In Conversation: Speedy Ortiz

Punk rock with heart, a helpline and squad goals…

Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis is not one to mince words, especially when it comes to her views on musicians and the position of privilege they hold: “I guess I just don’t care much for — as I’ve started to describe them thanks to Ronda Rousey — ‘Do Nothing Bands.’”

When Sadie says ‘Do Nothing Bands’, she is referring to those who use their platform as nothing but a vehicle for self-indulgence, and whose songs and ethics follow similar suit. “I think those kinds of bands are a symptom of entitlement in rock. Certain people’s spaces in rock music (and in the world) are guaranteed based on their income or their gender or their racial identity — they have nothing to rail against, they’ve always been visible.”

Does this mean that the predominant origin of Speedy Ortiz’s music is grown out of a kind of resistance? “There’s usually an emotional or social impetus for a song, although the imagery might come from a variety of sources… what the song is “about” to me doesn’t usually translate — which I think is a good thing since it allows for open interpretation.”

Speedy Ortiz evolved as a full band in 2011 (originating from Sadie’s solo demos) and 2013 saw the release of their debut album — ‘Major Arcana’ — that was received with critical praise. However, they are not musicians to rest on their punk rock laurels; while Speedy Ortiz are back with their second album, ‘Foil Deer’, they are also busy activating their beliefs with a fan helpline and a carefully considered performance schedule.

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Spawned out of Sadie’s own admission that as a showgoer, she has sometimes felt unsafe, the Speedy Ortiz help hotline serves to give a voice and protection to concertgoers who feel harassed and/or discriminated against. “So far we haven’t had to use it for a real emergency, but it’s opened up a dialogue for how a safer space can operate, both for other bands who’ve reached out to us and some of the venues we’ve played.” In the same championing breath, Speedy Ortiz headlined the ‘You Are Not Alone’ benefit in Illinois, an event that also acts as a fundraiser to support queer homeless youth. “Some of our friends in Champaign wanted to organize a show in which queer performers took the forefront, and were represented for LGBTQIA kids who might feel the scene is not for them.”

Youth is a visible theme throughout Speedy Ortiz’s music, and not just the Instagram-faded, carefree living version of youth, but rather the complexity of that growth period coupled with the chaos of hormone-fuelled fun. Their video for ‘Swell Content’ complete with kids, art and sugary cereal is case in point. “We had an idea for a video where the four of us are stuck in “art detention”, Mike Falcone explained, but “it ended up being difficult for us to locate a school willing to cheaply provide a classroom for us,” he continued. Filmed at Sadie’s old summer camp, Buck’s Rocks (where she previously taught songwriting), the band filmed “real, actual kids” and played a concert for them later that night.

While the band has played the Boston Calling Official After Party and smaller festivals like Maha Fest and Sappy Fest, they are still gunning for a moment at All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP); “I really liked attending ATP New York — I wish that still existed,” Sadie said. Mike echoes a similar sentiment: “we were scheduled to play an ATP festival in London last year which sadly got cancelled only a few days prior. We’re hoping another one comes our way at some point. I’ve never attended one myself, but I’ve heard they’re really relaxed and less claustrophobic than other big-money festivals of the moment.”

Does this mean that their eyes are set on a bigger, more commercial prize? Perhaps their 2012 release, ‘Taylor Swift’ will lead them towards their own stadium moment with Swifty, as she continues to invite other acts up on stage with her — might this be a beautiful punk rock/pop moment in history? “Down to chill with Taylor’s squad, but I feel like we’re also busy cultivating our own squad”, Sadie explains, “should probably call it a coven.” Meanwhile, Mike has other stage-sharing ideas; “HAIM is hereby invited to convert to our squad. Just throwing that out there.”

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Words: Natalie Reiss

‘Foil Deer’ is out now. Catch Speedy Ortiz at the following UK shows:

October 21 London Tufnell Park Dome 22 Glasgow Stereo

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Originally published at www.clashmusic.com.