July 27, 2016

Interview: Sadie Dupuis

Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis on everything from Destiny's Child to tour-themed haikus.

Being dragged out of a bar by a pair of giant muscly bouncers would be a dramatic way to start an interview, wouldn’t it? However, the reality of the situation was less like a '90s rock star flick than Sadie Dupuis or myself might’ve hoped. It was actually four in the afternoon when I went down to a local arcade bar in Cleveland to meet the Speedy Ortiz “frontdemon” for our interview. Turned away at the door for being a little shy of 21, I waited a few minutes for Sadie to emerge from the bar and we walked a few doors down to a café for tea.

Since late 2011, Sadie’s band Speedy Ortiz has accumulated a following for their raw and fuzzed-out rock – as gritty in its guitars as it is poetic in its lyrics. With two full-lengths already under their belt, the group recently released a new EP, Foiled Again, featuring a few new songs as well as remixes to their popular banger “Puffer.” With only a few hours until their set opening up for riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna’s The Julie Ruin, Sadie and I sat down to talk a little about this new release. Between our discussion of Destiny’s Child and her notorious Twitter following, we also had the chance to talk about how Sadie got started in music and how her experiences have influenced her sound today.

The Le Sigh: How did you get started in music? Was it from a young age? 

Sadie Dupuis: Yeah, I played music as a kid; I took piano lessons and would do recitals. I also sang in children’s choirs until kind of too late in my life to still be doing that, to the point it was embarrassing for me to talk about with my friends in high school. But yeah. I was in a professional touring children’s choir that won a Grammy. That was sort of an early introduction to playing music professionally and then I also had always tinkered around with instruments. I picked up guitar and started writing songs and putting them out when I was 14.

TLS: For the new EP Foiled Again you worked with Lizzo and Lazerbeak, how did that release come about? 

SD: Well we had that song "Puffer" on the Foil Deer record, and we had this idea that we wanted to have some remixes for it so we had a few different people we admired remix it, and that was one of the one’s we ended up using for the EP. We had no real connection to Lizzo and Lazerbeak before that remix but we just sort of reached out to Lizzo first and she was like, “We should produce it!” But because of that we wound up sort of involved with both of those people in different projects. I’d been in touch with Lizzo about doing this remix but it kept not happening and then this thing from Google came up for two artists to co-write a song together over Google Hangouts and I wound up doing it with her; the remix still hadn’t happened yet and we had never met each other, but we sort of met as a result of that and spent a couple days in the studio and she did the remix too. Then, we went on tour with Doomtree, which is Lazerbeak's collective after he’d done that remix.

TLS: I have a friend that’s interviewed you before, that mentioned you’re a Destiny’s Child fan. 

SD: Yeah it’s very true, big Destiny’s Child fan.

TLS: If you could be any member, which one would you be? 

SD: I like Kelly a lot. I mean everyone wants to be Beyoncé, right? But not everyone can be Beyonce. I feel like I’d be more of a Kelly. “Motivation” is one of my favorite singles of the 2000s –it’s the karaoke go-to but I’m obviously a fan of Beyoncé’s style.

TLS: I wouldn’t want to be Beyoncé because then you could be in the group and be friends with Beyoncé. 

SD: Yeah that’s smart!

TLS: You recently made Pitchfork’s “Top 30 Artists You Need To Follow On Social Media” and you beat Beyoncé by 16 spots. 

SD: Yeah! I didn’t even notice Beyoncé, [since] she doesn’t do much on Twitter. Rihanna I know I beat, which seemed fucked up to me because her Instagram is amazing and then Nicki Minaj’s Twitter is one of my favs so I felt really conflicted.

TLS: Do you think that social media has been beneficial for you as an artist especially being able to easily get in touch with your fans? 

SD: I think for other artists – like I’m surprised that I made it that high on the list because I have some following but it’s pretty average for a band of our stature so I feel like I was the underdog, I have less followers than a lot of my friends of Twitter. I don’t know, maybe I’m just producing such sick tweets.

TLS: So I’ve found with artists that they either lean towards performing or the writing and studio work. Which do you prefer? 

SD: I think naturally I’m more inclined towards the writing and studio stuff because that’s what I would always do because like I said, I started writing songs when I was like 14, but I wasn’t really playing shows yet or if I was it was like church coffee house, open mic nights. But I would always record. I think a guitar was my birthday gift at age 13, and I got a 4-track the year after so I’d spend a lot of time making demos at home.

I remember my school had a file-sharing network and I made a song that was a diss track about this boy at the school and I put it on the file-sharing thing and everyone in the school got it, and I was like "Cool, I should do this all the time."  So I put out an EP when I was like 15. I was really interested in the studio side of things and I feel like I listened to songs for their components, more than their hooks. [I’ve] always been very interested in reconstructing the appealing small details of songs I like. And that’s been true to this point, I’m 28 and so it’s been 14 years of me figuring out how to record myself. So I would play open mics and stuff in high school and I’d get a band together but I always had more fun with the writing. I wouldn’t want to play a show for three hours like jam bands do, but I’m very happy to sit at my computer for 10 hours to work on a song. Getting used to the stage stuff has definitely been a slow climb for me and it used to be that I’d have to drink a lot to play because I was so stage fright-y but with this band at least, it’s been like five years of constant touring and I’ve had to learn not to do that.

A lot of the people that go into production are shy and awkward, and I feel like I fall into that category. We just did a tour with The Good Life, and Tim Kasher is the front person of that band and he really hams it up. He can talk to the audience and say the like “What’s up Cleveland! How you guys feeling?” And it never occurs to me to say stuff like that on stage – so I can fake it. I’ve started to pay attention to dressing in a way that’s fun to look at or wearing wigs or whatever because I’m naturally disinclined towards on-stage banter.

TLS: Where do you think you do your best writing? 

SD: I have to be pretty alone to do anything. So it just depends on the circumstances of my life at that point. I have in the past gone to my mom’s house, because she’s very secluded and lives in the woods basically. And I can work at home if I’m not distracted by too many social outings.

TLS: So you’ve been touring a lot over the years, can you describe those feelings towards being on the road in a haiku? 

spilled tea on my dress
of course it's totally stained
oh well, i still shred

TLS: For tours, do you over pack or under pack? 

SD: I think I pack just the right amount and it takes me three days to do it. I always overpack at first and then take a bunch of stuff out and then by the time we go I’m very ready.

TLS: So you don’t procrastinate.

SD: Well if I do, that’s when I fuck up. This is like a weeklong tour – I wouldn’t even call it a tour – but I packed the morning that we left and I forgot one of my big tour essentials, which is bike shorts because I wear them under any dress, so I had to go buy bike shorts today.

TLS: If you could only take one book, one album, and one movie on a tour, what are you going to bring? 

SD: One book? I don’t really re-read, I can show you the one book I have right now in my bag, it’s the Questlove memoir – it’s great! I’ve been listening to the Weave’s album like all summer and– oh but you said one. So I guess Weaves but there are a lot of close runners up: the Mitski album, the Margaret Glaspy album, the Olga Bell album and the Xenia Rubinos album, it’s called Black Terry Cat – it’s a convergence of so many genres of music, it’s one of the coolest records I’ve heard in a long time. And I have to pick a movie – I want to go see The Secret Life of Pets, I haven’t seen it yet. It seems like Toy Story with dogs so I’m for it.

TLS: And if a movie is being made telling the story of Speedy Ortiz and yourself who would you cast to play yourself? 

SD: Ooh I’ll have to think about this.

TLS: Gabby from Eskimeaux picked Hari Nef, or Colleen Green picked herself. 

SD: There are two people who I will watch anything that they’re in, and neither of them are especially appropriate to play me. I’ll watch anything with Kristen Bell because I’m a big Veronica Mars head, I love Kristen Ritter too and I love Hayden Panettiere but none of these people look like me…I think Colleen Green! She’s already made her debut playing herself and now, yeah I feel like that works. I’d be very happy to be the second credit on Colleen Green’s IMDB page.

Listen to Speedy Ortiz on bandcamp.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz.


Amy Garlesky is a philosophy/political science student and freelance writer based in Cleveland, OH and Burlington, VT. Follow her ramblings on twitter @ayygarl.