Q&A: Speedy Ortiz front-woman talks songs inspired by political ‘hellscape’

Media Credit: Shervin Lainez, Courtesy of Speedy Ortiz

Speedy Ortiz, an indie-rock band with political lyrics and headed by Sadie Dupuis, will play at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW, this weekend.

Speedy Ortiz tackles politics on a new album and will play in the District Saturday.

Last week, the band released “Twerp Verse,” a catchy record with guitar tunes like “Alone with Girls” and “Villain.” Speedy Ortiz garnered previous critical acclaim with albums like 2015’s “Foil Deer.”

Before headlining a set in D.C. this weekend, Sadie Dupuis, the band’s front-woman and guitarist, sat down with The Hatchet to discuss the new release, navigating political topics in music and the rise of women-led indie bands.

“Twerp Verse” sounds like a spunky title, what kind of lyrics can you expect from an album like that?
Sadie Dupuis: Because the title is playful and some of the music sounds playful, there’s definitely a sense of humor that has been necessary to my life, in the wake of a lot of difficult topics I’m unpacking on the record. I’m talking about bad allies on some of the record, losing complete faith in the Democratic Party and about disbelief that there are still so many bigoted people in the world. We really tried to write through these topics with optimism and levity. It’s more like, we need to work together and have optimism to find our way through to the other side of this hellscape.

The singles sound brighter overall than some of your earlier releases, how was the recording process different from your previous albums?
SD: It’s funny that this record probably sounds the most hi-fi of anything we’ve done, but in terms of the actual recording, it was the most lo-fi one. We thought we were making demos when we went. We did it really quick with some friends we’ve worked with for a long time, basically just tracked it live to see what it would sound like, and then we loved the performances. We mixed it with Mike Mogus and he’s got a gear nerd’s paradise of a studio in Omaha. Recordings were then sort of reprocessed through all this analog equipment. Him mixing it and Emily Lazar, who’s known for her work with Sia and Haim, mastering it, it wound up sounding sonically bright.

Have you experienced D.C. outside of concert settings?
SD: We hang out in D.C. quite a bit. Our old guitarist, Devin, was from D.C., so we would always go stay with his parents. So many of my friends who play music are from the D.C. burbs on the Maryland side. We’ve definitely clocked some hours in Silver Spring – we have a song called “Silver Spring” even.

What’s your favorite D.C. venue to play?
SD: We play Black Cat basically every time, and I love it so much. They kind of supported us right from the start. I’d be happy to play Black Cat until we die.

Do you have a favorite tourist moment in the District?
SD: I went to the space museum once, that was pretty cool. I did go to the Women’s March – I would’ve gone anyway, but I was there as a reporter. There was no cell phone service that day cause there were so many people there. I got there at something like 9 a.m. and left at 5 p.m. Long day on my feet – great day on my feet with other people, meeting them and talking to them. I figured out how to get back to her house on the train without my smartphone, so that was my proudest D.C. tourist moment.

How does a songwriter be political without being corny?
SD: I think there’s a place for that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of politically-geared music that’s really important that’s just really literal. I come from this tendency to really have fun with language, and I don’t want to sacrifice that just because the subject matter is timely.

How do you feel about the new generation of women-led indie rock and do any stand out to you?
SD: Most of what I listen to at this point tends to come from a woman’s voice. When I first started playing in rock bands, we’d go on tour and I might not see another woman in, or much less fronting, a band for up to a couple weeks. And that just never happens anymore – I feel like any show I go to, it’s so rare for me to see an all-boy bill. I’m really psyched at how many great women are releasing records. I was listening to the new Hop Along, Kississippi before that. And the Cardi B album. It’s really good, the last two songs are my favorite.

Speedy Ortiz will play at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St., Saturday at 8 p.m.

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