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‘Closer’ to the mainstream

Tegan and Sara play Merriweather this weekend with fun.

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Tegan and Sarah, Gay News, Washington Blade, Music
Tegan and Sarah, Gay News, Washington Blade, Music

Tegan and Sarah say their decision to go in a more pop-friendly direction on their latest album was a conscious move. It paid-off with their highest selling album to date. (Photo by Lindsey Byrnes; courtesy Warner Bros.)

fun.
‘Most Nights Summer Tour’
With Tegan and Sara
Saturday
6:30 p.m.
Merriweather Post Pavilion
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD
$35-45
ournameisfun.com
teganandsara.com

This year has been undoubtedly the biggest of Tegan and Sara’s career.

Their album “Heartthrob” dropped in January and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 more than doubling the group’s previous peak for first-week sales. It went gold earlier this month in their native Canada. The Quin twins have been on a media blitz that included Ellen, Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel and even had their hit single “Closer” featured on “Glee.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etq2vdLieTM

Just before their HRC concert in New York next week (July 25), the lesbian sisters (now 33) are scheduled to play Merriweather Post Pavilion this weekend on the fun. “Most Nights Summer Tour,” which kicked off earlier this month in Toronto and runs through the end of September. We caught up with Tegan last week. Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

 

WASHINGTON BLADE: How’s the tour going?

TEGAN: It’s mostly been awesome, though we’ve only had one weekend so far.

 

BLADE: How do the crowds feel compared to your own headlining shows? Obviously there are a lot of people there psyched up for fun.’s set right?

TEGAN: Yeah, but it’s kind of hard to generalize. They have a real awesome music-loving audience. It’s more mainstream, yet still pretty awesome. You get up there and work your ass off to win them over but there’s been a lot of recognition when we play, especially the new stuff, the stuff that’s been on radio, so it’s been really good. They’re great allies and good friends of ours so we really enjoy doing it and it’s a really awesome opportunity for us.

 

BLADE: Do you have much interaction with them backstage?

TEGAN: We’ve known the guys for years and we even toured with Jack (Antonoff) on our last record for about three months, so we’re quite friendly and hang out with them but it’s a busy time for both bands. In the down time we’re trying to squeeze in a million things like radio stuff and meet and greets. But Sara and I watch the show every night. We have a courtesy mix set up at the side of the stage so we can hear the front-of-the-house mix there for us on a monitor. It feels like summer camp. It’s great.

 

BLADE: How long is your set?

TEGAN: We play 60 minutes. They play about 90.

 

BLADE: Any collaborations so far?

TEGAN: Not yet, but we’ve talked about it some. Our labels were pushing for some acoustic versions of each other’s songs but all of us have been busy so far, so we’ll see what happens.

 

BLADE: Other acts say U.S. pop radio is an especially tough nut to crack. “Closer” was a No. 1 dance hit here but didn’t quite crack the Hot 100. Do you think it’s harder to break a song here? If so, why?

TEGAN: It’s definitely really different in the U.S. It’s very unique. The life cycle of a single in the U.K. is six weeks and in Canada it’s three months. … It’s different too at different formats. We started mostly at college formats but have moved over to pop, which is great, it allows us to have a long life and good reach at radio. Sometimes we think as a band, “I can’t believe they’re still working that song.” But as a band, we don’t make singles, we make records so we’re very old school in that way, it’s just our instinct. Sometimes, yeah, we wish they could work another song but that said, each time we get added at another station, we see our fan base grow in that market and that’s really why we took things in that direction this time. We really wanted to change the face of mainstream radio. We’re queer and alternative but we also love pop songs and we felt it was time to see someone like ourselves represented in the mainstream. We’re reaching young audiences, these kind of queer, fringe, alternative kids and it’s really exciting. But it’s an expensive nut to crack. But I think it’s a cool time in pop music where you’re seeing more bands like fun. and f(x) who have broken into mainstream pop. I think it’s reflecting a lot more integrity than there’s been in years.

 

BLADE: You and Sara have talked a lot about consciously wanting to broaden your reach with this latest album. How much of the more pop-friendly sound is inherent in the songs themselves versus what the producer brings to the table?

TEGAN: I think it’s absolutely there in the foundation of the songs. Like with “Closer,” that was rebuilt about six times before we even got to the studio … which is where the song really takes flight, but the foundation and architecture, all that happens at home. But before we’d even hired a producer, we knew we were moving more in that direction. It’s still pretty emotional and dark but we knew we definitely wanted more pop instrumentation and really liked the idea of juxtaposing these dark scenes with more pop music. A lot of that comes from our background. We grew up listening to all this pop stuff from the ‘80s and ‘90s music.

 

BLADE: It’s easy to get you two mixed up — you’re the one with slightly more body in your hair, right?

TEGAN: Yes. I’m not quite sure how that happens but it’s interesting to see the slight differences in identical twins. My hair is a little curlier. Sara needed a retainer when she was 12, I didn’t.

 

BLADE: How much of your look — which appears pretty planned out to play on the whole twin visual — is discussed? Like if one of you wanted to grow your hair out or bleach it blonde, would you talk about it and discuss what kind of image you’re projecting as a band?

TEGAN: A lot of it just happens naturally without any big discussion. I actually did grow my hair out after the last album. Down to about my shoulders. And then when we were recording and filming and I started seeing photos I was like, “Ugh — too much hair” and I cut it short again. We have lots of jokes about the hair. Rihanna’s had this haircut at different times. Robyn. They used to say all lesbians had the haircut of Justin Beiber but we had this haircut way before anybody had even heard of him. … It’s definitely a different world then when we started. Even around, like, 2000, it was different. Now you get on stage and everybody pulls out their phones so we care more how we look than ever before. I mean, we’re still tomboys at heart, but we don’t want to look like bums. We care about fashion but also want to be comfortable on stage. I’m fine with short hair but I want something that’s low maintenance.

 

BLADE: What’s your discard song pile like? Is it full of stuff where you felt the hooks just weren’t quite tight enough to make the album or is part of making the song work tightening up the hooks as you go?

TEGAN: Honest truth, we wrote like 50 songs for this record. We were going through the pile just the other day thinking about maybe submitting some to some other artists and there were several we were like, “Wow, this is so good, how did we not choose this?” But there were others, like “Now I’m All Messed Up,” that were just such standouts even in demo form. Like everybody who heard “Closer,” it was just so obvious they were picking the same ones out as their favorites over and over. So a lot do get passed over but we also spend a lot of time perfecting and working it over, especially Sara. She’s really got the patience for it and she might spend 80 hours working on one song. I might do more like 20, it really just depends. Sometimes the song itself is a tough nut to crack. That’s why “Heartthrob” is such a different record for us. I tended to get to a point where I would struggle and Sara would come in and take a look at it and finish it. It just depends. The song to a large degree dictates where it’s going to go.

 

BLADE: So many great musical acts have been from Canada. Is there any sense of pride in that any more than if you’d all been from, say, Florida or Colorado or wherever?

TEGAN: I think so. When we were coming up, though, we were on the west coast and a lot of the up-and-coming acts, like Arcade Fire and Feist, they were all from Toronto and Montreal and we were out of Vancouver. But there’s definitely something really special there and I think a lot of the talent that comes out of Canada is really because the government helps so much with funding your records. We got a lot of grants along the way, really hundreds of thousands over the years, that allowed us to make videos and travel abroad. Even our managers were able to get grants. I think that’s part of why Canadian artists do so well is they feel so supported.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride Parade

Thousands attend annual LGBTQ march and block party

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A scene from the 2024 Baltimore Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party was held on Charles Street in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, June 15. 

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Sports

Washington Mystics to hold annual Pride game

Team to play Dallas Wings on Saturday

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Mystics will be having their upcoming Pride game on Saturday against the Dallas Wings.

The Mystics Pride game is one of the team’s theme nights they host every year, with Pride night being a recurring event. The team faced off against the Phoenix Mercury last June. Brittney Griner, who Russia released from a penal colony in December 2022 after a court convicted her of importing illegal drugs after customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage, attended the game. 

Unlike the NBA, where there are currently no openly LGBTQ players, there are multiple WNBA players who are out. Mystics players Emily Englster, Brittney Sykes, and Stefanie Dolson are all queer.

The Mystics on June 1 acknowledged Pride Month in a post to its X account.

“Celebrating Pride this month and every month,” reads the message.

The game is on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Entertainment and Sports Arena (1100 Oak Drive, S.E.). Fans can purchase special Pride tickets that come with exclusive Mystics Pride-themed jerseys. 

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Theater

Queers win big at 77th annual Tony Awards

‘Merrily We Roll Along’ among winners

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(Photo courtesy of the Tony Awards' Facebook page)

It was a banner night for queer theater artists at the 77th annual Tony Awards, honoring the best in Broadway theater at the Lincoln Center in New York on Sunday. Some of the biggest honors of the night went to the revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along” and the dance-musical based on Sufjan Stephens’ album “Illinoise.

“Merrily We Roll Along,” which follows three friends as their lives change over the course of 20 years, told in reverse chronological order, picked up the awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Orchestrations. 

Out actor Jonathan Groff picked up his first Tony Award for his leading role as Franklin Shepard in the show, while his costar Daniel Radcliffe earned his first Tony Award for featured performance as Charley Kringas. 

Groff gave a heartfelt and teary acceptance speech about how he used to watch the Tony Awards as a child in Lancaster County, Pa.

“Thank you for letting me dress up like Mary Poppins when I was three,” he said to his parents in the audience. “Even if they didn’t understand me, my family knew the life-saving power of fanning the flame of a young person’s passions without judgment.”

Groff also thanked the everyone in the production of “Spring Awakening,” where he made his Broadway debut in 2006, for inspiring him to come out at the age of 23.

“To actually be able to be a part of making theatre in this city, and just as much to be able to watch the work of this incredible community has been the greatest pleasure of my life,” he said. 

This was Groff’s third Tony nomination, having been previously nominated for his leading role in “Spring Awakening” and for his featured performance as King George III in “Hamilton.” 

Radcliffe, who is best known for starring in the “Harry Potter” series of movies, has long been an ally of the LGBTQ community, and has recently been known to spar with “Harry Potter” creator JK Rowling over her extreme opposition to trans rights on social media and in interviews. It was Radcliffe’s first Tony nomination and win.

Lesbian icon Sarah Paulson won her first Tony Award for her starring role in the play “Appropriate,” about a family coming to terms with the legacy of their slave-owning ancestors as they attempt to sell their late father’s estate. It was her first nomination and win.

In her acceptance speech, she thanked her partner Holland Taylor “for loving me.” Along with Paulson’s Emmy win for “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” she is halfway to EGOT status.

The Sufjan Stephens dance-musical “Illinoise,” based on his album of the same name, took home the award for Best Choreography for choreographer Justin Peck. It was his second win.

During the ceremony, the cast of “Illinoise” performed “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!”, a moving dance number about a queer romance.

A big winner of the night was the adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel “The Outsiders,” which dominated the musical categories, earning Best Director, Sound Design, Lighting Design, and Best Musical, which earned LGBTQ ally Angelina Jolie her first Tony Award.

Also a big winner was “Stereophonic,” which dominated the play categories, winning the awards for Best Play, Featured Actor, Director, Sound Design, and Scenic Design.

“Suffs,” a musical about the fight for women’s suffrage in the U.S., which acknowledges the lesbian relationship that suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt had in song called “If We Were Married,” took home awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, both for creator Shaina Taub. 

Had “Suffs” also won for Best Musical, producers Hilary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai would have won their first Tony Awards. 

Other winners include Maleah Joi Moon for her lead role and Kecia Lewis for her featured role in the Alicia Keys musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” Jeremy Strong for his lead role in An Enemy of the People, and Kara Young for her featured role in “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.”

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