Tegan And Sara Describe Their ‘Awkward’ Co-Writing On Sainthood Song

'It's one part of our career that we actually do alone,' Sara says of their first collaborative songwriting effort.

[artist id="1241933"]Tegan and Sara[/artist] have been a band for 14 years and six albums, but there’s one thing the twins have never tried until new album Sainthood: writing music together. On the just-released record, produced by Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie, the Decemberists, the Postal Service), the duo put their heads together to write “Paperback Head.”

Sara summed up the process with one word: “Awkward. Not just because it was Tegan, [but] I don’t think I would project a level of comfort with anyone. It’s such an intimate time. I’ve never approached music as a collaborative effort. It’s one part of our career that we actually do alone.”

“Only one song we collaborated on made the final 13,” Tegan said of “Paperback Head.” “But we wrote 51 songs, some together, some different. … It’s exciting to know there’s something to look forward to — that there will be more writing and collaboration.”

The sisters also collaborated to come up with the album’s title, Sara explained: “Tegan and I, because we write independently, always look to have our album titles be … not conceptual, but at least … ”

“Inclusive,” Tegan jumped in.

“Yeah, or thematically easy to take what Tegan’s talking about [or] what I’m talking about and have them under the same theme umbrella. … Sainthood was definitely not a religious title. We were thinking more well-behaved, devoted. When you set your sights on someone but it’s taken to the next level, your pursuit is of them but it’s also turned inward, like how you’re going to deal with pursuing this person and bettering yourself and projecting an image that you think is attractive to the person you’re pursuing.”

When we pointed out that obsession has always been a theme for Tegan and Sara, citing fan favorite “Living Room,” Tegan completely agreed. “Every time we start writing a new record, I always think, ‘OK, this is the record where I’m going to start exploring other topics,’ ” she said. “And then I’m like, ‘What other topics am I going to explore, really?’

“I mean, I did [explore] a bit on Sainthood. … ‘Hell,’ ‘Don’t Rush’ and ‘The Cure’ [all co-written with AFI's Hunter Burgan] I wrote about my neighborhood, which I used as a metaphor for my relationship. I tried to step outside, but it was still like masking my narcissism,” Tegan laughed.

“I don’t know about narcissism, but we grew up on love songs, and we grew up on the classic kind of pop songs that were written,” Sara added. “They’re torch songs.”

“Music is about love,” Tegan said. “Music is love. Music is the way you talk to the person you like.”

“Usually the bad parts of love — and by bad, I mean the soul-wrenching, heart-ripping-out parts of love,” Sara agreed.