Who is Sadie Dupuis? A writer, singer, and guitar player in the band Speedy Ortiz. Producer, writer, and collaborator behind Sad13. Label owner of Wax Nine Records. A writer, with a book of poetry out (Mouthguard) and many published poems. Sad13’s Haunted Painting album came out last year, and, being a fan, I dropped a line to see if we could talk about the fine art of making albums.
What’s the difference between Speedy Ortiz and Sad13?
It’s hard for me to define. I’m always the only songwriter. I think when I first created the Sad13 project to work with Lizzo [on “Basement Queens”], it was, “Here’s the pop project that I also produced.” Then the intervening Speedy Ortiz record [Twerp Verse] I basically produced, played a lot of the instruments, and did all the synths and drum machines at home. It had a lot of the pop characteristics of the first Sad13 record [Slugger].
For Haunted Painting I composed everything. I produced it, and I’m the primary musician. I guess that’s the difference. I’m the songwriter for both projects, but certainly Speedy is a bit more collaborative, depending on who’s on the record and who we’re working with as engineers.
I know Speedy Ortiz started as a project led by you.
The very first Speedy Ortiz thing I did in 2011 was because I love home recording and had grown up doing a bunch on one of the Tascam Portastudios, using GarageBand, and taking recording classes in college. I was in a band for a long time with someone who was in school for recording engineering, so it got taken off my plate and I missed it. The first Speedy record [The Death of Speedy Ortiz] was me playing and recording everything in the most terrible, lo-fi way possible, which, in hindsight, I find charming. I wanted an outlet for doing something where I got to play all the instruments. If it sounded bad, at least I’d know it was my fault and not my inability to communicate with whoever’s tracking it. As Speedy Ortiz started taking gigs, the friends who were playing these songs live became my bandmates. We did a bunch of records together in a shifting lineup, but mostly the same people. While I love them, I created Speedy Ortiz as an outlet for my home recording and then immediately trashed it in favor of letting someone else record, mix, play drums and bass, and whatever else.
I see what you mean.
I started Sad13 in 2016 because I again missed home recording and wanted an excuse to do it. As I’ve gotten more and more into it, it becomes harder for me to want to relinquish any control. I have the feeling the next Speedy album might be more collaborative than anything we’ve done in the past. I’m often making the bulk of the production choices. I got really deep in on the Sad13 record, and I’ve been doing a lot of projects from home. Whenever it’s safe to work together again, maybe I’ll be a better collaborator and more interested in letting someone else have a say.
How did your skills improve while working on the new Sad13 record?
I always fall backwards into learning how to get better at anything. I’m averse to reading instructions, so I do something the way that seems obvious to me – which is probably the worst way to do it – and then I have to learn how to fix it. Even the first Sad13 record [Slugger], I thought I was making demos and then got deeper and deeper into trying to make them sound better. It’s somewhat similar on this project. I recorded the whole thing at home and then went into different studios to redo different parts, track by track. I viewed every session I’ve worked on as an internship, as much as it is hiring someone to work on my project. I admire that many people are able to mix remotely, but I have to be in the room. I want to see everything that’s happening, as well as the degree to which a knob is being turned, so that I not only know how to come back from that but also how to get to that place next time. Every session, I’m always in the room, pretty silent for the bulk of the mixing until I come out with my 50 notes that I need to work back from. I’ve been picking skills up from sessions for the past decade. I feel grateful to have been able to track and mix with...