Some bands dream of rock stardom. Others, perhaps a bit too specifically, dream of Phil Collins.
Take Tegan, of Canadian indie-duo Tegan and Sara, for instance. By night, Tegan used to listen to "Groovy Kind of Love" and imagine herself sinking amid throngs of adoring soft-rockers. This fantasy world of tender ballads and Richard Marxian montage never got the best of her, though.
"It's funny, people will really push the point: 'You must have thought to yourself, I want to be a rock star or be in a band,' but I never did," Tegan says. "It was never me; it was just me pretending to be other people. When I figured out I could write music, it never actually occurred to me that it equaled 'them' or what 'they' were doing.
"I don't like to say we have low standards, 'cause we don't. We have high standards, but I didn't lay in my bed and dream, 'One day I'm gonna hang out with Madonna.'"
What Tegan and her identical twin sister Sara did was start playing the piano. By their teens, they began messing around on guitar and writing songs. Their parents always had influenced their musical leanings, giving them tastes for the classics: Pretenders, The Police, Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen.
But it was a radio station in their hometown of Calgary that introduced them to Dinosaur Jr., the Pixies and the Violent Femmes -- influences that have helped form the sound they continue to explore today.
On their latest album, So Jealous, a feisty blend of punk, New Wave and folk, you can easily detect traces of the greats. The Ramones pleasantly haunt songs such as "Speak Slow," and T&S's unique vocals, strangely enough, seem to mix Missing Persons and Cyndi Lauper. A punk spirit charges their run-on diary-tinted lyrics, too. The girls don't seem to bother with a whole lot of self-censorship.
"When I write, I always pretend it's never gonna be heard by anybody else," Tegan says.
As much as their songs revolve around troubles --mainly those of the love variety -- reassurances abound. "Walking With a Ghost" is a sex-rock strutter teeming with defiance ("No matter which way you go / No matter which way you stay / You're out of my mind / Out of my mind"), while "Fix You Up" delivers resignation like a pat on the head ("There's not a lot for you to give / If you're giving in").
"I think a lot of themes on this record, to me, were not so much shout-outs to other people," Tegan says, "but rather, I would take other people's experiences in my life and filter them through me, and as I would think of how I would feel in that situation, I give advice to myself. But it's really advice for other people."
After touring with the Killers and making some European appearances with Weezer, Tegan and Sara had only a week off before headlining their U.S. tour. Both went home: Tegan to Vancouver, Sara to Montreal.
Though the distance was difficult to work around at first, the two years they've lived apart from each other has provided them a chance to work from different perspectives.
The twin thing hasn't loosened its grip, though.
"Sometimes I used to feel so exasperated over why people were so interested in it," Tegan says. "But when I really thought about it, it is really weird -- that we were supposed to be one, but broke into two.
"Then you start thinking about all the different things that Sara has that I don't, and what I have that Sara doesn't -- the fact I think that the left side of my face is the better side, and she thinks the right side of hers is the better side. Sara and I truly believe that we are not complete ... that parts of us are missing because the other has it."
-- Sue Bell
Tegan and Sara with Communique and Marjorie Fair
Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway, Englewood
Saturday, July 30, 9 p.m.
Tickets: $15, all ages; visit gothictheatre.com for more.