Features Class Of 2014: Speedy Ortiz

Far from a straightforward rock band, Speedy Ortiz have stranger influences than you might think.

“It’s a cute town,” says Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis on her current residence: Northampton, Massachusetts. She’s on the line from her home there, having just returned from playing at this year’s CMJ with an unfortunate illness (“I have a horrible cigarette allergy,” she admits). Though Sadie claims she’s still recovering, you’d never have guessed it. She’s on the sofa – legs-crossed – looking extremely comfortable and relaxed. And so she should, because as well as soldiering on through a tumultuous and extremely exciting year with her band, Sadie also teaches, and is working towards her Master’s degree in poetry.

Topics soon unravel from the amusing to the surprising: sports, Taylor Swift, rock operas, Liars, as well as what the year has meant for a band that are destined for big things in 2014.

For a band that tackles so many depressing lyrical themes, things seem to be very happy and exciting around you guys at the moment.

That’s true. We’ve been busy; it’s been a good year. We’ve had a lot of shows and we toured a lot. We got to put out an album and a single and we’re putting out another EP pretty soon. I guess it’s good that we’ve kept busy, as it hasn’t allowed us to process a lot of the other stuff. But we’re all quitting our jobs at the end of December so we can go on tour pretty much full time. So that’ll be kind of a scary, but cool time. Maybe that’ll give us time to reflect on the year!

Do you guys listen to a lot of sad music in general? Apparently sad music is good for your health.

I think we all have a lot of our own tastes, but I definitely spend a lot of time listening to sad music. I probably gravitate towards it. Darl likes a lot of slowcore stuff. he’s pretty into Codeine, so that probably qualifies as sad music!

You guys did an EP based around sports, which isn’t the most depressing subject. Apart from if your team loses, of course.

Yeah! You’re right. Some of those songs have sad qualities to them, but I tried not to make them all complete bummers. I tried to have some sort of sense of humour with the lyrics and the song titles. We got the idea to call it ‘Sports’ because there was a song called ‘Indoor Soccer and Basketball’, so we changed other names of songs to fit in.

Would you say that you’re all big sports fans generally?

Darl’s a big basketball fan. I was growing up, I was a big Nicks fan. Darl likes Celtic so that’s a conflict. I don’t know if that makes sense to you but those are rival teams. The Boston Celtics are an NBA team and the Nicks are NY’s NBA team. Malick liked football growing up. We don’t hate sports but I don’t think any of us follow them actively right now, except maybe Darl.

Referring to the song ‘Taylor Swift’, how much of an influence does Taylor – or any mainstream pop for that matter – have on the band?

I think we all follow it and pay attention to it. I used to work as a music writer, and Mike as a DJ. Darl used to work live sound and Matt teaches music to kids. A lot of what he teaches them is whatever’s popular at the moment, so I think it’s something we’re all in conversation with even though it’s not something we’re directly influenced by. I don’t think I would ever try writing a song that’d sound like Taylor Swift, but I know how Taylor Swift goes having taught it to kids and Matt can tell you even more about how it goes having taught [her latest songs] to kids.

Was she the one name that kept coming up when you were teaching at camp?

Yeah, a lot of girls wanna learn Taylor. Boys too actually! Both genders wanted to learn Taylor Swift songs when they were 15 and under. But the last time I taught guitar was pretty early on in Taylor Swift’s career, so I don’t know any of the new cuts as Matt does!

The band started out as your own personal project. Did you find yourself writing songs in more of a singer-songwriter style back then, or were they always interpreted with full band instrumentation in mind?

I was recording them with full band instrumentation [from the get-go]. I was just playing ‘em by myself, so it was pretty lo-fi.

How do you think it was for other band members coming to come in on someone else’s personal project?

I think Darl’s played in other bands before where he wasn’t the songwriter. Based on Darl’s previous band in fact, I don’t think it was weird at all for him. Matt and Mike both front their own bands and they’re really good. They’re very talented songwriters, so I was curious as to how that’d work out being in a band with two other people who also front bands! But it seems like it’s going well. I don’t know… they don’t ask too many questions about what the songs are about, so that works!

Were you always heavily involved in DIY scenes growing up?

When I was growing up I lived in a really tiny part of rural Connecticut. There were like a thousand people in the town, and if I wanted to go see a show I’d have to drive for like, over an hour. Probably more than that actually, and I wasn’t driving until I was a little older. There wasn’t much of a scene for shows, other than like church coffee house stuff. Which I played, and I would play solo - or as a duo sometimes. But there weren’t that many opportunities; there weren’t punk bands or anything. So everyone I listened to who was like that wasn’t really a shared interest amongst a lot of my friends unless I convinced someone to come to New York with me. Being involved in a DIY punk scene wasn’t a huge part for me in high school because it just didn’t exist where I was. I think for Matt it’s a similar thing, he was a little bit older when he first started getting into this stuff.

What are the main differences you notice now when you compare your musical upbringing to kids growing up in scenes these days?

I don’t know if there’s a big difference really. The place I went to high school - there still wasn’t a scene at all. There are a couple of bands that have come out of that area that have sort of made the scene, I mean there was a little bit of a scene when I was older in college. We’d do shows in the summer sometimes. But there isn’t much of a scene in [rural Connecticut]. High school punk scenes are a really great resource and outlet, and I’m sad it didn’t exist where I was. Maybe it should’ve been something that I started, but it just wasn’t where I was at, at the time.

Who or what do you think is maybe an underrated influence that you’re surprised not more people pick up on?

Well, as far as stuff that’s not from the ‘90s goes! It’s easier to draw comparisons to something that’s been established inside a scene rather than something that maybe exists now, that hasn’t had as clear of an influence on the music scene as a whole. So I think we’re influenced by a lot of bands we consider our contemporaries, like bands in the Boston basement scene, or other little pockets around the country. But even stuff from the mid-’00s that we really love like Liars, or At the Drive In, or Menomena – they’re a big one for me. Then there’s Autolux. I think people have decided the ‘90s is the time to talk about when it comes to guitar stuff, and they don’t want to go even 5 years later than that, when actually that stuff has a huge influence on all of us.

Liars? That’s a surprise.

I always think that Angus’ vocal delivery is really cool, some of the songs are scary and I like that. They’re interestingly arranged. I think Mike is into early Liars and I’m more into the later stuff like the self-titled album. But yeah, I think Liars is a big influence on me. I don’t usually like going to shows at big venues, as it’s really anxiety-producing for me, but I did go to see Liars off the back of the ‘WIXIW’ tour and it was great! It was like a satanic ceremony or something, some real dancey shit. I thought they were incredible live. I think they’re cool because their sound really changes every album, and they probably lean more towards droney stuff than what I usually like, but I think their songs are really interestingly constructed so I’ve always liked them.

Are these things you’re personally conscious of? You know, like playing in a bigger venue or progressing your sound when it comes to writing and recording?

I definitely don’t want to always just be a straightforward rock band. I think that’s something we’re all conscious of: making some kind of transition in terms of sound. No one of us wants to do one thing forever. We just finished another EP that’s pretty guitar rock-y, but maybe it’s slightly different in terms of the arrangement of the songs and the structure of them. In terms of like playing bigger venues, I don’t know, we do it when it seems like a good opportunity to. We’re going to be doing a tour with the Breeders and obviously those are going to be big shows, but when we have a choice in our hometowns we want to do it at a place that’s supportive of our community and our friends. The venues in Boston are pretty cool, and they always support the bands that come out of the basement scene, so we’ll play next to those venues and also play house stuff when we’re in Boston. We like playing the house shows, and we don’t want to get to a position where that’s not possible for us.

Taken from the December-January Class Of 2014 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

Speedy Ortiz's 'Real Hair' EP is released on 11th February.

Tags: Speedy Ortiz, Features

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