Director Clea DuVall breaks down the new clip from 'Love You to Death'
As out queer musicians, Tegan and Sara fought for marriage equality in the U.S. But that doesn’t mean the two—who just released their eighth album, Love You to Death, in June—were interested in exercising those rights in their respective personal lives. “I was happy when the Supreme Court ruling legalized same sex marriage in the U.S.A.,” the band’s Sara Quin tells EW over email. “But I was also relieved that I could finally ‘come out’ as a person who actively dislikes the institution—specifically the assumption that by not participating in the ritual you are a deviant or unlikely to share the same common values as someone who does.”
Those feelings inspired the song “BWU,” whose accompanying music video was directed by actress Clea DuVall (Argo, Veep) and premieres exclusively on EW below. Over a buoyant synth-pop track produced by Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia), Quin declares: “I don’t need a ring to prove that you’re worthy … we don’t need a white wedding.” DuVall took the idea literally in her treatment, which finds Quin popping the question to strangers all over Los Angeles with an empty ring box. “I liked the idea of having no one really understand how lonely it can be when you have different ideas about what you want your life to be,” Duvall says.
The band is working on releasing music videos for each song from Love You to Death, and DuVall already directed the first, for the song “Boyfriend.” She remembers “BWU” as another early favorite from the album. “I think [the message] is something that you don’t often hear in pop,” DuVall says. “There’s this expectation of love and relationships and what ‘true love’ is supposed to look like, and anything short of that is a failure or not ‘true love.’”
Quin’s own family life encouraged her to challenge those expectations. “After my parents’ divorce, my mom and dad remained friends,” she says. “I saw their future relationships stretch into decades, but no wedding bells rang. Common law seemed as binding as matrimony, and I grew to see their choices as rebellious and inspiring. As a teenager and then young adult—newly out as queer—I didn’t mourn the fact that I wouldn’t legally be able to marry my girlfriend.”
Earlier this year, Quin expressed some “nervousness” about how audiences would react to songs like “Boyfriend” and “BWU,” which explore gender roles and relationships from an explicitly queer perspective. “The reality is, as a queer person, I can take any heterosexual song or artist and immediately make it fit for myself, but I don’t know if as a society we’ve been able to do the opposite,” she told TIME.
DuVall says early plans for the video included a wider range of couples—straight ones, gay ones, lesbian ones—but there was never any doubt that it would focus on women love interests for Quin. “Once I got down to the core of the idea, it’s really Sara’s journey,” DuVall says. “I mean, she does propose to the guy on the bench—she is indiscriminate in her proposals—but it felt like the right thing to do.”
Though Tegan and Sara are known for their fervent fans—many of whom would happily line up if they saw Quin making haphazard proposals on the street—DuVall reports that the video shoot was largely uneventful. “I don’t think anyone spoke to us all day, or even cared,” DuVall says. “They’re used to people doing weird shoots in downtown L.A. There were streets we were permitted to film on, and when we got there, there were like four other crews there.”
Still, getting behind the camera as the band stretched its acting muscles was a treat for the director. “I’ve seen their other comedic videos—like the Funny or Die video or the Property Brothers video, and they’re so charismatic and charming and funny,” DuVall says. “They really commit, and that’s so much of what a great performance is, that willingness to commit.”
“After my parents’ divorce my Mom and Dad remained friends. I saw their future relationships stretch into decades, but no wedding bells rang. Common law seemed as binding as matrimony, and I grew to see their choices as rebellious and inspiring. As a teenager and then young adult – newly out as queer – I didn’t mourn the fact that I wouldn’t legally be able to marry my girlfriend. It was only in my mid-twenties that I realized the privilege of my choice and the unfairness and sometimes cruel reality of our discriminatory world. Sure, I didn’t care about weddings, but there were plenty of generations behind and before me that did. The activist in me fought passionately for marriage equality because of what it signified socially, and for the countless legal benefits and protections that had been withheld from so many devoted same sex couples in history. I was happy when the Supreme Court ruling legalized same sex marriage in the USA, but I was also relieved that I could finally ”come out“ as a person who actively dislikes the institution. Specifically the assumption that by not participating in the ritual you are a deviant or unlikely to share the same common values as someone who does. Not unlike new parents telling you they understand the world in a way that you – the childless – never could, I sometimes resent the notion that being married ”changes EVERYTHING.“ Of late I’ve resigned myself to accepting that even if marriage does ”change EVERYTHING,“ I’m happy to keep things just the way they are. Keep your name, keep your faith, it’s what made me love you in the first place.”