TOBIN: I realized the other day that I've never heard you talk about your siblings.
KATHY: That's because I don't have any.
KATHY: No, I'm just kidding.
KATHY: I've got an older sister, a year older than me, and I've got a younger brother, about four years younger than me. I can never remember how old he is. Maybe 28? My family is just not very close. I talk to my brother maybe once every other month. He'll periodically text me for random advice such as, "Where do I buy designer jeans?" I don't know. [BOTH LAUGH] And with my sister, we don't know each other very well because, I'm not proud of this Tobin, we got into a fight in middle school. I can't remember now for the life of me what the fight was about. But I was in a phase where when I didn't like somebody, I pretended they did not exist in my life.
TOBIN: Yeah, I like how you say phase as if it came to an end.
KATHY: [LAUGHING] It did! It did come to an end! I don't know what happened, but I just didn't talk to her for the next 10 years.
TOBIN: Ten years?!
TOBIN: Like 10 years of just not acknowledging each other at all.
KATHY: Yeah... I am working on it. When it's family dinner time we talk.
KATHY: I ask her about her dog, who I love, I really love the dog. But ya know...To be fair, I feel like my parents should have put an end to it, but they did not.
TOBIN: OK, blame it on the parents. [BOTH LAUGH]
[THEME MUSIC STARTS]
VOX 1: From WNYC Studios this is Nancy.
VOX 2: With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
TOBIN: I can't believe you didn't speak to your sister for 10 years. That's such a long time!
KATHY: I know I know, but like we're still sisters and we're always gonna be sisters and, it's like in that kind of relationship you just grow apart and you come back together and it just evolves.
KATHY: So, perfect example, we had this story come in from radio producer Abby Holtzman.
JOSH: I feel like doing this while driving is kind of dangerous
ABBY: No, it's fine.
KATHY: This is Abby and her brother Josh. When they were teenagers, they just did not get along.
JOSH: Why were you so grumpy all those years back?
ABBY: I was going through my own stuff, trying to figure out who I was, feeling like I didn't fit in, wasn't feminine enough. And just like having that be part of the things that made me feel isolated. But yeah, I think I also felt that you got a lot more attention and that our parents just like were way more interested in you and everything that you did.
JOSH: Yeah, I remember I had a lot of social trouble back then and, you know, despite all those troubles, I thought I was also getting too much attention. I didn't really see that anything was up with me until a little later, but that...
ABBY: So what would you say is up with you?
JOSH: I think I've just always had a little trouble, socially, connecting.
ABBY: And what did you think I was like?
JOSH: You always just seemed, almost always angry or annoyed at something. Most of the time it was me though. I think, I think that was partially justified but I think there were some times where I just wasn't doing anything and you just took out a lot of stuff on me.
KATHY: So eventually Abby goes away to college and comes out as queer, starts wearing suit jackets, flannel shirts, that kind of stuff. A couple years later, Josh actually comes out too. But they still don't think they have that much in common, until...
ABBY: A few Thanksgivings ago, I was really excited to show up at my family's Thanksgiving gathering so I put on this outfit that was my favorite outfit at the time. It was like this suit jacket, this pinstripe suit, and these like cool pants and these green shoes. And I show up and there are like 35 relatives sitting there and I go to hug my brother and he's also wearing a suit jacket and my mom in front of everyone, she's like...
JOSH: "You're my androgynous twins!" Or something like that, right?
ABBY: It's like, "Here they are! My androgynous twins!"
ABBY: And I was like, oh my god. It was super embarrassing because I suddenly felt just so self-conscious in a way that I hadn't been before. But I don't know, I kind of started liking it. Like I liked being able to be androgynous, and like break those rules.
[GUITAR MUSIC STARTS]
KATHY: If you see a picture of Abby and Josh now, it's not just that they wear the same clothes. They look like actual twins. Same curly brown hair, same nose, same eyes, it's uncanny.
ABBY: We’ve been called “Hey boys, what do you want to order?” at a restaurant. Or like “Boys seat yourself” at a movie theater or something. But we both showed up at a Brandi Carlilse concert and we both showed up in like matching plaid button-downs. And the woman who was taking our tickets said, do you remember what she said?
JOSH: She said “Come on in, ladies”.
ABBY: Yeah. That felt good to me.
ABBY: I think looking alike made us feel closer and do more things together. So I don't think that it was ever a proxy for closeness, but I do think it was the beginning of a much longer journey.
JOSH: Now we're both able to laugh at each other for who we were and able to move on.
ABBY: Do you remember when we started talking about ourselves as a superhero team?
JOSH: Yeah I think that was me because The Androgynous Twins sounded like, like you remember the old types of shows like The Wonder Twins.
ABBY: Do you remember when we started coming up to each other and doing a fist bump. Do you remember what we'd say?
ABBY & JOSH: Androgynous Twins, unite! [BOTH LAUGH]
KATHY: That was Abby and Josh Holtzman. Abby is a radio producer in Washington DC. Josh is in his first semester at Oberlin College.
KATHY: Coming up after the break, we talk to maybe the most famous pair of queer siblings out there: Tegan and Sara.
TOBIN: We had such an amazing conversation with them. We talked about revisiting one of their breakthrough albums...
KATHY: ...being part of the lesbian cannon...
TOBIN: Oh and making sure people know they're queer as hell.
SARA: I hate when people will say "You're just like us, you're just normal like straight people" and I'm like "Fuck normal I'm not normal! I'm anti-normal!"
VOX: Nancy will be back in a minute.
KATHY: And we're back.
TOBIN: We are back with such an exciting interview.
KATHY: Yeah! We got to talk to queer superstars, Tegan and Sara!
TOBIN: Mother-fudging Tegan & Sara!
["CLOSER" FADES IN]
All I wanna get is, a little bit closer.
All I wanna know is, can you come a little closer?
["CLOSER" FADES OUT]
KATHY: Honestly, where do we even start with Tegan and Sara? I mean, they're twin sisters from Canada who have their own indie pop band.
TOBIN: And for close to 20 years they've been some of the most visibly queer musicians out there. This year is the 10th anniversary of their breakthrough album, The Con, which brought them from Canadian obscurity into the mainstream.
KATHY: And we are very big fans.
TOBIN: Very big fans.
TOBIN: So when we heard they were passing through New York a couple weeks back, we jumped at the opportunity to talk with them.
KATHY: We met up in their dressing room backstage, which was really more of a trailer in the parking lot of Citi Field. And because our producer Matt made us turn off the AC to get quote-unquote better sound, it quickly became a very hot trailer.
TEGAN: There's five of us in this and the three of you, you're all visibly sweating, you're dripping sweat. And notice -- like, you describe us.
TOBIN: You guys are like pristine. You are photo ready right now!
TEGAN: I don't know what to tell you, we just don't sweat.
TOBIN: I realize we didn't have you introduce yourselves.
TEGAN: This is Tegan.
SARA: And I'm Sara.
TOBIN: Can we talk about The Con a little bit?
TOBIN: So you guys are coming up on the 10 year anniversary. I'm wondering what has changed for you in the 10 years since that album?
TEGAN: Ahh nothing.
SARA: You know it's one of those things where I mean just from a professional standpoint it's an interesting record to reflect on because for me it's it was a tremendously depressing time and I think not uncommon to probably most folks in their late 20s where I always like to sum it up as saying like just death and taxes you know. Like all of a sudden we were starting to have a foothold in our career but that was incredibly stressful in terms of financial and sort of monetary expectations and responsibilities. And I think a lot of that made it into the sort of like general feelings of I don't know sadness and melancholy that sort of permeates that record. So how has that changed? I mean I don't know that it's necessarily changed but in the 10 years I think we certainly have developed coping strategies.
KATHY: Have your fans changed?
TEGAN: It's a good question.
SARA: They're older.
TOBIN: [LAUGHING] Yeah.
TEGAN: Yeah I mean I think you know, this is our record that we're touring right now is our eighth record and this is our 19th year being like an official signed band. I think our audience, a lot of those core people I think are still with us even if they aren't able to see a million shows or they're not following us as religiously online because they grew up and have families and lives and stuff, but I do think that a lot of the core people are there and I see that them and I feel their essence still in the audience.
TOBIN: I'm wondering like for the two of you I think part of the intimacy part of your fans claiming you so hard is like you are in this lesbian canon of like, you know, stuff that is part of like the rite of passage.
KATHY: Is that weird to be a part of? You're up there with The L Word.
TEGAN: Proudly. [KATHY LAUGHS]
TOBIN: I wonder what that feels like now especially like you're talking about people demand more of like tell me about your life let me see all the Instagrams and the tweets and it just gets really intense.
SARA: I mean I'll be honest in 20 years we go through phases like I think in the beginning that sort of possessiveness or that sort of what is often felt like actually being sort of like marginalized or sort of like put in this like gay box or whatever it was, actually was something we actually resisted. And I think that was less about our not wanting to connect with our queer fans or a lack of pride or something about being queer. I think it was more about oh no we don't want to be just another band that couldn't break into the mainstream. But as our audience has diversified but in fact I find that with increased visual visibility and you know being able to go on TV or radio or whatever in ways that we weren’t able to 10 years ago, now I feel like I want to play with my persona in a different way and I want to talk about being queer all the time. Because I think when we were like in the underground I was like yeah yeah yeah we're queer God who cares we're in the underground like who gives a shit. Whereas now that we're in the mainstream I don't want to assimilate and I don't want to, I hate when people will say, "You're just like us you're just normal like straight people and I'm like fuck normal! I'm anti normal! [ALL LAUGH] In fact I feel like I've become much more rigid about about not checking those boxes. I want to be as gay as I can be really.
TEGAN: There is definitely a heightened interest in knowing more about us and I think social media has definitely put a lot of pressure on artists in general. There's a lot more prying, which I think when you become a bigger artist, people are interested in the layers underneath the music and I'm so jealous of artists who are like, I refuse to talk about the meanings of my songs. You do your homework, listen to it, what does it mean to you? You know I love that. We can't do that. We're already too far in. It would just seem insane for us to be like you know what, for us to be like 19 years into our record, we're not going to do any interviews. People will be like what is happening. And then on the other end of the spectrum our fans are like they want to know who we're dating and what our relationships are like. And Sara and I have had to set boundaries internally like as our band has grown and the visibility has increased. We've had to, without appearing closed, to sort of take some steps back and say, hold on a second, just because some artists are willing to reveal everything about themselves doesn't mean we have to. There has to be a part of us that remains private. And I agree with Sara, we don't want to normalize us because, I like, the thing I love about being queer is that I do feel different than everybody else and I love that and embrace that. But we've had to learn how to like expose enough of ourselves to make you feel like you got to know us without sharing too much and keeping this other part of us.
TOBIN: So I'm curious in this moment where you're sort of deciding what you will and won't talk about. Is that different for the two of you? So like Tegan, are there things that you would rather keep private? Or Sara, are there things that you would you want to talk about more? You know how is that different for the two of you?
TEGAN: I think that there actually are things that are different between us and we definitely have talked about it. A couple of those things I would never even disclose what they are. But we've definitely had boundary talks about what we are comfortable with. Like this last album, a lot of the songs that Sara had contributed, she talked about our relationship and struggles that we've had as siblings being in a band together for 20 years, which I'm really comfortable with. But we talked about it beforehand about where we were with what kind of disclosures we were were comfortable with. For me, I've had my privacy, like I've had the line crossed much more than Sara. For whatever reason, I seem to attract the more obsessive and or have just been the one that's been accessed more and like had a lot of people imitating me and carrying on relationships online pretending to be me and catfishing in my name. So I tend to be even more than I've ever been, more paranoid and I share very little.
SARA: I’m like, I'm a more complex version so it's harder to duplicate me. They’re like, Sara is definitely more prickly, like let's go with Tegan she's friendlier.
TEGAN: I was thinking about this recently. Sara does share like, Sara's got two cats and Sara's a little more open. She's been in a much longer relationship you know committed partnership and so they do know a little more about her and I wonder if that's made them...while Sara is considered to be more quiet or more introverted by some of the fans, like they do have more of a picture of what her life looks like. And I wonder if the pulling back that I've done systematically over the years because of some of the, like you know people imitating and whatever, like I feel like I've become a little more secretive or a little more like stoic about like I'm not going to let people in. And I wonder if that just causes more like I want to know more. Which is crazy because I see myself as an open book, but I definitely feel like for me there are things that I've just drawn the line at. I think at some point I will want to talk more. Maybe it'll take a different form, like maybe it won't be music it will be a book or something. But like I want to talk about my life. I don't want to make stupid artistic contributions that don't dig beneath the surface. And sometimes unfortunately the collateral damage of that is people who were in your life and making decisions and doing things. I always want to do it in a respectful way and I don't always know that I did it in a consensual way in some of my music and art, but I am trying really hard to, without saying I'm going to neuter myself and not talk about things. You guys must relate deeply - I mean you talk incredibly personally on your own mean we care about your families and your experience. I mean you must understand.
KATHY: I was thinking like, let's take some tips before anything weird happens.
TOBIN: Well, I feel like we when we talk about personal stuff, I mean it must be similar to writing a song. You are also still curating a little bit.
TEGAN & SARA: Sure. Of course.
TOBIN: Like, here's the story but I'm going to tell you the version of the story that I am interested in telling you.
SARA: By the way I always say that to my mom I'm like, ugh, I mean I could have told the real details, I mean I gave like a very Reader's Digest version of what happened. [ALL LAUGH] But like the reality is is that, and I really believe this and this is where I sort of draw the line, I believe as artists or as people who are putting things into the world, I would rather put something ugly and upset people and have it be true than create something to the point where what even is it? Is it fiction now because it's just like completely sanitized?
TEGAN: Or maybe what it really comes down to is, too, is what is the intention? And I think ultimately whether it's a book or a podcast or a story or a radio show or a tale on stage or a song, if the intention is to connect, if the intention is you know catharsis, if the intention is to inspire, then I think it's okay. I mean and the boundary changes and always will. And our families and friends and everyone else will just have to accept it, you know. But if the intention of course is to create an experience that is not honest and true well then then you have work to do after the fact.
[THEME MUSIC STARTS]
KATHY: Tegan and Sara are sisters, musicians, and queer icons. We'll post some very sweaty pictures of the four of backstage on all our social media channels.
TOBIN: I would say that we are glistening.
KATHY: Ok sure, sure.
TOBIN: You can find us @nancypodcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all the places. And now it is credits time.
KATHY: Our producer...
TOBIN: Matt Collette!
KATHY: Sound designer...
TOBIN: Jeremy Bloom!
TOBIN: Elisabeth Dee!
TOBIN: Jenny Lawton!
KATHY: Executive Producer...
TOBIN: Paula Szuchman!
KATHY: I'm Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: I'm Tobin Low.
KATHY: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
[CREDITS MUSIC ENDS]
TOBIN: Were you here when Matt found out that Sabrina's being rebooted as a dark spin-off and he...
KATHY: You mean did I hear Matt make a noise I've never heard him make before?
TOBIN: It was as if all of the air got sucked out of the office.
TOBIN: It was the gay gasp heard 'round the world.