Tegan and Sara Quin are fixtures of the queer indie-rock canon, but that hasn’t always been the case. In High School: A Memoir, the Canadian-born twin sisters delve deep into their formative years, tackling everything from first loves to coming out to launching their music career from the ground up. As they recall their adolescence and young adulthood through alternating first-person chapters, the duo offer fans an intimate look at the lived experiences that made the siblings the legends they are today.
Below, six intriguing tidbits you might not have known about Tegan and Sara, all of which they reveal in High School.
(Side note: The Quin sisters will also release Hey, I’m Just Like You, a new album featuring reworked versions of songs they penned as teens, this Friday, September 27.)
“Tegan and Sara” wasn’t their band’s original name.
Before the Quin sisters introduced the world to Tegan and Sara, they performed as “Sara and Tegan.” Super-savvy T&S fans might already know this, as Under Feet Like Ours, the sisters’ debut studio album, was initially released in 1999 under the latter name. The name change was largely a practical one, because as Sara and Tegan the group was often confused as a solo act called Sara Antegan.
Long before a proper album release was in the cards, though, the sister act went by a lesser-known one-word moniker: Plunk.
As teens, they did a lot of drugs.GIPHY
That said, it’s worth noting that these two punk kids cleaned up their acts after graduating from high school when their mother, Sonia, insisted they refrain from signing with a record label and quit using drugs recreationally to prove how serious they were about their music career. They held up their end of the bargain, and the rest is herstory.
Their OG musical idol? Kurt Cobain.Kevin Mazur/WireImage
The Nirvana frontman was the Quin sisters’ “hero,” and when he committed suicide in 1994, both Tegan and Sara were absolutely crushed. His death at age 27 also coincided with the passing of their step-grandfather, Ed. When they attended his funeral on the day after Cobain’s death, they felt like they were mourning the loss of the grunge icon, too.
Tegan and Sara have never been here for homophobia.GIPHY
Long before they individually came out, both Tegan and Sara stood up and spoke out when they heard homophobic or sexist remarks. In one memorable chapter from High School, Tegan remembers pushing back as a teen when their stepfather, Bruce, called Cobain a “faggot” for wearing eyeliner in a Nirvana poster.
“You know people call us weird every single day,” she told Bruce. “We get made fun of for being different all the time… Would you like it if someone were calling us dykes? Because they already call us freaks and fuck-ups because of how we look.”
Their stepfather apologized and promised never to use anti-gay slurs again.
Sara was outed to their family first… by a hickey.GIPHY
Though both sisters realized they weren’t straight as teens, Sara was the first to formally come out to their mother. But her coming out didn’t go exactly as planned: Sonia connected the dots when she realized Zoe—Sara’s “friend” who was newly single and often slept over—had a visible hickey on her neck. (Oof.) Though the initial mother-daughter confrontation was rocky, they smoothed things over fairly quickly. In fact, as Sara notes, Zoe and her mother later became friendly:
Years later, Mom told me that was the moment she realized I would be okay. Watching Zoe and I dance together, she could see for the first time that I was truly happy.
Maybe, she admitted, happier than I’ve ever been in my own life.
The pair’s first “big break” came at a Canadian indie-rock contest called Garage Warz.GIPHY
During the Quin sisters’ grade 12—the Canadian equivalent of an American senior year—the pair were encouraged by family and friends to submit a homemade cassette tape of their original tunes to Garage Warz, a local battle of the bands for college students. The grand prize? “Gigs + Plenty o’ Quality Studio Time,” Sara recalls.
Despite being too young to drink and still in high school, Tegan and Sara won the Calgary-based competition in 1998, making them heroes in their small hometown. They cashed in their studio session prize to record The Yellow Tape, their first demo.
Fun fact: You can actually find local news coverage of their win at the tender age of 17 on YouTube. As grassroots as it gets, folks!
High School is available now through MCD.