A guide to the music and multifaceted career of Canadian artists and songwriters Tegan and Sara.
Through interviews with Tegan and Sara, their collaborators, journalists, and fans, this book explores the multifaceted career of one of music’s most celebrated sister duos, from their start as Neil Young’s protégés to Canadian indie-rock purveyors and, making their riskiest transformation yet, into mainstream pop breakouts.
Coming up as grunge-loving musicians in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Tegan and Sara found themselves awkwardly pushed into categories that didn’t quite fit: a novelty twin sister folk act when they wanted to be taken seriously; pop when they wanted to be indie rock; and sellouts when they finally made their bid for mainstream success. As young, queer musicians who didn’t see anyone else like themselves growing up (in a time where Internet access hadn’t yet formed global spaces and communities for LGBTQ+ people), Tegan and Sara’s path to pop stardom was filled with familiar hurdles, but no clear instructions on how to navigate things like homophobic press, niche queer audiences that wanted to claim them, or sexism at every turn.
It’s a journey with ups and downs, but Tegan and Sara’s perseverance—alongside a music industry and journalism world that’s had to learn to confront its own biases—has helped create a musical world today that more readily accepts and embraces queer voices. Featuring continuous sonic transformations, Tegan and Sara’s story is essential to Canadian music history.
Melody Lau is a music journalist based in Toronto. She is currently a producer at CBC Music. Before that, she was an online writer for MUCH and a regular contributor to Exclaim! Magazine. Her work has also been published in Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Nylon Magazine. She is a juror for the Polaris Music Prize, the Prism Prize, and has served as a judge at the Juno Awards.
“Lau approaches her subjects through a lens filled with curiosity and empathy, honed from more than 15 years working as a music journalist. Using first-person interviews with both Tegan and Sara to anchor the narrative, then adding secondary sources and sprinkling in personal observations, a story unfolds of these indie darlings whom Lau describes as: ‘pop’s invisible pioneers, queer forces who have fought long and hard to make a space for those who have been othered.’ … Here Lau explores the bigger story of how Tegan and Sara earned their place in Canadian popular culture: from grunge-loving teens finding their voices to 40-year-old veterans making melodic, intricate rock, who still have so much more to say.”—David McPherson, Toronto Star
“Music fans know Tegan and Sara as the wisecracking twin-sister duo with the catchy tunes who are committed to LGBTQ representation in the music industry and pop culture at large. Modern Heartthrobs delves deeper into the indie-pop pair’s nearly 25-year career, interrogating the sometimes sexist and homophobic media coverage in their early days before their rise to becoming fan favourites who carved out a path to musical success purely on their own terms.”—CBC Books
“With passion, curiosity, and profound empathy, Melody Lau is not just telling the story of Tegan and Sara’s music and career. She’s also telling the story about the story—how through the years these artists have been talked about, labeled, and misunderstood, sometimes even by their admirers. This book testifies to what their triumph over those obstacles means to so many people.”
—Carl Wilson, author of Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste
“In her brilliant debut, Melody Lau expertly makes the case for Tegan and Sara as under-appreciated geniuses. Lau’s writing is sharp, insightful, witty, and heartfelt, and brings us a richer and deeper understanding of the Quin sisters’ relationship to each other, their art, and the systemic barriers and obstacles they’ve navigated throughout 20+ years in music. This essential book is for everyone who loves great writing, excellent music, and subverting the patriarchy.”
—Andrea Warner, author of Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography and We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ’90s and Changed Canadian Music
“Tegan and Sara deserve more than just a biography. Melody Lau provides the sisters’ existing and future fans with a passionate, contextual examination of everything that makes the duo one of the stealthiest and strongest influences on not just modern pop music, but the way we talk about pop music itself.”
—Michael Barclay, author of Hearts on Fire: Six Years That Changed Canadian Music 2000-05