Concert preview: Tegan and Sara talk earworms and puppies

Elizabeth Weinstein, Columbus Alive contributor

If you came of age - or questioned your sexual orientation - in the late 1990s and early 2000s, chances are good that you also spent many hours lip syncing in front of your mirror to the music of Tegan and Sara. Or maybe that's just me.

With their confessional lyrics, indie-rock sound, funky haircuts and out-and-proud attitude, Canadian 36-year-old identical twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin captured the hearts and minds of many a queer or questioning teen when they entered the scene, way before being an out-and-proud musician was cool, or even safe, career-wise.

Their first few albums -Under Feet Like Ours (1999),This Business of Art (2000) andIf It Was You (2002) - earned them a devoted cult following, and on subsequent albums (including 2013'sHeartthrob), they inched closer and closer to pop stardom. Their new album,Love You to Death, is their poppiest, most danceable one yet. Released by Vapor Records (an imprint of Warner Bros.) in June, it is filled with the sisters' finely honed blend of relatable themes (love, heartbreak, social justice), catchy beats and killer hooks that can be hard to shake from your brain.

In a phone interview, I asked Tegan Quin about everything from earworms and puppies to fan interactions and marriage equality.

You have a talent for crafting catchy tracks. Was there a song onLove You to Death that you just knew would be an earworm as you were writing it?

Well, the truth is that not much has changed from the way that I wrote when I was a teenager to now. Obviously, I feel like my craft has grown. We've been doing this for over 20 years now, so I feel like I have a pretty good formula for what I know works and what doesn't work. Some songs I write, I'll spend 30 hours on them and then walk away if I'm not able to create the melody. It's devastating. It's got to be memorable and it's got to be unforgettable, and not every song can be that.

After all of these years touring the world, have you developed any tour rituals? Places you like to go or things you like to do in each city you visit?

Oh yeah, for sure. A lot of times all I'm really looking for is an amazing place to eat that locals love, and then to just wander around for a few hours. I feel like we are slowly building an inventory of where to go. I also love to hit people up on Twitter. I'll do a shout out and ask, "Where should we go? What should we do?" It's so funny because then someone will always respond with, "Why don't you just look it up on Yelp?" And I'll be like, "We're looking for personal recommendations!"

When I saw you in concert in 2013, you had mailboxes at each venue for fans to tell their stories. What did you learn from reading those letters?

We still have the mailboxes and we encourage people to not only share their stories, but if they want to leave a postcard, Sara draws or we'll write on it and send it back to them. We love that fan interaction. We try to do radio and record store performances so we can continue to hear fans' stories and see their faces and connect with them. It allows us to loosen up and do fun things that aren't related to putting on a big show. Most people are just wanting to share experiences they have had with our music - whether it's sharing their coming out stories, or projects they are working on, or [telling us] how we help make them feel proud of themselves because we're so open about who we are.

At your concerts, I've noticed a trend: At least half of the audience is sporting Tegan and Sara hairstyles, either from the past or present. What does it feel like to look out into a crowd and see your style reflected in that sea of people?

I think it's hilarious that we get so much credit for these things, like mullets and asymmetrical haircuts. Obviously, we're influenced by different things and people in the art community and the fashion world - and men's fashion, specifically. So I can't really take credit most of the time for what's happening. Although, I've been sporting a double pony lately, and that's uniquely my own. [Laughs.]

My favorite song onLove You to Death may be Sara's "BWU," which seems like the ultimate marriage equality song. What does the song mean to you? And what's the reaction been like?

When Sara sent me the song, I was really excited. We are both very vocal that we want to see, in our lifetime, around the world, all rights extended to everyone, including the LGBT community. Obviously, marriage equality is a big one. I think "BWU" is more about weddings and less about marriage.

Because we were excluded from weddings and marriage for such a long time, we were on the front lines in the fight for equality and marriage rights. But when it comes to weddings, and now that we can marry our partners, [people assume we are like], "Now we have the same rights! Yay! I want to be a part of the club!" But we weren't a part of the club for a long time. And a lot of people weren't rallying behind us. There's a part of me that's definitely rejecting the mainstream pressure to conform and have a life just like everyone else.

On a lighter note: Do you have a favorite canine from thevideo for "100x" (directed by dog groomer and videographer Jess Rona)?

Yeah! [Laughs.] In the first shot, when you go to the bridge and I'm sitting on a couch holding a [Chihuahua named Chooch], that was my favorite dog. After the shoot, I was like, "Maybe I need a dog. Maybe I should get, like, this dog. This is my inner dog-self." The dog was just like the cutest thing ever. Her owner was like, "Oh, she's a functional support dog for other people. She just goes for people and sits on their lap and has a calming energy."

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Express Live

7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25

405 Neil Ave.,

Arena District