The Epitonic saki Sessions are back with a session and interview with Speedy Ortiz. This Northampton Massachusetts quartet melds the best of 90’s mathy noise pop into a fresh, new, free-spirited sound. After the live in-store where we recorded seven tracks, spanning their young catalog, saki manager Adam Hirzel conducted the following interview.
Epitonic: You have said in the past that you feel one of the biggest ties you have to late 80s/early 90s indie-rock (a connection that's mentioned in just about everything written about Speedy Ortiz) is in your bands 'personality.' I think it was evident when you played saki. People came out to see you guys play your songs, but most of the audience seemed to be feeding off of the band's energy and vice versa. How important is that sort of unpretentious connection to you as a band?
Matt: I think that's the justification for us driving around the US for 6 weeks playing music.
Darl: Energy is really important. It keeps the songs fresh and inspires originality in playing, which allows us to explore our songs more. We play songs for a long time live before we record, so to feel excited about songs every night is important, and the audience is a big part of that. I don't mind if the connection is pretentious or unpretentious (which is a weird way to describe the relationship with the audience). If someone comes to our show because they read about us on Pitchfork, not knowing that our live show is different from the recordings, that can be a great way to make fans/enemies for life.
Epitonic: Speaking of the "90s indie-rock" tag, are you getting sick of hearing that in reference to your band? The influence is pretty apparent, and you guys haven't really been denying that you're fans of a lot of the bands from that era, but at a certain point do you want people to just start writing about what Speedy Ortiz sounds like and not WHO you might sound like?
Matt: Sure, that'd be nice.
Darl: I think we're mostly influenced by bands that we know personally: Pile, Grass is Green, Two Inch Astronaut, Spelling Bee, Guerilla Toss, etc. I also think we sound a lot like ourselves. I don't really know or listen to anyone who plays their instruments like Matt, Sadie, or Mike. The strongest comparison to the '90s I can make would be Elliott Smith, but that never seems to come up. That one makes a lot more sense to me than Pavement or Dinosaur Jr.
Epitonic: Elliott Smith actually makes a lot of sense when you look at the lyrics! It seems you guys have really cut your teeth in DIY spaces and house shows. With your record on Carpark getting so much positive attention do you think you'll have to step out from that world soon to play larger venues? Is that something you're excited for, or is their part of you that wishes you could just play house shows forever?
Sadie: We've always played a mix of venues, ranging from for-profit bars to less conventional volunteer-run spaces. I can't imagine we'll ever stop supporting DIY spaces and I don't really see a reason to. You see very established artists like David Bazan and Califone doing living room tours every year, in addition to playing clubs. That's because it's gratifying as an artist to have intimacy with an audience, and spaces like houses or living collectives make the experience of performing a lot more personal and meaningful.
Darl: House shows are a must. We might not play them as frequently, but a lot of the house show spaces that we used to play don't exist anymore, and nothing has filled the void as of yet. We already had to step out of that world (from the rate that we were in it) before we even signed to Carpark or finished making the record. We love to play house shows and I don't think we'll ever stop, but it's difficult when there're not as many houses that you can rely on to throw frequent shows.
Epitonic: It seems like you all kept pretty busy before the band was getting so much attention, with school, running a label, and running a DIY spot among other things. Is the band more of a full time job for everyone now?
Sadie: I'm teaching two classes in the fall. We'll see how that works out.
Matt: The band takes up most of my time at this point but the label and venue are still operational. I'm going to go back to teaching as well in a couple of weeks. Instead of feeling like I don't have enough time to do anything else because of Speedy, I usually see a great band we play with and think "I want to book a show or put out a tape for them..." so these things have a way of inspiring each other.
Darl: For me, it's been a full-time job on top of several other full-time jobs. At this point, it basically is my only job, but I hope to find part-time work to keep me busy during the week.
Epitonic: Do any of you have side projects you're excited about, or just other bands (that you're not in) that you really want everyone to know about?
Sadie: One of my side-projects, Dark Warble, is working on demos for a follow up to our first EP. It's sort of a trans-continental home recording thing.
Matt: Yeah Dark Warble! My other band Pony Bones is playing a show and recording a new tape this week and my other group Banjo Assault just got a commission for a series of outdoor performances in nearby Easthampton. I'm excited for my friends Blanche Blanche Blanche's upcoming release on NNA.
Mike: I'm in 4 or 5 bands at the moment. Dead Wives is the one where I sing and play guitar. We're about halfway through recording our first LP. I occasionally still play drums in Ovlov who I think put out one of the best rock albums of 2013.
Sadie: Oh yeah, I sing backing vocals on the Ovlov record too. Without buttering our or their buns, we're all huge Ovlov fans and are always stoked to play with/in them. I wouldn't even know Mike if I weren't an Ovlov fan first.
Darl: (long live) Day Sleeper. (long live) Big Void.
Epitonic: What's next for Speedy?
Matt: More tours, new songs.
Darl: Eating something with guac.
Interview by Adam Hirzel
Audio recording by Matt Irizarry
Audio mixing and mastering by Justin Sinkovich