Blurring gender lines with Speedy Ortiz

Punk poetry
By LIZ PELLY  |  May 23, 2012

speedy-1
BECOME WHAT YOU AREN'T "Sometimes we'll get compared to, like, Juliana Hatfield," says Speedy Ortiz's Sarah Dupuis, "and I think, 'You just picked that because she's a girl rocker from the '90s.' "

During a recent Allston basement show performance with her loud, grungy pop band Speedy Ortiz, Sarah Dupuis found herself surprised. The nearly-one-year-old foursome was in town from Northampton for Allston punk trio Sneeze's tape-release show when Dupuis noticed a front row full of random dudes screaming along to her ultra-catchy song "Taylor Swift." "I've got a boy in a hardcore band/I've got a boy likes to fuck to Can," they sang over Dupuis's moody pop vox and big crunchy guitars. "Then there's the boy sings the sad songs I like/I've got too many boyfriends to see you tonight."

The song — released as a single in March — was the first proper recording effort for Speedy, who formed just after Dupuis's previous Brooklyn-based band, Quilty, broke up. The band is completed by former members of Graph and Ovlov: Matt Robidoux on guitar, drummer Mike Falcone, and Darl Ferm on bass.

"The funny thing is, I'm pretty shy," says Dupuis, of the promiscuous narrator of "Taylor Swift." "A lot of the songs I write for this band are just like a character who is into fighting and having a million boyfriends . . . stuff about violence and knives and guns all sorts of things that are so far removed from my life as a poet in an MFA program."

Dupuis is indeed a 23-year-old who studies poetry at UMass-Amherst. But the same angry characters surface throughout the band's debut EP, Sports, which comes out later this month on 10-inch vinyl and cassette via Exploding in Sound. The band celebrate with a May 30 record-release show at O'Brien's in Allston with Grass Is Green, Young Adults, and Arvid Noe.

Highlights of Sports included the angsty, athletic-themed "Basketball" and "Indoor Soccer" and the hook-heavy jam "Silver Spring." "They're kind of love songs, but they're themed about sports," says Dupuis, "which are not typically themes you'd tie to songs about sex and boyfriends and girlfriends and stuff."

And though she's a self-described feminist, she sees the value in writing tracks about "too many boyfriends" and violence and fighting. "I don't necessarily even write from a female perspective," Dupuis notes. Of seeing a bunch of dudes singing along to "Swift," she says: "It's kind cool to have people stepping outside of thinking about gender and orientation and just liking a song."

It's not always easy to stay gender blind, though, as a female-identified songwriter in the hyper-masculine world of heavy loud-rock music-making. "I get the Best Coast comparisons sometimes," says Dupuis. "And it's so lazy . . . . We sound nothing like Best Coast. Whereas a band like Helium, I totally welcome that comparison because it's actually fitting. But sometimes we'll get compared to, like, Juliana Hatfield, and I think, 'You just picked that because she's a girl rocker from the '90s.' "

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