Fans of alt-pop twins Tegan and Sara Quin are aware they don’t drive. They’ve joked about it on their socials and in live settings, so it’s not surprising the Canadian sisters would be natural ambassadors for the ride-sharing service Lyft. Sara is almost giddy with excitement that it has finally launched in Vancouver. “I think that a modern city needs Lyft,” she says, tired of relying on other people to drive her around when she’s not taking the SeaBus ferry from her home in North Vancouver.
Just prior to receiving its license approval in the city, Lyft recruited the Quins as brand advocates and agreed to donate $15,000 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation to support the fight for health, economic justice and representation of LGBTQIA2S+ girls and women.
Sara — who did some heavy promo last year for their latest album, Hey, I’m Just Like You, and their memoir High School — chatted with Billboard about Lyft, summer camps for LGBTQ kids and her pick for this weekend’s Grammys.
I don’t know the status now, but have either of you got your driver’s license?
[Laughing before the question is even finished.] Get off our back, Karen.
Funny, I moved back to Vancouver exactly a year ago and I’m going to get my license. I’m doing my learner’s next week. It’s purely based on the fact that I made a promise to my spouse. We’ve been together almost 10 years and I’ve been telling her for 10 years that I would share in driving, if there’s an emergency, so she feels confident.
This is legitimately, authentically, my real point of view. I am thrilled about Lyft because I have spent the last eight years in New York and L.A. and Montreal, and anywhere we travel internationally, using Lyft and car share programs, it has completely revolutionized life. So getting to Vancouver and spending a year back in what I like to affectionately call ‘the olden times,’ I feel like I have to quit Tegan and Sara and start working for Lyft. I’ve never been more excited about something that they’re finally going to be here.
People who have never used ride share are concerned about safety. But it’s safer than jumping in a cab at 2 a.m. and not paying attention to the company, the driver, the plate. With Lyft, you have all the info. What’s your view?
I don’t want to demonize taxis or this long important history of the communities who have been driving us around for decades and decades and decades. I certainly have used taxis and cabs reliably over my life, but when I started taking Lyft, it makes my accountant happy that I’m not handing in 500 faded, crinkled receipts at the end of the year. When I get into a Lyft, I can send my ETA to my girlfriend, so she knows where I am and when I’m going to get home. I love when I inevitably forget something in a Lyft, I actually can get it back. I love that I can offer infrequently, but it has happened, ‘Geez, I really didn’t feel comfortable in my Lyft and I didn’t like the route that we took.’ I love that somebody at Lyft will look at this and offer me a refund if I feel like I was taken advantage of. There are so many practical things about it that I love.
But one thing for me and my community that we talk about all the time is for queer women to get into a car and know that there’s a record you were there, where they picked you up, where they dropped you off, the license plate. To be able to, in real time, watch and know that somebody is in the car, but that you’re not the only person on earth that knows that you’re in that car, it’s hard to explain those things to people who haven’t felt that way before. With Lyft, it feels like there’s concern and strategy around ‘How do we protect our passengers, but also our drivers?’
Over hundreds and hundreds of rides over the last eight years, one of the most common things when I’m chatting it up with the drivers is their safety. They are the ones who are relying on the fact that people are going to get into the Lyft and not be abusive or say terrible things or hurt them. I think there’s this mutual respect of ‘I know you; you know me.’ There’s some accountability. I feel like it makes us better passengers and better drivers.
And there’s the rating system. We rate them and they rate us. It’s a little nerve-racking.
Oh my God, I’m like my best self in a Lyft. ‘Must get good rating.’ You get in the car and feel like, ‘Hey I’m going to just be a reasonable, nice human being.’ And a lot of times that inspires conversation you’re surprised you’re having with a person who you don’t know, and yet what an intimate thing to get into a car with someone and ask them to take you somewhere safely. I’m like, ‘Okay, bye Nancy’ and they’re like, ‘Good luck.’ There’s this human connection made.
Well, you’re certainly a great ambassador. Such enthusiasm!
I seriously love it. Tegan and I have been putting a lot of pressure behind the scenes. We’re in this really unique position where we do get to talk to people who work in government, who work with the city, who have the city and the businesses’ best interests at heart. And I really respect and admire that the city took the time to figure this out, to do it right, to do it in a way that while it will be disruptive will hopefully be a positive thing in the city and not something that causes complications or issues. I admire the rigorous energy that went into making this happen and doing it right, but, for real, that it’s finally happening.
What will the $15,000 provide or go toward at your Foundation?
One of the things that’s been so heartening since Tegan and I launched the Tegan and Sara Foundation is the way that brands and people in corporations are willing to address some of the inequities or the issues or the unique problems or needs within some of these marginalized communities. Specifically, for the LGBTQ community, we need that support. We need the big idea, big corporations, to be thinking about our community and the needs that are there — and they’re not short-term needs. They’re not something that can be fixed with one donation.
Obviously, we’re thrilled and extremely thankful for the donation, but even within Lyft I can see that they’re addressing some of these problems. I saw that they are now the first company that’s allowing you to choose your pronouns, which is so key. One of the things that so many of us in the community struggle with is having to ‘out’ ourselves or having to hide who we are when we’re in certain situations like in Lyfts, or when we’re out in the public and unsure of who’s picking us up. They seem like tiny details, but they might make a massive difference in someone’s life.
For example, one of our biggest initiatives is scholarship funds to send LGBTQ kids to camps that are LGBTQ-led and focused. These are kids who do not have the financial support to go to camp and we are able to offer them scholarships at these camps where they are going to, in some cases, meet other LGBTQ people for the first time in their life. They are able to get mentorship and leadership support from LGBTQ people, and they’re able to come year after year and work with these leaders and become leaders themselves in the community. Those kinds of connections have these exponential ricochet effects. If we can help boost your self-esteem and the emotional intelligence and community locally, these kids can go out even when they’re not at the camp, and make an impact in their community, whether it’s at school or extracurricular.
Before you go, do you have any picks for the Grammys? [They were nominated in 2012 for best long form music video.]
Like most people right now, I’m totally fascinated and there for Billie Eilish. She’s so rad. I’m seeing this authentic, I’m-having-my-first-experience-on-everything feeling from her, which makes me just excited. I’m rooting for her, but I’m also fascinated by her. I’m super excited about seeing the Grammys this year. I watch it as a total fan outsider; I don’t watch the Grammys and imagine myself there. I’m still like 14 years old and watching my favorite musicians. I always get stoked to watch.
I feel like it was a great year for women and for queer people. There were some great advances and I’ll just get my little piece in that I always think that we can do better. There’s still these crazy gaps and inequities when it comes to women being recognized in technical and production roles. We all play a role in making sure that women and queer people and people of color are being represented everywhere, not just at the top of the Billboard charts, not just in specific areas. That parity should be everywhere. Canada has the same problem. The U.K. has the same problem. Australia has the same problem. There are still huge gaps and absences in the industry itself, so we need to keep acknowledging those things. But otherwise, I’m really stoked.