Tegan and Sara learned lessons in minimalism and simplification when they made their last record, 2013’s Heartthrob, and traded guitar-driven indie-rock upbeat synth-pop. They worked with three producers, one of whom was Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia, Kelly Clarkson), and gradually adapted to a streamlined process. When they began work on its follow-up, Love You to Death, due out June 3rd, they took the approach even farther.
“There was just me, Tegan and Greg, we didn’t have any other musicians play on the record,” Sara Quin says. “We didn’t collaborate with anybody; we didn’t go to any studios; we didn’t go to Jamaica to write in a house – we just got up every day, recorded, went home and ate dinner. It was just the three of us.”
Quin points to the album’s dancey, almost new-wavey lead single “Boyfriend,” a song about a budding relationship, as a perfect example of how the trio collaborated. She’d challenged herself to write a “classic pop song” but wasn’t feeling confident about it when she presented it to Kurstin. “He was like, ‘I understand why you’re feeling frustrated by this one, but once we strip away what’s there and re-approach the instrumentation, the song itself is great.’ He had to part that cloud for me; I was stuck on my original arrangement but then it was suddenly like, ‘Oh shit, this could be a single.'”
Together, the duo and producer recorded 10 new poppy tunes in total about love and relationships for Love You to Death, including the Quins’ own sibling relationship. “Since things are so good between us,” Sara says of songs like “White Knuckles,” “it’s easier to look back at times when it was really bad between us.”
Overall, Sara is most proud of how efficiently they made it. “I look at the credits for some of these [pop] records, and I’m like, ‘Holy shit. That’s a lot of people,'” she says. “For us, making pop music has meant a very, sort of a refined approach to music, and I love it. It feels sort of sneaky. When we were in the middle of making the record, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, like, five people have heard this music. When we finally play it for people, they’re going to be the first people to hear it.'”