Below is the unabridged version of this week’s column. The version printed in today’s issue of The Reader was cut by about 200 words and also includes an epilogue, which I didn’t feel was appropriate or justified. After the deadline passed (it’s all explained below), Sheila the publicist contacted The Reader explaining that Tegan & Sara were in Montana, out of cell range, and that she was busy at Coachella. Doesn’t really explain why no one replied to the numerous messages left on Tegan’s cell phone four days earlier, or why the numerous e-mails sent by me and Alissa asking for a resched were ignored. Believe me, they got the messages, but who wants to deal with a newspaper and website located in Podunk U.S.A. when Coachella’s going on? Also after the deadline, the record label e-mailed and offered to send The Reader T-shirts as penance for the oversight, which was acknowledged in the printed epilogue, and ignored.
Fact is, this stuff happens all the time, it’s part of the deal. Regardless, I still want to see Tegan & Sara tonight at Sokol Underground if I’m able.
Column 24: Searching for Tegan
Sometimes being a rock star means never answering your phone.No one ever said it was gonna be easy.I know that. I’ve always known that. You think the rock journalism thing is just a walk in the park clutching a handful of free CDs and all-access laminates? Think again. It means dealing with overworked publicists and burned-out “rock stars” in a lame attempt to glean a scintilla of profound insight on their music, whether there’s anything profound about it or not. That is if you can get them on the phone.You’ll notice that there isn’t a feature on Tegan & Sara in this issue of The Reader. It wasn’t an oversight by the editors. They know T&S are hot stuff. The dynamic duo currently are opening for a sold-out Killers tour. No, yours truly is to blame, but not entirely, actually maybe not at all.Let me explain something: When the editors throw out the assignments to us lackey writers, I’m always the first to say “me-me-me” when it comes to covering the hot under-the-radar indie musicians. With my experience why not try for the big fish like U2 or Paul McCartney or Neil Diamond? Because even if I was lucky enough to get them to talk (and not their faceless drummer or bassist), the interviews are so canned and formulaic that they add nothing to the story. They’re not going to give up anything they haven’t already given to Rolling Stone or Spin or The New York Times or any other national rag that is more important than The Reader will ever be.Up-and-coming indie musicians, on the other hand, are another story. They’re just getting used to talking to the press. Being interviewed by Rolling Stone is beyond their wildest dreams. The Reader may not be CMJ, but at least it’s distributed in the city that they’ll be playing in the coming weeks, and the last thing they want is to show up to a roomful of crickets at O’Leaver’s or Sokol Underground. On top of that, these guys are still excited about the whole rock ‘n’ roll thing — they feel lucky to be living in their own feces in the back of a shitty van, driving 10 hours a day eating nothing but Slim Jims and Red Bull, pissing in empty bottles so they don’t have to stop on the way. All for the chance to share their music with the masses. Translated: They’re not rock stars yet.Tegan & Sara seemed to fit into that category. Sure, they landed the Killers tour, but for the most part, they’re veritable unknowns, recognized only by the hip few who read Magnet, shop at The Antiquarium and listen to college radio or watch MTV2’s Subterranean. I had my hand way up when the assignment was offered.Here’s what happens next: We figure out who their publicist is, snag a press kit which includes a copy of their latest CD, and schedule a phone interview (i.e., “a phoner”). The Reader‘s hard-working super-talented assignment editor, Alissa Martin, took care of the first half as she always does. I eagerly e-mailed a request to Sheila Breen at Tag Team Media begging for an interview. She lined it up — noon PST Saturday April 23.With the date in my book, I burned Tegan & Sara’s latest, So Jealous, onto my i-Pod for intensive all-purpose listening. It’s hardly a chore. The CD is amazing — a retro-tinged classic that melds Til Tuesday and Missing Persons pop with a modern-day indie sensibility. And it rocks. Next up, research — study the press kit and glean info from the Internet all to find that one thing to hook the interview around. Maybe it’s the fact that Tegan and Sara Quin are twins, or that they’re both lesbians? Pretty obvious stuff. Or how ’bout the fact that they’re from Canada and record on Neil Young’s record label? Maybe ask them how the Killers tour is going and why Omaha was dropped.Then out of the blue, Sheila e-mails and cancels the Saturday interview. Seems the band will be in the middle of a photo shoot at that time. Can we reschedule? Sure, I say, anytime after 5:30 p.m. CT (I have a real job, you know). She immediately proposes 2 p.m. CT Monday. I explain the hour limitations again, and we reschedule for April 28 at 6:30 p.m. CT. I get the cell number, the time arrives, I have my questions in front of me and make the call… only to get a message that says, “Hi, this is Tegan & Sara, we’re away from the phone now…blah blah blah.” I leave a message and tell them I’ll try back — maybe they’re just out of cell range. But 10 minutes later I get the message again. And again and again. And after an hour, give up.
My pleading phone messages to Tegan & Sara, alas, went unanswered. As did my reschedule requests to Sheila Breen. Then it dawned on me. Maybe I misjudged Tegan & Sara. Maybe they’re bigger than I thought. Maybe they’ve crossed that unmarked boundary that divides the bands that need The Reader, from those that don’t. Maybe they’re rock stars after all.
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