’t miss the opportunity to talk about the album's impending anniversary. Sara was more than happy to take a trip down memory lane and reflect and reappraise the material, even if some of the memories that album conjures up are less than happy.
“On one hand I can't believe it's ten years old, on the other hand it feels like it was twenty years ago - I don't know what that means,” says Sara. “I think that every artist wants to have an album - I don't want to say that defines them - but a beloved album, and you don't really know which album that's gonna be, or even if you are gonna get one of those."
She goes on to explain how the duo have come to accept "that there's always gonna be people who are into our older work or who actually hate our older work and love our new work, whatever, but I think that we've decided that ‘The Con’, probably is gonna be that beloved album.”
But why does ‘The Con’ still resonate so much with fans hard-core and fair-weather alike ten years on? “For a lot of people I think it's sort of that cross, that intersection- a lot of people who heard that record were sort of at the beginning of their adulthood/end of adolescence and I think it just impacted at the right time.”
Often acts that stop to reflect upon their career highs with a victory lap put their current creative activities in jeopardy, but for Sara the chance to re-examine the material is a welcome one.
“I'm proud of the album” she beams. “I think it's a great album and it makes me excited to celebrate it this year. We're gonna do some special stuff for it this year to honour the record.” While there are specific plans in place as yet, 'The Con’s birthday won’t go unmarked by Tegan and Sara.
“We don't wanna blow our load yet, but we've put together some ideas and we're trying to get them together so we can announce something soon. “
Sara also believes that thanks to the current state of world affairs the anniversary comes at the perfect time and the prospect of playing the songs again is unexpectedly appealing.
“I hadn't really thought too much about playing the record. Two years ago we repackaged 'So Jealous'. It was its tenth anniversary and we did more of a multi-media approach. but after doing ('Heartthrob') for four years and ('Love You To Death') for a year, there's something about the idea of going out there and performing songs from 'The Con' and almost taking the opposite approach to where we are at this moment, on this tour. It feels suddenly appealing, and maybe even in terms of the political climate and social climate it may be appropriate to go back to our roots and storytell and talk about what's happening in the world and have less of a pop show.”
Sara accepts that there is a certain irony about 'The Con' turning ten as it contains a song called Are You Ten Years Ago.
“If you'd asked us during that era if we would be around for another ten years I don't know if we would have said that we would” says Sara, before frankly adding, “that was a very challenging time in our career, potentially the most challenging time in our entire career.”
However, despite the emotional baggage surrounding that timeframe Sara Quin is grateful for the slow pressure emotional release that distance and time provides
“When I think about that record and when I think about touring it, it was a very sad and difficult part of my life and there is actually some part of me that really gets excited about being able to think about the album - not from that time. Going down 'The Con' rabbithole over the last couple of months, I've been like, 'great, these songs don't make me feel manically depressed anymore.'”
“I think when we were writing ['The Con'] both of us where in pretty bad places. We were both not in the relationships we wanted to be in and both of us were pretty heartbroken.
“So it's funny,” says Sara reflecting on the joy other people get from songs born out of the most turbulent time in her life. “I meet people who are like, 'oh my god, that record 'Dark Come Soon'. I used to listen to that and cry.' I think it is interesting when you talk to people about when they discovered music and what kind of significance it continues to play in your life. I have those records, I don't know if I'll ever have those records again. There's just certain music I'll just never get over, because it just happened right when something important to me was going on in my life.”
The plans with which Sara would not divulge to us included a guest covers album with the likes of Ryan Adams, Chvrches, Kelly Lee Owens Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Pvris, Cyndi Lauper and Shura delivering their take on their favourite tracks from ‘The Con’.