Speedy Ortiz have quietly become one of the most celebrated forces in what many are calling a renaissance for 90s style guitar bands that we can actually get excited about. There is no denying that we are excited about Speedy Ortiz but the idea of revivalism is a very tired one. This is a band with weaponry of the present day who are turning heads for reasons other than traits of bygone years. We caught up with guitarist Sadie Dupuis about lazy labelling, gravity defying salt shakers and DMX.
Shuf: Fans and critics seem to really connect to the 90s style attitude and personality that you guys emit- did you have to think about how to put that across or did it come naturally?
We don't really have any interest in portraying or channeling a decade other than the one in which we're living. I think a lot of the “'90s attitude" perception comes from music publications who've chosen to portray us that way for the sake of having an angle to market. It’s easier to promote a band with a catch-all term like "'90s rock" than it is to just describe the music on its own terms. And having worked in music journalism, I totally understand that. But it's absolutely not a conscious thing and I don't see what's intrinsically '90s about overdriven guitars. It could be equally described as '80s or '70s or '00s, but nostalgia waves work in 20 year cycles, so we're stuck with all rock music getting labeled as revivalism when it's got nothing to do with that.
Shuf: For British readers who don't know much about comic books, who is Speedy Ortiz?
Speedy's a minor character in the comic book series 'Love and Rockets.'
Shuf: The lyrics are paramount to all your tunes and I've read that you studied poetry during her time at the University of Massachusetts. How does the lyrical process work when you guys are writing and recording? Also, how crucial do you think the lyrics are to understanding your music?
Generally I'll record a demo with all the music, and then add vocals and lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics change a bit before we record. A lot of times they're sort of an afterthought, but I try not to go with the easiest or most obvious line. I don't think they're necessarily crucial to understanding the music, which comes foremost. I love lots of music with lyrics in languages I don't understand, or vocals that are total nonsense; bad or obvious lyrics are more distracting than incomprehensible ones, at least for me.
Shuf: You’ve been lauded as "saviours" of indie rock, do you like that title or does it piss you off? Also what do you think the term "indie rock” even means in 2014?
Hah, I'm not sure who's called us saviors, but I don't think we’re really saving rock from anything. What does rock need saving from?
Shuf: You’re linked to a lot of states and the scenes within them (NYC, Boston, Massachusetts). Which do you feel most connected to and why?
I don't see why we would be linked to New York, because I'm the only person who grew up there or has lived there. Darl and I have both lived in Boston and we all really love the rock scene there. It’s probably the city in which Speedy Ortiz has played most. But three of us live in Western Massachusetts, so that's probably the place to which we're most connected.
Shuf: There’s been a lot of talk about how your sound is “gender-bending". What do you think people mean when they say it and and is it something you have to think about?
I'm not especially interested in or adherent to conventional notions of a gender binary, and my identity doesn't fall within that binary, so I think by nature my perspective and consequently my lyrics don’t really deal in terms of traditionally accepted femininity or masculinity.
Shuf: What’s annoyed you most about the music industry since the release of your album?
We've been pretty lucky! People are nice! We're having a good time. No major complaints.
Shuf: What’s the best thing that has ever happened at a Speedy Ortiz show?
One time Matt played guitar while riding on the shoulders of internet and radio celebrity Freeman Thor Slaughter at our show in DC. Later, we watched Bob Boilen balance a shaker of salt on its one corner.
Shuf: Do you reckon you could beat DMX at boxing?
Nah, X would totally give it to me. I don't wanna try him. Damien might come out. DMX would probably have won against George Zimmerman but I am pretty glad that fight is called off because I hope Zimmerman runs out of money and disappears and I have never have to think about that fucking murderer ever again. Everyone needs to stop fucking entertaining that piece of shit waste of human life.
Words: Duncan Harrison