On Speedy Ortiz’s Real Hair, the band sets a course between the knotty discord of debut album Major Arcana and the pop bonafides of the preceding Sports EP. Recorded and mixed by Paul Q. Kolderie (Pixies Radiohead), the new EP finds them subtly adding new techniques to their songbook. Guitarists Sadie Dupuis and Matt Robidoux bring on additional guitar effects to color the roundabout feel of “Oxygal,” while bassist Darl Ferm and drummer Mike Falcone hit hard to deliver the jump-in-the-pit urgency of “American Horror.”
From the vocal melodies to the no-nonsense guitar turns, this is Speedy’s catchiest outing yet, drawing inspiration from contemporary Top 40 and R&B radio in addition to their regular arsenal of guitar rock. Dupuis’ lyrics continue to address concerns about identity, representation, and their misalignment, this time from a new angle: “While the last album was kind of a breakup jam, these songs are a lot more introspective—myself dealing with and talking to and making sense of myself,” she says.
With Real Hair, Speedy Ortiz once again taps into the four-part chemistry that brought their prior outings praise. They’re still equal parts noisy and poetic, and now merge those channels more seamlessly than ever. You can check out that chemistry this Friday at Omaha’s Sweatshop Gallery. The band performs with Pile and local fave Digital Leather.
The Reader caught up with the band while on the road. Here are the highlights from that interview:
The Reader: Your music is continually compared to ’90s alt grunge. Do you think being categorized by your fans affects your range of artistic expression?
Sadie: I don’t think press ever really affects the artistic output on our end. It probably has a greater impact on the people who listen to our records or attend our shows. If we get compared to Polvo in a city paper, we’re going to get a different draw at that show than if we’d been compared to, say, Deerhoof, even though both bands are major influences.
Matt is known for his wild antics on stage. What was the craziest thing you’ve seen him do during a show?
Sadie: During a show in LA last year in which we were playing probably 10-15 feet above the crowd, Matt tied a chain to his guitar and dangled it down into the crowd. We ran into someone at SXSW who had seen that show and was expressed concern that they thought Matt was going to fall off the stage.
How would you describe your sound?
Darl: Pleasant. Brooding.
Mike: I wanted to say “brooding.”
Darl: Everyone wants to say “brooding.”
Mike: Dissonant. Flamboyant.
What is the Speedy Ortiz lifestyle like?
Sadie: Oatmeal, soup, occasional theft of non-alcoholic beer.
I read that Sadie originally studied mathematics at M.I.T. How does being both left brained and right brained affect your work as an artist?
Sadie: Hmm, I’ve never really thought about it that way. I guess I like to approach art in a process-oriented way, occasionally setting rules for myself, and maybe that derives from having a long-ago scientific background. I don’t think it’s very unusual to have that kind of dual background, though. A lot of the friends I made at MIT are some of the more creative and innovative artists I know.
Caged wild animals are continually referenced in your work. Is there something about confined animals that you relate too?
Sadie: Most non-human animals are cooler than humans. I’d rather hang out with those guys.
I noticed that in every video, interview and band photo, Sadie is wearing the same necklace with a key on it. Is it the key to our hearts?
Sadie: It’s a necklace my dad and stepmom gave me when I won a poetry award in college, right before I finished my BA. I think there was some sort of symbolism about doors opening, but I just like it because it reminds me of my family. Keys make a nice icon, too.
According to the dark and shady crevices of the internet, Speedy Ortiz was named after a new brand of speed that gets you going faster than swift, home-runner David Ortiz. What does your band name really mean?
Sadie: It’s the name of a character from the comic series Love and Rockets, of which I’m a huge fan.
Whats with the pup of the day on your website?
Mike: We love puppies because they’re adorable. When we’re on tour, we get to meet a lot of fun pups.
In one of your interviews you mentioned that playing a song live is part of your process of shaping a song. Have any of your songs evolved further since you’ve recorded them?
Mike: Yeah, of course. “Indoor Soccer” is different every time we play it. Certain songs are based around improvisation, more or less, and it helps to keep things interesting. We do a version of our old song “Curling” now which we call “Loud Curling.” Metal hands.
Has there been a moment during the ascent of Speedy Ortiz yet when something so exciting happened that you thought “Wow is this really happening”?
Sadie: Some of the college radio stations we’ve played were pretty exciting for me–KVRX, KEXP, WFUV, WFMU, WMBR, even visiting the NPR offices–those are all stations that were hugely important to me as a kid growing up and finding new music, and it’s been unbelievable to have support from them. I’m still kind of shocked every time I hear that a radio station is playing us. My mom takes a picture every
time she hears us on Sirius/XM.
Darl: Meeting Steve Popson from Polvo. Seeing Doug Martsch at our show in Boise.
Mike: Going to Europe. Never thought I’d do that. Never thought I’d share a bed with Kris Kuss from Pile, either.
Have there been any moments of strife?
Sadie: Running out of kale chips.
Darl: Not being around Kris Kuss.
Mike: When you can’t find boiling water to add to your oatmeal.
What has been your favorite part of your tour so far
Sadie: Every time Pile plays the “Prom Song” solo, something silly happens. It’s almost a punchline at this point. Rick takes this ridiculous stance, and either someone comes up to hug him, or mock-fellate him, or he just makes this insane face. I’m going to take off my pants at some point.
Will you please give away more chapbooks after your Omaha show?
Sadie: Fresh out at the moment, but I just finished a manuscript, so maybe I can have some real books next time we come to Omaha.
INTERVIEW BY EMA MARCO