After a whirlwind of tour dates that consumed most of the year, Speedy Ortiz are taking some time off to wrap up their new album and to take a second to breathe. Frontwoman Sadie Dupuis took some time to chat about how life in the band has changed, as well as how their contribution to the Ferguson Library should serve as a wakeup call to all artists.
Speedy Ortiz is wrapping up their residency at Great Scott this Friday with their third and final set on December 19. The band has been playing an entirely different setlist at each show and has been featuring a changing lineup of Boston-area openers. Friday’s recently sold out show will feature sets from Lemuria, Two Inch Astronaut, Krill, and Ovlov.
Boston Hassle: 2014 is almost over and you guys have sort of exploded onto the scene over the past year or so. Has that increase in popularity brought on any really memorable opportunities?
Sadie Dupuis: I think most of touring was greatly surreal to us. A year ago we were on tour with the Breeders, and then shortly after that we were on tour with Stephen Malkmus and then Ex Hex. So we kind of have just toured, played with or met all of our heroes. My mom even said, “Is there anyone on your list of music you made me listen to in high school that you haven’t played with this year?”, and it’s been almost all of them.
It’s cool to go on all of these bigger tours, but we also toured with Grass is Green, Big Ups and Joanna Gruesome. It’s great to strike a balance by touring with our friends’ bands, who are basically our favorite bands in the world, as well as with the people who we idolized growing up. It’s pretty fucking crazy.
BH: It’s weird because fans think of you as a celebrity of sorts, but you’re normal people just like we are. It’s probably just as surreal for you guys to play with those bands as it is for us to watch.
SD: Oh yeah, specifically when we were on tour with the Jicks. Every single night we would try to finish our set and put away our gear so we could all be in the front watching them. We’re total nerds, but we were just ecstatic to get to play tours like that, even though it meant we didn’t get to live anywhere.
BH: I bet. Adjusting to being on the road so frequently must have been pretty hard.
SD: Well adjusting to it wasn’t that crazy because it’s like, “You have to go, you have to be here and here are all of these things you have to do.” The bigger adjustment is coming home where there’s nothing to do here.
BH: Especially with all of you quitting your day jobs to focusing solely on music. It’s a whole new lifestyle.
SD: It is. I quit my job at the end of the semester and went on tour the next day. I really haven’t done anything other than tour since then, up until a couple of weeks ago. It’s a weird adjustment.
BH: Right. I remember reading headlines all year long like, “Speedy Ortiz Announces New Tour” and I kept thinking, “Really?” I’m surprised you guys even have any free time at all.
SD: Well we don’t have anybody telling us what to do, so to speak, so we made the decision to quit our jobs. Pretty much the only way for us to make money is to tour, so we just said yes to everything. We were lucky with the opportunities that came to us in that they were all things we would have agreed to in a heartbeat anyway. It was a combination of being really hungry and needing the money, and also thinking “Wow, all of these tours are insane.”
BH: So are you guys taking a break from touring now?
SD: Yeah, we’re taking a couple months off. We have our residency at Great Scott, which is a nice way to get to see all of our friends that we don’t get to see while on tour. It’s nice to just go to house shows and hanging out at home — the stuff we don’t get to do on tour.
BH: You get to be in the audience this time.
SD: Yeah, it’s always fun to be on the other side of shows.
BH: How about the guys in the band?
SD: We’re with each other so much on tour that I haven’t really seen them since then. We see shows occasionally, like the Kal Marks release show the other day, but other than that we don’t really see each other.
BH: So I wanted to talk to you about what you guys did for Blackout Black Friday. How did the idea for that come about?
SD: Well I’ve been following the various social injustices that have been going on lately. I also don’t really participate in Black Friday anyway, but I like the idea of Blackout Black Friday. I was trying to think of any way to spread awareness to it without being overly preachy on the band Facebook. It seemed like the best way to do that was to put something up for free. Like, “Don’t spend any money today, and as a reward here’s something free.”
But people kept donating money, and I didn’t really think that they would. I woke up the next morning and we had $400, so I figured we might as well donate it to the Ferguson Library. I was like, “Whatever you give, this is where it’s going. And if you got something for free, please consider donating to the library.” We wound up getting like $1000, which was cool.
BH: Yeah, I mean having a large fan base is a great way to get your ideas out there and your voice heard, and I’m sure it helped in this instance. Is it weird having that platform now that you guys have gotten quite a bit larger in popularity?
SD: Yeah, I guess it is sort of weird. I think especially in terms of political conversations. I’m always surprised when my small contribution to an important conversation is even noticed by anyone. As of lately, it has definitely seemed like more of a platform than ever before to raise awareness.
BH: Well there has been such an alarming amount of incidents recently that is really sparking all of the support and protests. Do you think this is another chapter of a civil rights movement, or just a wake-up call in general?
SD: I think it could be, but it’s hard to say. This is definitely the most I’ve ever seen people my age reacting to injustice. I mean, there’s been incident after incident, and everybody is paying attention now because something has to change. It just seems like people are engaging in a way that wasn’t true 10 years ago. Everything is so much more urgent and dire every time I look at the news.
BH: It is, but it’s great to see that people are finally getting fed up. That’s why doing every little bit helps. Each person individually may not make a drastic change, but collectively speaking everybody helps.
SD: Sure, and I mean $1000 is a small amount of money relatively speaking, but we just liked the idea of contributing in any way that we could. It seemed like a good way to show people that you can use your art to do great things.
Hopefully you’ve snagged tickets to their sold out set this Friday at Great Scott. If not, be on the lookout for new tour dates in 2015!