Speedy Ortiz on underground comics, poster art and Livejournal: An interview with illustrations

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Speedy Ortiz (due Saturday, March 22, at Moe's Original Bar B Que) from Northampton, Massachusetts came out of the solo side-project of singer-guitarist Sadie Dupuis when she was a member of the rock band Quilty. Taking the project's moniker from a story in the influential underground comic series, Love and Rockets, the band quickly developed a musical vocabulary that had warped, loose and yet energetically forceful momentum of '90s guitar rock bands like Pavement and Helium. Dupuis's songwriting is informed by a whimsical sense of humor that serves as a source of subtle dynamic and emotional tension when the subject matter crosses over into more serious territory. We were able to spend some time talking with Dupuis about her affection for Love and Rockets and for underground and alternative comics generally. Given the subject matter, we figured we'd ask our very own Noah Van Sciver to provide the visual accompaniment for the interview.

Westword: Your band is named after a character from the comic book series Love and Rockets by Gilbert, Jaime and Mario Hernandez?

Sadie Dupuis: That is very accurate.

How did you get into those kinds of comics?

My mom is a visual artist and she had me reading comics as a young kid. So I got into the Hernandez brothers through that. I really liked Josie & The Pussycats and Archie stuff when I was younger. My mom gave me Yeah! which is from Beto and Peter Bagge, which was sort of a Josie & The Pussycats parody in a way. From that I got into the Hernandez brothers. I got into other alt comics after that. I think Archie comics are a big influence on the Hernandez brothers as well.

What resonated for you with the Hernandez brothers?

Their artwork is really beautiful and they're able to tell their stories completely through their panels and they're also incredible writers. They're quite different but the Love and Rockets stories are the ideal for any kind of comic you ought to read: the stories are great, the characters are interesting and compelling and the artwork is beautiful. They're kind of number one.

Is there a significance to why you named your band after that character?

No. I think it was sort of randomly named and we ended up sticking with it even though it's sorta silly.

Are there story lines in that series that you particularly enjoy?

I think I was reading "The Death of Speedy Ortiz" at the time that I was making the first demo for this band. I was sitting at my computer with the album title The Death of Speedy Ortiz and thought it would be kind of funny to have the project named Speedy Ortiz. I love all the Hoppers, those are probably my favorites of theirs. Especially that particular year. Either that issue or the issues or issues surrounding it. The ones collected in the second primary collection are probably my favorite of the whole series but I love them all pretty heavily.

For your tour poster with Grass Green you had artwork from Michael DeForge. How did you get connected with him?

He's done three posters for us and we have a poster for this tour as well that he did and he did out t-shirts. A few of us were fans of Lose, which was a series as well as Adventure Time, which is how we got to Lose in the first place. I think I just emailed him or Tweeted at him telling him we were big fans and struck up some kind of email friendship. He's a great artist and I'm really happy to work with him and that he feels like wasting his time enough to work with us. He's so prolific and so busy with putting out a new book, putting out Lose stuff and all the stuff he puts on Tumblr. I'm always kind of astounded when he says, "Yeah, I can do that in a couple of days."

Last summer, August I believe, you put out that Animal Styles mixtape. Who did the illustration?

It was all of us. I guess it was me but it was compiled. When we're asked to sign records we got in the habit of drawing little animals next to all of our names. I draw a pit bull, which is supposed to be my dog. Matt [Robidoux] has this cat, which is the logo for his tape label, Hidden Temple Tapes. Mike [Falcone] has this rat dog rabbit named Mavis and he does this. For whatever reason Darl [Ferm] does solar systems but I drew his old dog. I tried to do it in the style of everybody else's drawings. Then I tried to make it look like that Built To Spill album cover for Ultimate Alternative Wavers. A family portrait kind of thing. My dog is named Buster, he's a very special guy. What are some of your favorite alt comics other than those you named?

I think I first got into Daniel Clowes. I wound up buying Ghost World in French when I was visiting my mom's friend of a friend who was living in Paris. Paris has a big comics scene and has shops as well. I didn't realize he was an American artist that was massively successful because of Eightball. I didn't realize for a couple of years that it was an American comic. But at that point I got pretty into Daniel Clowes.

Adrian Tomine was another one I got into early and Optic Nerve is one of my favorite series. Charles Burns is another one. A few of us in the band are big fans of his artwork. Black Hole, in particular, is the story that we really like. I think we all have pretty different tastes in all that stuff. Liz Prince is someone I'm also really into. She's awesome. I sent her an email to try to make friends and she didn't respond. But reading her comics, doesn't it seem like she would respond to a drunk email. I think our band is probably not cool and her taste is too good.

Is there a particular thing she did that you like?

Alone Forever came out last month. It's about her being miserable and single. It's the most recent thing I got and it's pretty good. The particular one when she's hanging out at the Lemuria show and her friend is complaining about how all the cute girls left and she's like, "How about me? Aren't I a cute girl?" Her friend's like, "Is that an option for tonight?"

I saw that you have a Livejournal account, of all things.

We do have a Livejournal which we really are behind in updating and probably need to recharge our phones after this phone call so we can update it.

Have you continuously updated it?

We've been traveling so much that we don't have reliable internet. So when we have a chance we talk about our tour and now we're on tour with Pile. We had a record come out that we didn't write anything about so we've got some work to do. Our new record is called Real Hair, it's an EP. I still have my regular Livejournal and it gets updated maybe twice a year.

You had this recent update where someone drew things into the image.

I think Mike did those. He's for the most part our Livejournal mastermind.

Some of that's almost like a comic in itself. Why did you call the EP Real Hair?

I think it was just a title I had floating around in a bunch of working titles. I think I got it out when we were recording and everyone thought it was funny because it implies fake hair. You typically refer to your hair as your hair and not your real hair unless you've had a hair transplant. I think we thought we liked the funny ambiguity to whether people were walking around with their real hair. But in terms of music I think it had something to do with self-representation so the title seemed non-specific enough to not point in any absolute direction. It's a funny title but not all the stuff we're singing about is funny.

You're touring with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks?

Yeah, we'll be on tour with Malkmus & The Jicks a couple of weeks from now until the middle of April. I think Purling Hiss is on tour with them right now. I think they heard us and got in touch with our booking agent. It was a total surprise to us. We got an email that said, "Hey, Malkmus might be interested in having you on tour. Are you available?" We were like, "Oh, we will cancel half of a tour with Pile like total dicks." It wound up working out so we're lucky we get to tour with Pile and Stephen Malkmus in one cool month!

Speedy Ortiz w/Deerpeople, I Sank Molly Brown and Safe Boating is No Accident, 8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. show, Saturday, March 22, Moe's Original Bar B Que, 303-630-1980, $10 adv. / $12 d.o.s., 16+

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