“I don’t think a song is a poem” – she continues, when I ask if they can, in certain cases be considered the same -“I’m sure for some people they can be, but I don’t think that anything I write as a song should be looked at as a poem on its own, because it’s connected to the mood of the music, it’s written to be paired with that, and if you separate the two it’s like twins separated at birth. A poem is a self-contained thing. They’re not the same.” This last phrase is said with a laugh that signals the question debated and resolved.
If, at times, the conversation seems strained, it’s in part because of the refreshing lack of bullshit that Speedy Ortiz seems to have. They’ve worked hard to be where they are, but are quick to point out that they’re surprised, to some extent, by their success.”We never had any expectations with this band, we didn’t form it with the idea that ‘wow, this is the band that’s going to take us around the world’ – we just recorded an album locally with an engineer we really liked, and people seemed to like it, so it grew.” And though Dupuis wrote her first song aged about seven, she never assumed that songwriting skills would bring success:”I don’t think, though, that I ever thought that just because you can write a good song you could make it your job, because we have so many friends who I think are better song-writers, than me -or any highly acclaimed rock band for that matter- and they’re still working day jobs.”
Up to this point in the interview we’ve heard mainly from Sadie, with occasional contributions from Darl and Devin, but drummer Mike Falcone has been largely silent, working on his laptop and shooting up an occasional glance. He comes alive, though, when I ask what they, as a band or individuals, want to do in the future. “I’d really like to make pop music some time, stuff that’s not really rock you know. I’ve always wanted to do something like that. Maybe at another point, when I’m too tired to play drums all day”. There’s a general nodding of heads at the word pop, though defining what pop actually is may be difficult to do. When we talk about early musical influences, they all have different bands ranging from No Doubt and The Clash (Dupuis), through to Green Day (Ferm), Smashing Pumpkins (McKnight) and The Beatles (Falcone), but one bit of common ground is Prince, so maybe that’s a good definition.
I’d love to make a pop album,” Sadie continues,” but I’d also like to make a super abrasive droney noise album after it. I think there are lots of bands – take someone like Scott Walker, whose had an amazing career, covering all sorts of directions – or a more pop example like Beck”. “I was just going to say that actually,” interjects drummer Falcone, ” about Beck – or early David Bowie, where each album had its own sound to it. They’ll do an entirely different genre for one album, and the next will be nothing like it but it’s still all strung together by some kind of underlying theme through the discography.”
Continuing the discussion on genre and possibilities, Sadie says “I feel like as a songwriter you have certain habits, so even if you’re working in a different genre the songs are tied to one another. To some extent genre change has to do with the actual melodies and music that you perform but I think a lot of it has to do with instrumentation and obviously we could do a lot of these songs with different instrumentation.”
We finish up the interview, and I feel relieved, as if I’d been the one being asked questions – and in a sense that’s the case when encountering Speedy Ortiz. Assumptions and things you take for granted go out the window, allowing for different insights to come shining through. I watch the band later on-stage, and, like most of the crowd, am captivated. There’s little fuss or shape throwing, and in its place is a fierce, raw, distinctive sound created by a band of individuals coming together on the same wave-length.
It will be interesting to see what direction Speedy Ortiz take from here. One thing seems certain, though: whatever direction it is – be it pop, rock, or experimental drone – it won’t be a lazy or haphazard choice, and for that alone you’ve got to love them.