UNCHARTED: Speedy Ortiz

Sadie Dupuis, bandleader of the punk four-piece, schools us on castle crashing, “snack rock,” and Boston's house show scene.

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- May 3, 2013

Uncharted is our weekly showcase of independent artists we think you should listen to. This week Chris Hampton profiles self-described 'snack rock' four-piece Speedy Ortiz.


Even though Speedy Ortiz began as Sadie Dupuis' bedroom recording project - the band joined her in early 2012 - the project has always been straight grilled cheese rock. Or Hawaiian pizza punk. Their self-described “snack-rock” is comfort food for the indie rock set — the kinda thing I could scarf down day and night without indigestion or greasy regret.

At their shaggiest, Speedy conjures Chapel Hill legends Archers of Loaf; at their noisiest, they call to mind fellow Bay Staters the Swirlies; and at their trickiest, Polvo. But be warned, this isn't sit-back guitar rock; as a frontwoman, Dupuis is caustic and frequently hilarious. On "Hexxy," the b-side of their new single, the Speedies channel Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth, and Dupuis delivers a convincing Thurston.

Sadie and I chatted via internet magic while the Speedie gang trucked their tour through Southern Ontario and the northern states. We talk about band camp, comic books, and haunted castles with rumoured Nazi ties. Spooky.

Can you tell us about Buck's Rock?

Buck's Rock is an overnight camp I attended as a young teen and worked at when I was an adult, I think ten summers in total. It's essentially a self-directed artist's colony with studios in music performance, recording, as well as other performing and visual disciplines (glassblowing, sculpture, video editing, etc.). It was important for me because it exposed me to other teens who were into buying records and supporting independent music, somewhat of a rarity at my microscopic rural high school. The first band I played in was at this camp, and there would've been no way to play in a punk band at my high school because there would've been no one to play with. Probably the best education I've ever gotten came from that camp.

Speedy Ortiz is named after a character from the Hernandez brothers’ Love and Rockets series. What’s the best comic book you’ve read in the last year and why? Give us a little endorsement.

I just bought two issues of Michael DeForge's Lose comics from Koyama Press thanks to the insightful staff at Toronto's The Beguiling. Super surreal and funny (often gross) stuff from one of the artists who works on Adventure Time. But my favorite of the year (at least of things that were new to me this year) is Lilli Carré's Heads or Tails. It's also surreal, but a little more dreamlike and less in DeForge's realm of "nightmare after overeating." Diverse approaches to art from story to story, but tonally she's often sweet, sometimes kind of magical and a little sad.

Are there any comic book characters you really relate to? Who and why?

I love Jaime Hernandez's characters, which is probably obvious from our band's name, especially Hopey Glass. I always loved Death of the Endless from The Sandman. And Enid Coleslaw of Ghost World was my tween idol but saying that is kind of like responding to your earlier question about first songs with "Weezer."

So I hear Joe Sly and his Boston Beat Gang was hoping to catch a Speedy set. Tell me about Joe Sly. Is it a usual concern for MA bands and show-throwers that the cops might bust things up? What’s that about?

Mostly all of the active DIY spots have been shut down due to noise ordinances and police interference, whereas a year ago you could see a packed house show (or two!) pretty much any night of the week. It's a shame because the house show scene was a great all ages alternative to the mostly 21+ music club scene in Boston. But the people surrounding Boston's music scene are adaptive, and I imagine some new solutions will emerge (in fact, some already have). We all thought Joe Sly was pretty funny and a tremendous waste of time/resources for the BPD, but in light of the Boston Marathon bombing, which was, like, two weeks ago, I feel a little ridiculous poking fun at the police.

You’re earning an MFA in poetry at UMass. I’ve always liked Dan Bejar of Destroyer and David Berman of the Silver Jews as my indie rock laureates, which lyricists do you admire?

Berman is actually a UMass alum! I like David Bazan's lyrics--there's this one song on his first solo EP, "Devil Is Beating His Wife," where he stretches out this one sentence over, like, a verse and a chorus and it rules. Clayton Scoble of Francine, a probably defunct band once from Massachusetts, does a similar thing, but will do this crazy smart technical enjambment that I try to emulate (and probably poorly). Then there are obvious ones like Stephen Malkmus but those are obvious so I don't even need to get into it.

Tell me about your adventures in the Franklin Castle in Cleveland. Share some of the castle’s lore for those of us who don’t know.

We were on tour with Roomrunner and our last show together was in Cleveland. I'd heard about this castle with a pretty extensive ghostly history--Nazi ties, triple family murders, skulls found in secret tunnels. For obvious reasons Franklin Castle is shut down and off limits. After the show we went there and decided to sneak in, which involved crawling through a hole in a fence and then going down through some rocks into an unlit tunnel in the basement. I got spooked out after we hit the massive, dusty ballroom on the main floor, but some of the other Roomrunner and Speedy folks were more adventurous and made it to the top and stole an old-looking chain. Since then the ghost of LeBron James has followed us everywhere.

What albums/ books/ TV shows/ pizza toppings/ whatever were crucial to recording Sports? And what’s been central to recording you newest, Major Arcana?

We ate a lot of banh mi from Fu Wah Deli in Philadelphia while recording Sports, though I think they call it a Vietnamese Hoagie there. I was watching some Scream movies around the writing of that which I think worked its way in lyrically ("Indoor Soccer" in particular). Major Arcana was a lot of Dr. MacDougall's Hot & Sour soup and an encyclopedia on occultism.

At the risk of looking like a particularly unsavvy music writer, what the fuck is snack rock?

We play double meat. Fries on the side of the double meat.

Their debut full-length Major Arcana will be out July 9 on Carpark.

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