Analogue Music | Interivew: Speedy Ortiz

Interivew: Speedy Ortiz

By Scott Elingburg

Sadie Dupuis has a ringback tone.

I don't get to hear it because she's quick to pick up. (Apparently, it is The Hampsterdance Song.) But, like Speedy Ortiz' latest album Twerp Verse, that ringback tone is exactly what I needed at exactly the right time to turn an otherwise stressful morning into a brilliantly meaningful day.

Speedy Ortiz has that effect on others, too, which helps explain the band's prominent rise to the top of the indie rock landscape in a time when indie rock is struggling for sometime meaningful to say. After three full-lengths, Twerp Verse is their best because it shows off the band's cohesiveness alongside Dupuis' hyper-focused lyricism and some piercing guitar work.

The songs on Twerp Verse are urgent but open; dark but optimistic; and utterly repeatable. Dupuis and the band are busy jet setting on tour in support of the record, but she spent some time on an early caffeine-less Tuesday morning to talk about happiness, guitar heroes, and her reading list.

Analogue: Is there anything you’re sick to death of talking about?

Sadie: Um, if anything comes up I will tell you. (Laughs) Not that I can think of off the top of my head but I haven’t had any caffeine, yet, so I’m not looking out for the things I’m sick of talking about.

Analogue: Ok, well I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that my daughter thinks you rock. As a guitarist she really likes your style and you're music.

Sadie: That makes me extremely happy. How old is she?

Analogue: She’s nine. She plays piano but I think she wants to play guitar. Did you have any guitar role models growing up?

Sadie: Yeah, when I first started learning guitar I was really into 311 and trying to learn stuff like that on guitar. But I also started on piano and I did classical music for voice. When I first started playing guitar I was trying to play my vocal sheet music on it. And I’ve also taught guitar a lot—not as young as nine, but a couple years older. But it’s whatever you’re excited about that’s fun to learn. As long as she’s able to tap into music that makes her excited, that’s what makes the biggest difference.

Analogue: She’s keen on melodies but she loves your guitar lines because to her they sound pretty.

Sadie: That’s funny because I’m always like, ‘This guitar part sounds really evil and scary.’ (Laughs) So, maybe she’s a future metalhead.

As you become cognizant of what makes you happy and what doesn’t, I think it’s totally ok to say no to stuff that isn’t paying you enough or isn’t with bands that you feel comfortable supporting.

Analogue: I know the story about you all scrapping some songs and coming up with a version two of Twerp Verse. But Twerp Verse is darker lyrically than its predecessor, Foil Deer.

Sadie: Yeah, I would agree with that.

Analogue: Were you intentionally trying to write dark, oblique lines or trying to make the songs apply to both social and personal situations?

Sadie: I think more the latter. If there’s darkness in it that’s just reflective of the context in which it was written. Also, I think it’s a more optimistic record than the previous two. So there’s a balance between those things which I think is fitting of the mood where we were when we made it.

Analogue: There is a positivity to it, for sure. But you have to hunt for it.

Sadie: And I think some of that positivity comes from production, the way the record sounds. Even some of the sadder, scarier sounding songs have these bright pop elements. I think that some of the work in talking about difficult subjects is not to [make it] feel like a drag.

Analogue: When you sat down to write a new batch of these songs, did you have to labor over them or did they come quickly?

Sadie: No, I usually go pretty quick. There are definitely long stretches where I don’t feel inspired to write at all. When I was working on this record, it was not one of them—especially the three or four months leading up to when we actually recorded the final version of the record. I was writing a ton and had a lot going on in my mind. It was easy to pull the songs together.

Analogue: To me, you’re a very hyper-literate songwriter. Did you have any literature or anything you were reading at the time that inspired you?

Sadie: It’s hard for me to remember. When we’ve had records that were a shorter writing process I can be like, ‘Oh, this one month, here’s what I read.’ Some of the songs were written as early as 2014 and the most recent ones were written in February of 2017, so it’s a long span of time. And I probably read ten books a month. I can’t necessarily think of what was inspiring the lyrics so much but I had read a lot of Lindy West, a lot of Naomi Klein. Poetry-wise, a lot of Audre Lorde in the past couple of years. But I wouldn’t say those were direct influences on the record.

Analogue: What was the last book you read?

Sadie: I’m reading Her Body and Other Parties, the short story collection by Carman Machado. It’s really good; I’m only halfway through but I just started it yesterday.

Analogue: I found out you and I used to be Instructors of English at the University level.

Sadie: Really? Where did you teach?

Analogue: Clemson University. I taught mostly World Literature and British Literature and expository writing. I miss the connection of the classroom, though. Do you miss that direct connection?

Sadie: I really do. And I love teaching and I’m sure I’ll return to it. And, honestly, most of the jobs I’ve had have related to teaching in some way. I worked as a summer camp counselor forever. And [I] taught music, so I really like to work with teenagers and high-school/college-age students.

But I feel like I still get a lot of that touring. We try to have most of our shows be all ages and I hang out at merch after we play, so I get to meet most of the people coming to our shows. Obviously, it’s less of a long-term relationship than getting to see someone twice a week and talk them through whatever they’re thinking, their process and their writing, and learn about their lives and interests. But I do still feel like I get to connect with people on that level.

Analogue: Is it tough to have that connection when you’re onstage? The way things are set up sometimes it’s not easy to have eye contact and make a direct connection.

Sadie: It really depends on the room. Last night it was a small room in Norfolk, VA. And the stage was half a foot off the ground floor. So, I was going out into the audience. And I [would] talk to everybody after the show. When it’s a bigger room and maybe there’s a barrier between the stage and the audience that’s a little different. But usually you can make eye contact and always see the people upfront who are singing along. I always appreciate them and try to sing high for them.(Laughs)

Analogue: Ok, last question: if you could give someone who is starting a band any advice, what would it be?

Sadie: To do stuff that makes you happy. Whether that’s in your songwriting or the shows that you accept. I think sometimes when you’re a new band, it feels like you need to take every opportunity. But as you become cognizant of what makes you happy and what doesn’t, I think it’s totally ok to say no to stuff that isn’t paying you enough or isn’t with bands that you feel comfortable supporting. And by that same extension, if you’re only trying to write songs to make yourself happy then your expectations are really just about making yourself feel good. And I think that’s a really important thing. At any level, really.