May 23

ATWN Interview: Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis

Speedy Ortiz/photo by Noe Richard                     

So, for our readers who don’t already know, the band’s name comes from a character in the Hernandez brothers’ Love and Rockets comics.  I went through a phase in high-school where I couldn’t get enough of indie comics and Love and Rockets was one of the first to open my eyes to what could be done outside of superheroes and spandex.  When did you develop a relationship with comics?

I’ve read comics as long as I could remember. My mom bought me MAD Magazine when I was a tiny kid which pretty quickly turned into collecting comics together, learning how to draw characters I liked, and eventually drawing and writing my own stories.

In doing research for this interview, I happened upon what I believe is your Goodreads page and noticed a lot of graphic novels.  Some you loved (Watchmen) some you didn’t (The Walking Dead).  Some of our authors are working on graphic novels of their own.  What is it you look for from a great graphic novel?

Ha, I forgot that existed… I set up that account half-assedly and was ultimately unimpressed with the service. Kind of like Pandora or Netflix which only ever recommends me things I already know. I’m all for zombie stories but I find ‘The Walking Dead’ (at least the book) to be 2D, underdeveloped, misogynistic. I don’t feel for any of the characters on ‘The Walking Dead’ (and by necessity of the plot) they’re totally disposable. The most memorable things about them are their hair-dos, their accessories, their weapons. If you have a great story with weak characters, no one’s gonna give a shit. Interesting characters are necessary. That should go without saying. Someone page Robert Kirkman.

So, lets get to Speedy.  What is it about the character, Speedy Ortiz, that struck such a chord that you decided to name your band after him?

A few people close to me died in 2011, and at the time I was reading Locas, and I remember feeling impressed with the way Jaime Hernandez portrays grief in “The Death of Speedy Ortiz” and the stories that follow it. More so than Speedy, I was interested in how Maggie and Izzy and the rest of the people close to Speedy continued to live their lives after his death, the way Hernandez hints at their grieving processes, and how the narrative continues so abruptly after he dies (we’re led immediately from Speedy’s ghost haunting his sister to a scene about Hopey on tour).

You have a background in poetry.  What poet, past or present, do you think would fit in nicely as a member of the band?

We once played a show that ended with a reading from Wendy Xu, whose new book ‘You Are Not Dead’ is one of my favorites of the year. It would be cool to do another show like that. Wendy Xu, wherever you are, please eat sandwiches with us.

I’ve asked other artists this same question so I’m curious what you think.  I know that as an aspiring novelist, I spend a lot of time wrapped up in music.  I write important scenes to songs.  I use songs to try to get into some of my characters’ heads.  It plays an important role in what I do with words.  I’ve always been of the opinion, beyond actually writing lyrics, that there is a special kinship between authors and musicians.  Still, I can’t really play much of anything on my guitar (which doesn’t stop me from shredding it up with my two kids).  What is your take?  Do you see music and writing as being partners?

To be honest I’ve never really seen my writing and my music as connected. I have to focus so intently when I read and write that I can’t even really listen to music when I do so. I’m jealous of my friends who go into a coffee shop for a day and knock out huge chunks of their novels while listening to an iPod, because for me that’s way too distracting.  But I do enjoy books and poems that use music as their subject matter and I read a lot of music criticism.

The majority of our readers are pounding out words on their keyboards to try to tell stories and we all go through a variety of processes to get those stories out.  What does your process look like when you are songwriting?  Where do you struggle?

Almost always I compose music first and the lyrics fall into place afterwards. Sometimes I’ll come up with a line when I’m walking around or in the shower or whatever. Sometimes I’ll fill in the rhythmic blanks with phrases I’ve jotted down in a notebook. I’m lucky in that a lot of it comes automatically to me through association. As far as where I struggle, editing is not my strong suit. Once something’s done I typically let it go without changing anything. But sometimes I’ll be performing an older song and be like, “Man, I really wish I’d changed this shitty line right when I first wrote it, but now we’ve recorded it this way and now it’s stuck and now I have to embarrassed every night.” So I take some live liberties and change the lyrics for that, which is kind of a revisionist history. Not that anyone can understand what I’m saying anyway.


My rock soul was shaped in no small part by Sonic Youth.  You recently toured with Thurston Moore.  What was that experience like?  Did you happen to catch what books he was reading?

The shows were with Thurston Moore & John Moloney’s Caught On Tape duo, which is improvisational, so the sets were different every night, which was nice. Super talented, both of them (obviously) and really interesting performers. Didn’t snoop anyone’s books but I did pick up a cool compilation CD from Ambrose Bye, a friend of Thurston and John, who was along with them for the dates. It’s called Harry’s House and it’s got work from Eileen Myles and Anne Waldman, Thurston too. Pretty cool.

In another nod to our readers, many of which are writing books for a younger readership…think middle school and high school…what’s a book from your childhood that really stuck with you?

As far as middle and high school, I don’t think I had a big YA reading phase. I liked beat stuff in high school and got super into Burroughs (story of every teenager’s life). I loved Murakami. I definitely read a lot of manga in middle school. I probably have every Sailor Moon book. Oh, I probably got into Animorphs too, now that I think about it.

There’s an interesting thing happening right now in the world of books related to self-publishing.  E-readers have really opened the door for almost anyone to get a book out there into the hands of the public.  With that addition to the market, there’s been a backlash against self-published authors.  For years and years and years there has been a DIY scene in music and it doesn’t seem to have that same “You don’t know what the fuck you’re doing” vibe that lingers around book publishing.  Your band itself began as a bedroom project.  Why do you think the music scene has really embraced that spirit of self-promotion while DIY publishing is struggling with legitimacy?

This is probably tough for me to answer since I don’t know a ton about self-publishing literature (outside of homemade zines and chapbooks, that is, which are totally legitimate!). My depressing analysis is that for whatever reason, as a member of both literary and musical communities, it seems that less people (at least in my mid-20s age demographic) are invested in supporting literature, independent or mainstream, than are interested in supporting music. Maybe it’s an issue of attention span and time commitment. I know that when I bring chapbooks to shows, which I make in a limited run and give away for free, we’re more likely to sell out of $10 EPs at the show than to get rid of all of the free chapbooks.


If I jump into the backseat of your tour van and start poking around through your stuff, what books am I going to be dragging out of your duffel bags?

Right now I’m reading Dorothea Lasky’s Thunderbird, which she signed for me at AWP (I got totally starstruck). Last tour I read some Oliver Sacks, some Wallace Stevens, some comics, some shitty goofy guidebook about touring. I have Joseph Ceravolo’s Collected Poems in the wings for the next tour, and a couple other dumb pop science books.