Sadie Dupuis and the Art of Doing Whatever the Hell You Want

Sadie Dupuis and the Art of Doing Whatever the Hell You Want

We talk autonomy, abusive relationships, and Sad13—the Speedy Ortiz singer's new solo guise.
October 14, 2016, 4:09pm

Sadie Dupuis rarely plays by the rules. Last year, her band Speedy Ortiz's management team suggested that releasing a record this year would be a bad idea. "If we didn't disappear for a while, no one would care," she recounts. "For whatever reason, we believed that advice." But, inspired by David Bowie, who had just passed when Dupuis began recording Slugger, she decided this would be the year she put out a solo album. "If it's not Speedy Ortiz, no one can get mad at me," she reasoned. "It's my side project." With no manager to stop her Dupuis went ahead anyway and adopted a new moniker, Sad13, for her solo debut Slugger. "Even though I recorded it all in two weeks, the mixing took months and months," she tells me, comparing having this solo record to having a baby and being unable to really focus on anything else before it was birthed. "I was on tour, doing other things, mastering whatever. It wasn't even done until June despite recording it all in January.

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Out later this month on Carpark, Slugger is a poppy, dreamy record that's dripping with synths and hat-tips to hip-hop and 80s pop—in other words, nothing like what listeners have come to expect from her main band. Don't let its candy-coated sweetness fool you, though: Dupuis's cutting, straightforward lyrics give the album the signature in-your-face, take-it-or-leave-it attitude that listeners have come to expect from her work.

A little over a year ago, Dupuis and I sat down in a small coffee shop to talk about Speedy Ortiz's sophomore effort, Foil Deer. This time round, we meet in a Brooklyn dive bar to talk about the autonomy of solo projects, art predicting life, and abusive relationships.

Noisey: What made you want to do a solo album?
Sadie Dupuis: I made a song with Lizzo where the idea was that we would write a song over Google hangouts despite never having met, and I'm so used to being in a band and working democratically that I'll ask them what they think about everything. Lizzo just didn't care—she let me do whatever I wanted, and we turned it into a song. I had so much fun doing it and was prompted to make more songs like that—plus, my lease in West Massachusetts was ending in March, and I didn't want to live there anymore after five years. I had two weeks off in January when I wasn't touring, so I subleased a friend's room in Philly to figure out if I liked the city at all. While I was there, I made this album.

Speedy Ortiz first started as a home-recording project—the Microphones and the Elliott Smith demos were both influences for me and the projects I've been involved in. When Speedy Ortiz turned into a band, I stopped having an outlet for home recording, but I'd still make these demos that I thought were awesome. It's very different to record at home and be able to add a mellotron part at 5 am on a Tuesday. It's fun to have that kind of autonomy.

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Is there something specific about autonomy that's attractive to you?
I played classical music as a kid and sang in a touring children's choir, so I was interested in composition from that perspective. I wrote a piece for an orchestra when I was a teenager. When you're arranging [for] three other people, you use a different part of your brain, so it was fun to get to do that.

"I just want you to know: there's this song on my album, and you're going to think it's about you but it's not. I promise." Then I threw up on myself.

You Tweeted about your boyfriend moving out after you came home from tour.
I don't know if he'll let me talk about this that much, but I did go through a very wild and emotional break up—unbelievably, after I wrote and recorded this record.

It definitely feels like a breakup record.
You know when you psychically predict your life in your own art? My ex is my friend and I don't want to shit talk him—I have nothing bad to say, he's a cool person—but he must've heard these songs and been like "What is going on?"

When I heard "Tell U What," I was like, "Damn, Sadie! Are you OK?"
We were together on New Years, and I got very drunk at Katie Crutchfield's house for [her and her sister's] birthday party. I had a whole bottle of champagne and I was like, "I just want you to know: there's this song on my album, and you're going to think it's about you but it's not. I promise." Then I threw up on myself.

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What's the song about?
I was in an emotionally abusive relationship three years ago, and the person stalked me. I almost had to file a restraining order—it was really bad. I didn't talk about it for a long time because I was embarrassed that it happened to me. When I was writing that, I was pulling from an emotional place, but it was really more about the pattern [that emerges] from those types of relationships: getting stuck in controlling situations, feeling belittled, taking a step back, and thinking, "I'm not good enough for you to treat me this bad. You can go." It's a dismissive and sarcastic way to say that you're not worth all the fuss the other person is creating. I was watching Jessica Jones [when I wrote it].

That show made me want to end every relationship I've ever had with a man.
Right? These people have supernatural powers and they are still stuck in these controlling nightmares.

How have the changes you've gone through in the last year impacted your work?
I was panicking because I thought that being in Philly was bad for me in terms of writing songs—I have all these friends that live [in New York], but I felt like I couldn't get any work done there. Now that this record's done, though I've been writing a lot in Philly and I think it's a great place to be. When I first moved to Massachusetts, the Boston house show scene was very influential on me—the bands in that scene were my favorite songwriters and people, but a lot of those bands have moved away at this point, some of them to Philly.

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I feel like I felt a little jaded in Massachusetts—I knew every band. Now that I've moved to Philly, there are great new bands that I've never heard about and I'm excited again. I feel like I'm 22 and fresh out of college, discovering a scene for the first time. I go to a house show, get home at 11, and start writing music because I'm so excited.

I get a very anti-media vibe from "Hype."
I've wanted to use "You still want to lick my asshole / Man / You still want to lick my asshole" in a song since 2012—but my bandmates didn't like it and said that moms will hate it, so I held onto it for a long time. Someone said [to me] that they'd been offered to work with Bully, but didn't, because they work with us—meaning that they already had a female-fronted band. They told that to me like it was a compliment, and I was like, "Your roster is all white bros!" It's baffling that gender is still considered a hitch in any capacity. It's certainly becoming less so with the prevalence of women and non-binary artists—not just with gender, but race as well. If you're granted a platform, you should use it to heighten other people's voices.

Photos by Yudi Ela

Annalise Domenighini is on Twitter yelling about something.