Hopscotch 2018: Speedy Ortiz Fine Tunes Its Grunge Throwbacks on the Staggeringly Personal Twerp Verse | Music Feature | Indy Week
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Hopscotch 2018: Speedy Ortiz Fine Tunes Its Grunge Throwbacks on the Staggeringly Personal Twerp Verse 

S ince forming in 2011, Speedy Ortiz hasn't lost a bit of its wry humor or its knack for wordplay—the band has only leaned into these signature characteristics even more. Singer Sadie Dupuis has infused her plucky spirit and a refreshing sense of self-awareness into the group's three albums and three EPs, and the band has continued to become bolder in its sonic palette throughout its discography.

On Twerp Verse, released in April, the band really hits its sweet spot. Its sound is simultaneously fine-tuned yet grunge-bent, and Dupuis flourishes as a sharp songwriter. Each song becomes its own living, breathing entity, but the album is tied together as a symbol of resistance against the hostile political climate.

Dupuis also demonstrates a staggering vulnerability, especially as she grapples with grave topics such as sexual assault and harassment, but she still artfully navigates that landscape with bright wit. She doesn't come out of it unscathed, but she does come out of it stronger than before. Twerp Verse is in itself a rallying cry. Dupuis hones in on personal and collective anxiety, and she ultimately illuminates the value of a strong community and perseverance. Ahead of the band's Saturday night slot at Hopscotch—opening for Liz Phair, no less—Dupuis caught up with us about the band's current work, including its mission to help keep fans safe at shows.

INDY: After releasing Twerp Verse in April, what is it like to play these songs live?

SADIE DUPUIS: When you're working on the record, you don't necessarily know what songs people are going to be psyched about live, especially because we've moved away from road-testing songs. I'm really into production and studio tricks and weird arrangements. I felt like it was hard to tap into that doing a live-sounding record. Most of these songs we really hadn't played live at all.

That's sort of been a fun thing, seeing what songs people connect to and what songs they know the words to. It's always nice to know what deep album songs people are into.

Twerp Verse expertly captures the anxiety and anger a lot of us are feeling about the state of society. At the same time, do you think it's optimistic?

I'd say the record is pretty optimistic. It think a lot of it is focused on how shit is bad, but there are things you can do to make it better, and there are people who are working to make it better. That was a goal with the record for us. It can be hard to feel optimistic, but I think it's pretty crucial. Otherwise, it feels like time to give up.

In this same climate of insecurity, the band has taken steps to help people feel safe at your shows. Could you tell me a bit about what steps you've taken to do that?

Especially as a woman who goes to a lot of rock shows and plays them, there were certainly times that I felt inappropriately targeted or harassed or touched. There have been times where that happened where I've been like, 'Cool, I've played this venue before. I know who to talk to to get help.' I realized that that's a unique position to be in. I have the contacts of who's running the venue tonight or who's promoting the show tonight.

If someone in the audience is experiencing the kind of harassment that I've undergone at shows, it would be great to be able to connect them with the same resources we have. That was the idea behind making a text hotline. So if someone's experiencing harassment and they don't feel safe to stop it without escalating it or if other people around them aren't taking the impetus to step in and help them out, they have at least a way to get in direct touch with the venue via us. [Ed. note: Text 574-404-SAFE (7233) to access Speedy Ortiz's help hotline.]

We also distribute bystander intervention and de-escalation tactics so that people can feel empowered. If they see something and feel kind of weird about it, then they have some concrete ways to go in and help.

With a packed touring schedule and other musical side projects, what keeps you motivated to keep playing music?

I think a lot of people who work in self-employed creative fields feel this, where there's this constant internal pressure to work. I'm like, 'Oh I have a week off, better make a record this week.' I think all of us suffer from that workaholic neuroses affliction. It's really gratifying to get to do this as a day job. The fact that I'm lucky enough to get to do this makes me want to put in extra work.

music@indyweek.com

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