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Five words with Speedy Ortiz



After a short string of singles and EPs, Speedy Ortiz released their debut LP, Major Arcana, last year to widespread acclaim. Mixing punk energy with gritty and occasionally witty poetry, the Boston quartet paired sharp songs with the occasionally sprawling guitar heroics of founder and singer Sadie Dupuis.

Speedy Ortiz has emerged from a refreshing hands-on scene, where a basement shows-to-Bandcamp approach makes the newfound acclaim of such bands feel less like a cycle of buzz and more like a steady swell of momentum. That movement also finds plenty of female-fronted punk bands sidestepping both bro-ish Black Flag worship and any presumed delicacy—see also Waxahatchee, Perfect Pussy and Screaming Females. By phone from New Preston, a rural town in northwestern Connecticut, where she was spending the holidays with her mother, Dupuis talked about formative influences, why she covered a R&B slow jam and how Speedy Ortiz's elevated profile has changed her relationship with DIY philosophies.


My parents were involved in the punk scene in New York. My mom was writing for Punk magazine. By the time I was born, my parents were out of that world, and I had to find my way into it. I'm not sure that punk ethics, as I would define them, are really a part of their lives. I think it was a little more of a glamour show; my mom was friends with the New York Dolls, and there was a lot about fashion when she told me about punk. My own relationship to it now is pretty unrelated.


Most of my relationship with DIY comes from being a musician and booking shows and home recording and making shirts and making our own album art. For the most part, "DIY" makes me think of booking shows and running sound at shows. I don't know if Speedy Ortiz has as much of a relationship with DIY as we did before. I don't have to send 100 emails every time I'm trying to book a two-week tour. We have people helping us out now. That's a depressing end to what DIY means, isn't it? But this tour was all booked by me at all-ages spaces, most of which are DIY arts or warehouse venues.


While I was playing in bands in New York, I really loved Boston's underground rock scene. A lot of my favorite bands happened to be from there: PILE, Grass Is Green, Kal Marks, Krill, Potty Mouth and California X. New York wasn't doing it for me at all. I wound up moving to western Massachusetts to be closer to a scene that fit what I was playing. Boston's still urban enough that it doesn't feel boring or stagnant, but it's not quite as intense or oversaturated as New York. And it's pretty.


My whole band got into the new Ciara album, Ciara, on tour. Getting into it together was fun. I think Ciara is an amazing dancer. And I love her videos and I love some of her songs. I don't really know why I covered Ciara's "Ride." I had been doing a lot of karaoke over the past couple years, and Ciara's a fairly regular one for me. I was trying to think of songs to record, so I just decided to do that because I couldn't think of anything to write. It's not even really my favorite Ciara song; I just love the video.


As a kid, my mom got me Yeah!, a girl band comic by Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez. I keep talking about my mom, probably because I'm sitting in my high school bed right now. She's probably downstairs listening to me on the phone. She got me Yeah! when it first came out and I got into the Hernandez brothers' work that way. I happened to be reading The Death of Speedy [a graphic novel by the Hernandezes that chronicles the murder of a gang member character named Speedy Ortiz] while I was tagging demos in iTunes. I stuck that name on the demos.

I used to make comics when I was younger. That was what I wanted to do as a job, which is even more ridiculous than trying to make a living playing music.

Brandon Soderberg lives in Baltimore, where he writes the No Trivia hip-hop column for Spin.

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