Stony Brook University’s Graduate Student Organization brought in rockers Speedy Ortiz and Rick from Pile earlier this month for the first Stony Brooklyn show of the semester.
Rick from Pile opened the show at the LDS Center with a great solo set performing some of Pile’s best cuts and some new solo material. Speedy Ortiz headlined the show and played a powerful hard rock set with songs like “Dvrk World” and “Tiger Tank” from their past two albums Foil Deer and Major Arcana.
After a great show we were fortunate enough to get a chance to sit down with Sadie Dupis of Speedy Ortiz with our friends at WUSB. You can check out the interview and pictures below.
Question: For making Foil Deer, you locked yourself up for like a month in your mom’s house, apparently?
Sadie: And it wasn’t like a dungeon set. I did go visit my mother in the woods and I wrote the record there mostly.
Q: How was the writing process for that? Did you have a lot of songs beforehand or did you write the entire album by yourself?
S: There were like two songs that predated that month and then the rest was a lot of me. There’s a beautiful lake where my mom lives. I’d go swimming, write a song, maybe go walk a dog, write a song. I tried to write like three songs a day and then we’d pick the best ones.
Q: That’s cool. How was that process, of you writing these songs and then interacting with the rest of the band? Is it democracy, is it “I wrote these songs, they’re mine, we’re doing them.”
S: Yes and yes. It’s both things.
Q: A lot of songs revolve around melody and it’s really interesting. Is that what you focus on more, is it just what you focus on more, just creating melodies?
S: When I write the songs generally I write by recording so I’ll make a demo that’s pretty fully fleshed-out with all the other instruments on it. And when we’d all meet up, we’d started to figure out what’s working and what should be changed and what would be better if like the part was changed.
Q: I have a question about your safe space policy.
S: Yeah! They posted it at the show tonight. That was really cool.
Q: I’ve heard other people talk about it. I know some bookers who’ve been using it at their shows.
S: Yeah. I’ve seen a few venues have started since we came either start posting policies or either to post a phone number that physically shows.
Q: What’s the backstory behind that? Was there a reason or did you just think it was appropriate or necessary, or…?
S: As someone who attends shows regularly there’ve certainly been instances in which I felt unsafe in the crowd and didn’t know what to do or how to get help without escalating the situation, so I let things go or left the show, even. And then as you start to build esteem as a musician, you wind up knowing people with venues; or you’re performing yourself, and you know who to talk to and how to get help. I think our basic feeling was: we have this privilege of knowing how to get to security at any given time and might as well post a phone number so that if anyone’s experiencing a problem at the show, we can get them in touch with the right people, or bring them backstage if need be. So, we made a hotline number that forwards to all of our phone numbers as well as any to our manager, or send an engineer who might be with us. And that way, if someone is experiencing a problem in the crowd they can get in touch.
Q: The policy’s actually been emulated by bands like Modern Baseball and expanded upon with bands like PWR BTTM and mandating—
S: Gender-neutral bathrooms, which I love.
Q: So how is this kind of role of acceptance like a kind of responsibility for artists in indie music, where we’re a more accepting crowd?
S: Modern Baseball and PWR BTTM are two for sure. I know I wanna say Say Anything might have done this or at least they contacted us to try to figure out how to set it up. I think obviously it’s not either necessary or viable for every person on tour to set up a hotline. If you’re on tour, just yourselves, like four musicians playing in a band, you’re not gonna see someone’s text from a stage. But if you’ve reached a level where you do have a bit of sway, basically to tell them you just sort of demand this. I always think it’s important, if you have any platform, to use it to better other people’s lives, and that’s sort of why we’ve been wanting to do this. And it’s been cool to see certain venues, not just even in the US. In Europe and the UK as well, we’ll meet with the people who run the venues and they’ll say they’ve never even considered doing this; but now we’ve instituted our own phone line, or they’ll start posting their own policies or who to talk to if you do need help.
Q: Well, I want to talk about Sad13. What made you want to do a solo release?
S: I had a month off. That was really it.
Q: *laugh* that’s a pretty good reason.
S: Yeah, I had a month off from touring and being on the road all the time is like I can’t write on the road at all, so I wanted to use my month off well, and it turns out I made a record.
Q: Great, what would you say the themes of the record are?
S: Concern, women supporting one another, tearing down heteronormative BS. What else, what else? Surviving abuse, what other cool themes? I use some cuss words. MIDI.
Q: But where do the themes come from? Are they from personal experiences, just things you think about a lot?
S: Personal experiences are collective experiences that are often perceived as personal that may be derived from systemic problems.
Q: I’m assuming that you think it is important to battle these issues, but how do you feel that music can help battle these issues?
S: Yeah, I certainly gravitate towards political music, especially to have some of these subjects approached in a more pop format. Because I think a lot of the punk bands that have been important to me, it’s more common to hear about these sort of things in punk bands or these bands that come out of DIY scenes. But you don’t necessarily hear it in radio pop, and not that this is like a radio pop record, because I made it myself in a bedroom, but this is kind of a send off to a lot of the radio pop I grew up loving, and that maybe thematically it was troubling in hindsight.
Q: I guess one thing I wanted to touch in is in May, you guys sold out Warsaw with Hop Along?
S: People were making out at that show. Everyone in the crowd was making out. I didn’t make out with anybody.
Q: As a band that started in the DIY roots, did you ever have an “a-ha” moment when you realized that you were a band with influence and people were listening to us?
S: I don’t know, I think that it has been a slow build. I’ve never felt like we level-jumped, in a sense. We tour all the time and the tours get bigger because we don’t ever go home. Warsaw was really a cool show, though.
Q: How does it feel to play to a thousand people in Brooklyn?
S: It’s pretty cool. But they’re all making out, and I’m just sitting up on stage like “I’m lonely.”
Q: So if you had to choose between—
S: Making out and playing for a thousand people?
Q: Not what I was going to ask, but I guess that, too. If you had to choose between the DIY hotspots right now, you have Brooklyn, you have Philly and you have Mass, which one’s your favorite?
S: I don’t know. I kind of moved to Western Mass. because I liked a lot of bands in Boston, which is kind of counterintuitive. But I got a job in Western Mass., so I went there. But Pile was a band I looked up to, Krill (RIP,) Kal Marks is still, I think they’re on tour right now. There were so many really great Boston bands in 2011 when I first moved up there, but I moved to Philly this year because there are so many bands there that I’ve been obsessed with, like Spirit of the Beehive or this band Old Maybe’s really great. Every time I go to a house show in Philly, maybe I know two of the five bands on the bill, and the other three bands are all sick, and that’s an exciting thing to be a part of when I get home.
Q: Is there anyone else that we should be checking out right now, do you think?
S: From Philly?
Q: Just from anywhere, any bands that you really like right now?
S: Well, Old Maybe’s really cool, they’re a Philly band, this band Empath from Philly’s great, Allison Crutchfield has a new solo album coming out, I think, in January.
Q: P.S. Eliot shout out.
S: I just saw P.S. Eliot playing in a basement to 20 people the other night. It was so cool. Who else is awesome? This band Melkbelly from Chicago, didi from Columbus, those are all of the bands I like.
Q: What’s next for Speedy?
S: Well, we’re taking a lot of time off because Mike and I each have solo projects. We have our next record written, hopefully we’ll record that before too long. I do know what it’s called, but I haven’t told my bandmates.