TOUR EXCLUSIVE: Tegan & Sara & Hayley Backstage!

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Sara Quin, Hayley Williams, Tegan Quin / Photo by D.L. Anderson
WRITTEN BY
Grayson Currin

Paramore and Tegan and Sara are touring together all summer, sharing more than 30 stages across America and spending lots of time hanging out backstage.

But what, exactly, do Hayley Williams, the flame-haired singer for the Tennessee pop-punk band, and Canadian twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin talk about? What else: Romantic relationships, the hardships of being a girl in the music biz, and... Barbie Dolls.

Before last week's opening date of the Honda Civic Tour in Raleigh, NC, (read SPIN's concert review here) the three huddled together to chat with SPIN.com about their lives. Williams carried a present from a fan: a SpongeBob SquarePants Barbie Doll still in its package. It's not her first.

"I have only like 20 right now," said Williams. "That's a lot of Barbies for a 21-year-old."

"20 more than I have," said Sara, 30.[Laughs.]

Read on for more of the trio's wholly fun and entertaining backstage conversation:

SPIN: When did Paramore first meet Tegan & Sara?
TQ: We met at Chad [Gilbert, New Found Glory guitarist and Williams' boyfriend]'s house. I was doing a lot of things, specifically chasing Lindsey, my girlfriend at the time. I was trying to convert her, and I successfully did. Chad's house helped with that, so thank you for that. Love prevailed. We met through Hayley's boyfriend -- Do you guys talk about that? Is it OK to stay that?HW: Oh yeah, of course. I'm actually a real person with a boyfriend.
SQ: And then it was in Nashville that we met. We were doing a headlining show at the Ryman. We had played there one other time, but this was the first time we were headlining. So it was an exciting night, and Hayley was there to support.TQ: She booed the whole show. She was very, very drunk.
HW: I was. I was wasted.
TQ: She came down in like this weird swinging harness, like this Cirque du Soleil thing. "Make it about you, Hayley."[Laughs].
SQ: No, you were so lovely. We thought you were so sweet, and after the show we were like, "I wanna crush her she's so cute."
TQ: We were all really excited to do the tour. I'd only met you, and I think that's when Sara stopped complaining about having to do the tour. Just kidding.
HW: That was a good show, though. I brought a lot of friends and a lot of them had never seen you guys or heard a lot of your music.

SPIN: Hayley, Why did you ask Tegan and Sara to come on this tour?
HW: Honestly, a lot of my friends got me into you guys a while ago, people I met when we first started touring. We never tour with girls, and I guess there's not a lot of girl singers I just love.
TQ: You could've asked Rihanna.
HW: Oh, that's true.
SQ: Or, Cher. [Laughs].
HW: There's not a whole lot of females right now in music where I'm like, "I want to play with those people." This tour is a really big deal for us, and I wanted to have a band that has been around long enough to establish something important. I wanted an important band.
TQ: You wanted to siphon our importance.
HW: I did. I wanted to steal it. I want to watch how you guys sing every night and take that as well.
SQ: It's so sweet that you say that because that's how we always look at the bands that are opening for us. We always think, "What will appeal to our audience? What will make an impression on them in a positive way?" We always try to bring out girls. We got into a phase of bringing out people that were doing alternative hip-hop, because we wanted to open up some of these kids' minds to something outside of rock music. I think that's so cool that you do that, too.
HW: We've never really brought out much other music than rock music. Honestly, you guys are probably the most outside-of-the-box band that we've toured with for so long.

SPIN: Are you nervous for Tegan and Sara?
HW: No, I'm not nervous for them at all. Our fans are so psyched. On our LiveJournal -- not to creep you out -- there are little icons for people that write in messages, and all of them are Tegan and Sara's faces, all blown up. I see you guys every day, multiple times a day in pictures that you probably hate but everyone else loves.
SQ: Does that happen to you, where people really obsess over images that you wish they'd stop seeing?
HW: Oh, I hate it. This is going to sound like I care way too much because I totally don't, but I went through a little phase where I kept gaining weight on the road. I see photos from that little phase, and I'm like, "Those are the fat days." But those are the pictures that people save. That makes me feel good at the same time.
SQ: It's probably that you looked really happy, and your body was ready to bear life.
HW: Oh, great. It's called puberty.
SQ: I went through this phase where I had short blond hair, and it was really puffy and I would wear a headband. You cannot get worse than that.
TQ: Let's think: That would have been in 2000. So how old would you have been, Hayley?
HW: I was still living in Mississippi, so I was listening to Aaliyah.
TQ: So how old were you 10 years ago? 11? 12? And Sara was on Letterman with a headband and spiky blond hair. That's our favorite era. Do you think at 10 you would have liked our band?
HW: Totally. [Laughs]. When I lived in Mississippi, there wasn't any music whatsoever, but I loved looking different. I liked anything that made me different than the people I was always surrounded by. I don't know if you've ever heard of Mississippi, but it's not really the kind of place you want to liken yourself to.

SPIN: Tegan and Sara, are you guys nervous for the tour?
SQ: I think we're just nervous because we have this ridiculously hypersensitive fear of disappointing people. We have child-of-divorce syndrome, and we don't want anybody to be let down. We're really quiet and we don't want to impose on anyone, so there's that sense of wanting to go out and show yourself and prove yourself. But you want to stay out of the way, and you don't want to fuck anybody's shit up. We are a headliner all the time, so I know that it's a fine line with opening bands and stuff.
TQ: I feel really nervous. Sara and I haven't done any support stuff in four-and-a-half years. We did festivals and shows last year with Death Cab for Cutie. So this is terrifying for me. We toured with the Killers and we did a tour with Cake and Gogol Bordello. Those were the last two support tours we did, in 2005. On the Cake tour we all did the huddle before the show -- crew, band, everyone. It was our first time having our own bus. We got in the huddle and I was like, "This is going to be amazing." We'd had a really good year and "Walking with a Ghost" had finally made it onto the radio. I do this whole big rousing speech about how this is going to be so fun because people are going to know us. It was a disaster. We had people quit. There was a comedian on between all of the bands and he was really amazing and funny. But the audience in a lot of cities didn't get him. So one night they were all chanting "Faggot!" when we had to go onstage. We were like, "No, we're lesbians!"

SPIN: When did you two first hear Paramore?
TQ: When I first heard your music, and this was before I'd even met Chad, I heard about you guys through our publicist. He was trying to get us on the cover of Alternative Press. He said, "They've already had a girl on the cover this year," because that's how it works in the world. And I was like, "What bitch is on the cover?" [Laughs]. I'm kidding. I was like, "Who is on the cover?" And he's like, "This band Paramore." I said, "I've never heard of Paramore." I Googled it and I was like, "That girl's hot." This was right when Riot! came out, so I downloaded that.
SQ: It's true. Tegan came in and was telling everybody and playing it.
TQ: Because there really is only one spot for girls in the world to be popular at one time, I was like, "Here's the queen now of our music, and we must all bow down to Hayley." No, I was like, "This band is so cool." That's the kind of music I listen to, and that's the kind of music I grew up listening to. I thought your image was really cool, too, because right away I found out how young you were, and in all your interviews, you were talking about wanting to keep that image. We graduated high school and then we signed a record deal. But everybody pushed us to be models. They were like, "You guys are pretty. You should wear makeup. Move in this direction." We were like, "We want to play our guitars and wear headbands on Letterman." It took us a while. They were really pushing us to be something we weren't, and I think you held out to be what you wanted to be.

SPIN: Hayley, have you experienced the same pressure to be someone else?
HW: That's the worst. When we first got signed we had never done real publicity photos. We had only had friends take pictures of us. We had this guy come out and take photos for the album and he wanted me to wear ChapStick to make my lips look shinier. I didn't wear makeup, so I was like, "No!" I pitched a fit, and everyone said, "Oh, Hayley's a bitch." That was my first experience with photo shoots. I wanted to be a guy pretty much.
TQ: Don't we all?
HW: Right?
TQ: It's a funny thing in our industry, because if you're not really glammed out or girly, you are in this weird gray zone. They don't know where to place you, and you have to fight to hold on to your uniqueness. I think it's good that you did.
SQ: Did you ever find that once you hold onto it and you're accepted into the mainstream, then the people that aren't in the mainstream start saying, "You're actually not that hardcore"? That happened to Tegan and I. We were really representing alternative women, and we were queer and all these things. All of the sudden we started to get more popular. We were able to sell more records. We were able to tour with the Killers. People were like, "You sold out. You're not alternative anymore."
TQ: You're not a woman anymore. Your vagina is gone.
SQ: You're actually a straight man now, so congratufuckinglations. You're just like, "Oh my god, really? We're not cool and alternative and queer?" That's hard, too, sometimes.
HW: I went through the phase where I didn't want to wear ChapStick. I didn't want to wear makeup. I didn't want to be a girl at all. But I started to grow up, and I was like, "OK, I think I'll try to wear mascara onstage now." It evolved and my hair got brighter. People noticed and said, "What happened to this girl that looks like a guy?"
TQ: "She joined Tegan and Sara!" In a weird way, it's an analogy for growing up. Being in a band is like a living proof of your second adolescence. You start to change, from the way your music sounds to the people you tour with to the people around you, even. It's tough sometimes. We send Sara to her room a lot.
HW: [Laughs]. You can come on our bus if that happens.

SPIN: Paramore has had its fair share of support slots. Hayley, what do you like best -- opening or headlining?
HW: I like both.
TQ: Queen. [Laughs].
HW: I've always loved being the underdog. So, in one sense, to headline, you almost feel like it's a copout. If we're playing a festival and NOFX is there, I know I'm going to get hounded from the other stage from some other band. I love that. I like the challenge and the intimidation of that, going up there and exploding on stage. This tour is cool to me because we've been on tour for five-and-a-half years now, and the same kids that were there in the front row at these tiny little places, like when we played CBGBs for the first time, some of the kids that went to that show come to our shows in New York now at these bigger venues. It's really rewarding. To me, we did something right if those kids can come to the show and have fun and not be like, "Hayley, you don't look like a boy anymore. I hate you."

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