Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz Delves Into the Meanings and Process Behind ‘Twerp Verse’

Indie rock outfit Speedy Ortiz articulately recapture the spirit of ‘90s angst in a way that comes across as authentic and uncontrived. The ‘90s sensibilities that have always characterized the band are ever present on the third and latest offering, “Twerp Verse,” but the songs also find the band venturing into new sonic territory, supplementing their trademark sound to an end that will likely be satisfying and compelling to both long-term fans and newcomers alike. The music is heavy and abrasive, yet instantly infectious and broadly accessible. Singer and guitarist Sadie Dupuis’ lyrics are dense and captivating, at once immediate and abstruse.

The band wrote a set of songs for the new album, and decided to ditch most of them in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Dupuis and crew have always imbued their music with social consciousness, and used their platform to champion just causes. The new album continues this trend, bringing a new intensity to the band’s political bent. It’s a timely record that voices a collective frustration, but also moderates the sentiment with plenty of wit. Dupuis spoke with Entertainment Voice, shedding light into various aspects of the new recording, including the messages behind the songs and videos, and the processes by which the work came to fruition. She touches upon her background in poetry, her influences as a guitarist, and the experience of touring with her idols, among other things.

Your new album is titled “Twerp Verse,” and you’ve explained that you use this term to describe when a musical guest featured on a track ends up somewhat outshining everyone else involved, just by saying something rather outrageous. Why did you find “twerp verse” a suitable name for this album in particular?

I thought the expression was funny. It sort of became a record about putting out atrocities but trying to do it in a way that still had an optimistic spirit, and maybe a levity to it. So that sort of vibe. It felt like it could correlate.

The final song on the album, “You Hate the Title,” includes the lyrics, “Tinker with the levels ‘til we’re even-stevens.” Were you referring to your album’s title and reacting to people’s meddlesome interference?

(Laughs) I wasn’t, but if someone does hate the title, perhaps they can refer to that song.

Your single “Lucky 88” is a bit different from most of your songs, poppy in a less guitar-centered way, with prominent synth parts. What influenced you to go in this direction on the song?

I think part of it is that I wrote it when I was on vacation for Christmas with my mom, and I had a little pocket synth with me, so it was mostly composed using that instrument, and I made the demo using that synth, so when we brought it to the band, most of it had been done just using drums and synth parts on that little pocket synth, and that arrangement felt mostly pretty full to me. When I went to add guitars later, I didn’t want to force myself to put guitars where they didn’t need to be. SO there is guitar on the song, but especially for vanity. I added little accents, but it felt like most of the song was already written on that little instrument.

The video for “Lucky 88” shows people so engrossed in apps and technology that they don’t realize the world around them is steadily getting covered in slime. As someone who has always been socially conscious and politically involved, what would you like your fans to take away from this video?

I think just that. I think that’s sort of the message of the record to– to look out for your community, and to look out for other people who might not be a direct part of your community as well, because we’re all in this together, and if it all does turn into slime, we’re all doomed.

Your single “Villain” seems to be about the ordeal of having to deal with entitled, predatorial creeps. Will you take our readers deeper inside of the topic and message of the song?

I guess, the song is written in a personal way. It’s about my own experience, but I think anyone who has ever felt like they had to accommodate someone else’s feeling above their own safety, can maybe relate to it. And in part of the video, the director did this color-blocking thing, so that sometimes the monster stands out from the background color, and is very prominent and noticeable, and other times, he kind of blends in more subtly, and the idea is to look around you, and to see how harassment impacts people and all manners of their lives in, kind of, insidious ways, and maybe there’s something you, as a bystander, can do to help them out.  

You’ve revealed that you initially had a lot of “personal or lovey-dovey songs” for the album, but scrapped them after the 2016 election. One new song, “Moving In,” still seems like it could fit that description. Are the lyrics, “Catching feelings again / Now I’m taking a freshman to prom / ‘Cause that’s the only way I get to put him in a song” just a clever way to qualify your decision to include this song on the album?

That’s an old one. We kept that one from the first half of the record. That one was written in 2014.

You grew up in New York and went to school in Massachusetts, but you sometimes sound a little southern when you’re singing, for example, when you use the word, “never.” Where do you suppose this came from?

(Laughs) I lived in Texas for a period, so that’s probably what that’s about.

You have an MFA in poetry. Who are some your favorite poets that come to mind, and how do you think their influence seeps into your lyrics?

There are plenty of poets whose sense of humor with words I’m impressed with, and I try to keep that in mind when I’m writing. I like to keep the lyrics surprising and interesting. Lately, some poets I’ve really liked are a couple poets on Button Press. I’ve been into this poet Melissa Broder, who writes, “So Sad Today,” and just put out a novel that I really like, which is called, “The Pisces,” so those are some favorites.

You were in Babement, an all-female Pavement cover band, and now you’re amazingly touring with none other than Pavement’s own Stephen Malkmus & the Jinks. How has the experience been?

We did a tour with them. It must have been four years ago, but it was a great experience. I love that band. We’ve stayed friends with that band and I really love them, and I’m psyched for their new record.

Do you have a favorite city to stop in when you’re on tour?

I like to go to Austin, just because I have a history there, but we all have different places that we like. Our drummer really likes Salt Lake City, We all have friends and family that live all over the country, so every city is really a treat for us.

You have some wild guitar playing, with a distinctive style of your own that’s both intricate and raw. Who are some of your biggest influences specifically from a guitarist’s perspective?

Certainly, Stephen Malkmus is one. Mary Timony, who plays in Ex Hex, and used to be in Helium, is a big influence. But it really depends on the song. I know Deerhoof is a big influence. Certainly we have them in mind when we’re writing.

Anything else coming up?

Just the tour for the next couple months, just promoting the record, and being thankful that it’s out.

Twerp Verse” is available on Apple Music April 27. Speedy Ortiz’s North American tour runs through Aug. 5, with stops at NYC’s Music Hall of Williamsburg on May 17 and L.A.’s The Echo on June 7. All tour dates and tickets are here.