In 2011, Sadie Dupuis started Speedy Ortiz as a lo-fi solo project. Now, in 2014, Speedy Ortiz is a four-piece band that has shared the stage with The Breeders, Los Campesinos!, Guided by Voices, and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the band’s debut LP, Major Arcana. I reached out to Sadie on Twitter and she was kind enough to talk to me about her beginnings in music, songwriting, and…Mystikal.
Taylor: How’d you first get into music? Are you self-taught?
Sadie: I started playing piano and singing in choirs when I was a little kid.
Most of my musical training came from a professional choir I sang in
for middle and high school–it was fairly intensive and complicated
music so I had to get good at sight reading for that reason. We toured
nationally and internationally so I learned all about lack of
showering/eating rest stop junk food/sleeping on stranger’s couches at
a young enough age that touring’s always felt pretty easy for me. I
started playing guitar when I was 13, took lessons for a few months on
and off but that format didn’t click for me, so at least on guitar
(and every other “rock” instrument I picked up after) I’m an
T: I’m trusting the Internet here…did you really study math at MIT
before dropping out? And did you always want to be a musician or did you have something else in mind?
S: Yeah, I spent two years at MIT. I intended to graduate with dual
degrees in math and music, and pursued that for the first year, but
became pretty heavily involved as an editor with the student newspaper
and decided I wanted to be a writer. So I switched majors to writing
and music. Eventually it seemed silly to get two arts degrees from MIT
so I dropped out and took time off and eventually finished at Barnard
College with a concentration in poetry. For the past few years I’ve
been working as a writer, both freelancing and teaching writing at
UMass Amherst. Music’s always been a part of my life and it always
will be, but I didn’t expect it to turn into a day job. So for however
long this lasts, I’ll be pretty grateful!
T: How’d you get the name Speedy Ortiz?
S: We’re named after a character in my favorite comic book, ‘Love & Rockets.’
T: I once read that you used to teach songwriting at UMass. What are a couple songs that you wish you’d written?
S: Actually, I taught songwriting to teenagers at a summer camp. When I
was working at UMass I taught expository writing. It would be pretty
cool to teach songwriting at a college level, though, if any
universities wanna hire me to do compositional analyses of Robert
Pollard or whatever. Recently, I’ve really admired the songwriting in
Hospitality, Warpaint, and Swearin’, who’ve all put out amazing
records in the past year. I wish I wrote “Video Phone” by Beyoncé and
“Somebody Made for Me” by Emitt Rhodes.
T: You have songs called Casper (1995), Taylor Swift, and Cash Cab.
What are some of your biggest inspirations from pop culture that
influence your songwriting?
S: Lately I’ve been really into ‘Louie,’ Roberto Bolaño, Eric André’s
show, and am very excited about the new Sailor Moon. I’m a pop
cultural omnivore, though, and almost anything is fair game for me to
use in song lyrics or titles. Especially if I don’t like it.
T: You played Bonnaroo last month. Whose set was your favorite?
S: I was really impressed by Lauryn Hill. She’s performing songs that are
classics at this point, but she’s doing them with completely different
arrangements so they’re almost unrecognizable at first. She’s rapping,
like, as fast as possible–almost like she does on ‘Blunted on
Reality.’ But there’s also a full band and backing vocalists doing
incredibly tight and difficult harmonies. For someone who’s had such a
notoriously difficult time over the past decade and a half embracing a
spotlight, she really owns the stage.
Oh also, Mystikal had a surprise performance! Amazing!
T: You’ve covered some really great songs — from Blur’s “Bugman” to Josie and the Pussycats’ “Pretend to be Nice.” But what’s one awful guilty pleasure song that you’d consider covering?
S: I guess I don’t really think of any pleasures as guilty except for,
like, commercial jingles. I’m trying to convince some friends to cover
Kelly Rowland’s “Motivation” with me. It would only be embarrassing
because of the Lil Wayne verse, which grosses me out.
T: What’s it like being the only girl in the band?
S: I get to shower less than my bandmates and they will still smell worse
than me most of the time thanks to hormones.
T: Every month we have a theme for the zine, this month’s being “expectations.” Are you working on a second LP, and if so, what can we expect?
S: Right now I’m just trying to write some new songs–we’ve been on tour
so long it’s been impossible to write anything. I’ve been swimming a
lot so they’re probably excessively fixated on water.