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Stopover spotlight: Speedy Ortiz 

A combustible mix of strangeness and charm

The first thing you can tell about Sadie Dupois is that she's pretty darn sharp. No matter that she studied poetry at M.I.T. and Barnard, or that she is in the final stages of finishing her MFA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The words and music she writes for the band Speedy Ortiz are surreal and intriguing; even when you can’t understand them, they just sound cool. And when you can, they draw you in and hold you in their stare.

As with her earlier band, Quilty, Dupuis gives Speedy Ortiz a thread to follow, through grungy guitar walls and maze after maze of shaggy, left-turning melody. In a way, she’s a more literary Liz Phair, with one eye on the gutter and the other on the thesaurus.

And Speedy Ortiz rocks with playful abandon.

“It’s tempting to paint Speedy Ortiz as more than they are,” said Pitchfork in its review of the band’s brand-new EP Real Hair (Carpark Records): “Not just a very good band on their own terms, but an antidote to the mushmouthed, low-personality murmur blanketing much of circa-2014 indie rock.”

With Dupois and Matt Robidoux on guitar, drummer Mike Falcone and bassist Darl Ferm, Speedy Ortiz’s live show is a combustible mix of two terms normally used in quantum mathematics: strangeness and charm.

CS: Your lyrics are kind of inscrutable. Are they stream-of-consciousness or purposely ambiguous?

Sadie Dupuis: I know what they're all about. But it's certainly very associational. A lot of times I hear super-blunt lyrics that are either clichéd or just uninteresting to the ear. From a band that I would think otherwise was great. So I've always just been more interested in bands that focus more on wordplay, or not being 100 percent straightforward. I think I've just grown up liking that kind of music, and that's why I write that way

CS: I like the way you and Matt play guitars—you really complement and enhance each other. Was that intentional?

Sadie Dupuis: I think we just got lucky, in that our playing styles are pretty different but seem to complement each other. We're certainly most conscious of how the guitars are working together, so I'm glad that came through on the new thing.

CS: Why is Real Hair an EP and not a single, or a full-length?

Sadie Dupuis: We certainly will do a full-length. We finished this record quite a bit before it came out, and we'd been playing the songs for a long time before that. And so as soon as it was done, within a couple of days I wrote some new songs, because it's hard for me to write new things when there's still stuff sitting in the pipeline. I just had four songs that were done pretty quickly. We'd just been playing a lot of the album songs for such a long time that we were really excited to have new stuff.

Carpark asked us if we wanted to do a single for Record Store Day. And we said “Let’s just do an EP. We have these new songs; it’ll be fun to have something new out.” We didn’t take it quite as seriously as an album; it was just a two-day session.

CS: You're leaving for your first tour of Europe. I guess people are hearing your music on the Internet ...

Sadie Dupuis: We don't really have any expectations considering we've never toured there. We know that generally people are very kind to artists over there. We've been getting news slowly that dates are selling out, which is certainly great for countries we've never been to before.

CS: Did I read that you actually taught songwriting?

Sadie Dupuis: I worked at a summer camp for a long time, teaching mostly guitar, but I had a daily songwriting class as well. One of the things that happened in the class was, you'd write a song in an hour. While helping students, I'd also try to find time to write songs, too. Based on whatever lesson we were working on that day. And I wound up using a bunch of those for a solo side project . We don't play a lot of those songs any more.

Speedy Ortiz plays at midnight Friday, March 7 at the Jinx (technically Saturday morning).

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Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

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Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

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