SPEEDY ORTIZ: THE SUM IS GREATER THAN THE PARTS
The thing about writing about music is that reference is better and easier than description. To say, “If you are fans of…,” or “If you like…” is the way to save characters and sprinkle a little of your record collection on the world. In some ways, it’s more about the writer than the band. For instance, what if you are in a band and the biggest review or mention of your band was the list of references one writer cited and twenty others writers adopted as truth. Your band then becomes “the band that sounds like…” which is cool if the references are cool, but also totally reductive in the sense that you are not doing karaoke.
“Certainly some of the comparisons are flattering, we do like those artists. It’s not especially fun to be put in the ’90s file cabinet by everybody all the time. Certainly Polvo and Pavement are things that we like, but it’s become sort of a catch-all thing because one person sees one person say it and we get cast as having this ’90s sound. I think at this point we are little frustrated with the comparisons to only bands of that decade,” comments lead singer and guitarist Sadie Dupuis of the fabnificent band Speedy Ortiz.
Dupuis along with guitarist Matt Robidoux, bassist Darl Ferm, and drummer Mike Falcone have gotten a lot of exposure for their excellent release Major Arcana (Carpark). Everyone from Pitchfork, Stereogum, to Rolling Stone have raved about the band’s music. However, fortunately/unfortunately the band has gotten many comparisons to the aforementioned bands above as well as Helium, Liz Phair, and Archers Of Loaf. Anyone, such as myself, who is versed in the sound of these bands, can detect a lineage but there is much more to the band than the similar nuances in guitar sounds compared to bands that once were.
Hailing from Northampton, Mass., Speedy Ortiz has released 3 EPs (Sports, Taylor Swift b/w Swim Fan, Ka- Prow b/w Hexxy) prior to the full-length album, each one better than the last. They’ve toured extensively, with Falcone noting shows in the hundreds, and have constantly honed their sound as a result of playing live, making Major Arcana the most realized of their releases. “I think it’s one of the big differences between this album and the EPs and singles we’d put out before, because the older stuff came from this practice of me recording these home demos where I was playing every instrument. And even when we started recording the singles and EPs, even though we worked on them all together, because I was used layering guitars on every recording. Generally when I write something, I have sort of some idea of what to counterbalance it with. I think with this album, I didn’t come into it with sort of prescribed part for Darl or a melody that I wanted Matt to play, and I think the songs are stronger because of that.”
Whether it be the pop gold of “Pioneer Spine,” “No Below” or “Tiger Tank, ” the sprawl of “Fun” or “Cash Cab” or the slow burn of “Hitch” or “MKVI,” each song represents a different side to the band that can be as romantic in sound as they are raucous. There is familiarity but not predictability in the melodies — something that extends itself to the live setting.“It’s a little less premeditated,” states Robidoux, a constant highlight of the band’s live show. “Having this open-ended structure already, and having my part based less on a melodic line and more on an open ended-ness that I can do within that parameter — with performance stuff it’s trying to do stuff that is unique to the space.”
While hype is never bad, it can lead to misdirection. The idea is to appreciate Speedy Ortiz , the band, more than fishing for influence. And even though the band is somewhat annoyed by the constant focus on the “sounds like” angle, they do understand.
“But, like you said, you listened to it because you heard it sounds like Polvo, and I’m sure if someone sent me a band (CD) and said it sounded like Polvo, I’d probably check them out too.”
Speedy Ortiz plays Saturday August 3rd at Mango’s 403 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77006