Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Dupuis is nursing a sore back. Given her band’s extensive tour — stopping by Royale on June 26 for a sold-out show with Frank Turner and opening for Foo Fighters at Fenway Park on July 22 — and her burgeoning side project, she has a right to be resting.
Not only did Dupuis work on Speedy Ortiz’s excellent third record, the fiery, emotional “Twerp Verse,” for the bulk of the winter, she also released an intimate solo record under the moniker Sad13 in November. This frenetic pace is typical for the indie rock band, whose three major releases (not to mention several EPs and singles) have come out in the last five years.
Dupuis, a Connecticut native, attended UMass Amherst for her MFA. For that period she lived in Northampton, often playing there and in Boston. She credits both scenes for fueling her band’s early and continued success.
“Boston is really supportive of new artists,” says Dupuis. “People really show up to shows, and they care. That’s a really encouraging thing for new bands. They’re able to feel more supported as a community in Boston.”
When the band released its 2013 debut LP, the distortion-laden “Major Arcana,” critics were quick with praise. Todd Hyman, owner of Carpark Records, released that record with little hesitation.
“Within a week of each other, a couple of folks e-mailed me some Speedy Ortiz video and audio links,” writes Hyman via e-mail. “It immediately connected with me. I flew up to Boston right after a blizzard to meet everybody and see them play in Somerville. . . . The influences Speedy Ortiz channels combined with their activism is what makes Sadie and [her band] so special.”
Those influences haven’t escaped others’ notice, either. In the five years since “Major Arcana,” critics and fans have compared the band’s sound to ’90s luminaries such as Pavement, Sonic Youth, and Liz Phair (for whom the band will be opening this fall). When asked whether Dupuis agrees with the comparisons, she notes her admiration for those acts but says the similarity wasn’t conscious.
“I love a lot of those bands, but I never set out to do ’90s-style stuff,” she says. “We never were really sitting down to do anything utterly ’90s. Our references were always closer to Deerhoof, Autolux, guitar bands that were dealing more with songwriting. Squeeze is a big influence on this one. We’re kind of pulling from all over the place.”
She also mentions Prince, whose warm synths and thumping drum machines influenced “Twerp Verse.” The result is an inventive step forward, one that Dupuis says was partly due to changes in the band’s lineup: last summer, longtime guitarist Devin McKnight left to pursue his own projects. His replacement, Andy Molholt, makes his debut on “Twerp Verse.” (Dupuis makes clear that McKnight’s departure was entirely amicable, adding, “I only have really wonderful things to say about Devin.”)
“We did the record first as a three-piece with me doing all of the guitars, which was fun,” says Dupuis. “But I really like having someone to play off of.”
While Dupuis and McKnight drew from similar interests, Moholt brought different influences.
“It added some really interesting textures that I never would have thought of. When I was writing with Devin, anything I thought of he might have come up with, because we were pulling from some of the same examples.”
Also new on “Twerp Verse”: overtly political lyrics. (In Carpark’s press release for the album, Dupuis notes that the band sharply changed course after the election of President Trump: “The songs on the album that were strictly personal or lovey dovey just didn’t mean anything to me anymore — that’s not the kind of music I’ve found healing or motivating in the past few years, and I was surprised I’d written so much of it.”)
“I was really shocked by the president who was elected but also feeling really disappointed in the Democratic Party for destroying our chances of having a progressive candidate to stand up against Trump,” says Dupuis. “This record was written well before the #MeToo movement was happening, but it touches on some of the same subjects as well.”
‘We’re kind of pulling from all over the place.’
Over the past year, the band also contributed songs to a benefit compilation for Planned Parenthood and “Our First 100 Days,” an album benefiting anti-Trump organizations.
This activist approach was mirrored by Dupuis’s Sad13 record “Slugger,” whose synth-based love songs include “Get a Yes,” which is pointedly about consent. (“I say yes for your touch when I need your touch/ I say yes if I want to/ If you want to you’ve gotta get a yes.”)
As for why she wanted to add Sad13 to her busy schedule, Dupuis says the album was simply born out of her need for expression.
“I really enjoy home recording, and I had started Speedy Ortiz as a project where I could play every instrument,” she explains. “When I started the full band, I didn’t have the chance to do stuff that was just me. I was missing having that kind of outlet.”
As Dupuis reflects on her intimate solo project, her main gig is getting more and more visibility in the coming months. She’s especially excited to tour with Phair.
“Liz is in my musical DNA more than the other artists we get compared to — so it’s a comparison I’m always flattered by. Her guitar and songwriting were really eye-opening to me when I first started playing and composing,” she says.
For her back’s sake, hopefully the future also allows some time for rest.David Brusie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.