Sadie Dupuis on Sad13, Speedy Ortiz & Poetry

With two bands and her newly published book of poetry Mouthguard, how does Sadie Dupuis manage it all?

“The most important thing for me is to create a deadline,” she tells BTRtoday. “Not working can bring up depressed thoughts—so I don’t get mad at myself for taking breaks anymore.”

Dupuis not only published her first poetry book last year while on tour but also released Speedy Ortiz’s third album Twerp Verse. She put her MFA to use with her collection of “magical escapism” poetry Mouthguard. You can hear her lyrical magic in Twerp Verse set to indie-pop melodies doused in fuzzed guitar and experimental instrumentation.

But music and art aren’t her only passions. Dupuis is also committed to fighting inequality and abuse in the music industry.

Dupuis advocates for bands and everyone involved in the music industry to create a safe space at their shows for all genders and sexualities. In 2015 the band created a “help hotline” at Speedy Ortiz shows that their fans could text if they’re feeling unsafe and work with the venues to kick out and keep out potential abusers.

Dupuis says venues have started taking the lead on creating and keeping their own spaces safe and inclusive. “That used to be a rarity,” she says. “Now we show up at venues and they already have their own signage and policies—so the biggest change I’ve seen is more and more people are proactively taking on the work needed to fix really ancient problems in the entertainment business, and that’s exciting.”

Read the entire interview with Sadie Dupuis below.

Speedy Ortiz, “Lucky 88”

BTRtoday (BTR): So, it seems like you had a very busy year last year, touring and releasing not only a new album but also a poetry book—that’s pretty amazing. Were there times when you felt overwhelmed?

Sadie Dupuis (SD): It felt less busy than it looked, although looking back on it there was a lot of preparation behind both projects that ate up most of my time off the road last year. Two things are most crucial to me in manifesting creative projects.

The first is not being afraid to put something on my schedule, even if I don’t think I’m totally ready. Sometimes that’s booking studio time or scheduling music videos or, in the case of my book, sending out a manuscript. I’m a bad procrastinator, so setting a firm date and involving other people motivates me—I really hate letting other people down. So the most important thing for me is to create a deadline.

The second is forgiving myself for taking time off. I’m a self-employed person and it’s so tempting to spend every day on work, even when I’ve been on tour for most of the year. Not working can bring up depressed thoughts—why aren’t I working harder? Do I deserve to have a job in music? But overworking myself isn’t sustainable, and isn’t for most people, even if your job is something you love. Taking days and sometimes months completely off from creating helps me have perspective and growth when I do come back to writing. So I don’t get mad at myself for taking breaks anymore.

BTR: Did you just wake up one day and decide you needed to make music or did something inspire you or push you?

SD: I took piano lessons in elementary school. My dad would help me write music to the words in picture books, and we’d compose little songs. I kept doing it, especially once I picked up the guitar right before my 13th birthday.

BTR: Tell me about Sad13—how would you compare it to Speedy Ortiz? Does it provide a different kind of satisfaction for you than Speedy Ortiz?

SD: I started Speedy Ortiz as a solo, lo-fi home recording project while I was in another band that was more collaborative. When Speedy Ortiz became a band, I lost my outlet for home recording. I mostly only ever play guitar onstage, but I wanted an excuse to arrange songs outside of a rock quartet instrumentation, especially music that’s more pop. So Sad13 is the project where I get to produce myself and play all the instruments and not listen to anyone else’s input on the arrangements, for better or worse.

BTR: I love your colorful and vibrant style. Do you believe it helps express who you are?

SD: I’m very happy surrounded by colorful and glittery things, and that’s true of my clothing, especially for the stage. Having played in mostly male rock scenes since I was a teenager, I got really weary of dressing masculine to be taken seriously, especially after I felt somewhat established as a musician. Currently, I try to dress in a way that is not only colorful and hopefully fun for an audience to look at, but also shows that you can express your gender and personality any way you choose on stage and it has nothing to do with your talent or genre as a musician.

Tell me about some of the music you’ve got in the works for the future—what’s the creative process been like?

SD: Very slowly working on new songs for Sad13, trying to incorporate some chamber instruments for the first time since I was in high school. On a composition level, I’ve been very inspired by the last two Kelly Moran albums and really really want to work with her someday. Been listening to a lot to the most recent Kero Kero Bonito and Junglepussy albums too.

Sad13, “Fixina” & “The Sting”

BTR: You’ve been doing this for a while now, would you say the way DIY spaces and live shows are set up has evolved at all? How do you try to create a safe space for your fans at shows?

SD: There are many more organizations dedicated to preventing harassment and assault at shows than there were when I started going to shows, and lots of great people join that effort every day. I’ve been able to do consulting for other bands, radio stations, venues and festivals looking to incorporate some of the help hotline and safer spaces policies we’ve been using on tour for the past few years. That used to be a rarity; now we show up at venues and they already have their own signage and policies. So the biggest change I’ve seen is more and more people are proactively taking on the work needed to fix really ancient problems in the entertainment business, and that’s exciting.

We recently did a fundraising effort to distribute a book called Making Spaces Safer, a really great guidebook for venues in accessibility and inclusivity. All the venues and promoters along our tour were so thankful to receive them—people seem more receptive to these messages than ever before.