How did you two meet and how long have you been making music together?
Sadie: Audrey was roommates with some of our mutual friends, and in 2016 I sublet her bedroom. Based on the stacks of books she left behind, I knew she had very good taste before I knew much else! I’d seen her play guitar with Mal Blum and witnessed her incredible musicianship, so when Speedy Ortiz needed a new bassist, we asked her to join. It’s so nice to tour with a friend I share so many interests with: poetry, veganism, guitar pedals, Steely Dan, nü-metal, Sailor Moon, long dresses being the sweatpants of formalwear, Caroline Calloway.
Audrey: We have really similar taste in music—I remember we talked about Blur a lot when we were becoming friends—& we also both have a background in poetry & like to gossip. I played a show with Sadie’s project Sad13 in 2017 & started playing in Speedy Ortiz as a touring member in 2018.
What is your writing/composing process like?
Audrey: With Sadie, she writes the songs & sends arrangements, which I use as a starting place at least for the vibe. Sometimes I end up staying close, or sometimes I change them or add a lot more notes in (too many notes?). Speedy Ortiz songs are pretty dense so I don’t want to take up too much room, but adding interesting things around the edges is a fun challenge.
Sadie: For the new Speedy album, I tried to write bass parts that were sufficiently complicated for Audrey’s shreddy style of playing. Of course she made them twice as complicated and I love her for that. My composition tends to involve a lot of arranging and producing from my home studio. Guitar is my primary instrument, but I start with drums and bass, since rhythm informs so much of the rest of the writing. Then I add guitars and keyboards and sound effects, and vocals are the final layer. I like to run sounds through a variety of toys and equipment, and use my guitar pedals to process just about every kind of instrument. Lately I also like to incorporate field recordings and other found sounds.
If you don’t set aside the time or framework to make creative work happen, it won’t. I like using other art as motivation—thinking about why I like or dislike something can give me context and insight on my own projects. So I try to take in a lot of kinds of media, good and awful.
We were so excited to have you wear our pieces for your video shoots! What role does dressing and/or costume play in your performance?
Sadie: I spent a long chunk of my life dressing down for shows. Some of the DIY circles I played in until my early 20s were horrifically sexist, and I misguidedly thought I could avoid some of it by wearing an anonymous wardrobe of band t-shirts. But after Speedy’s first album came out and we started playing larger festival stages, I realized that dressing up for stage helped me get deeper into the performance and created a visual layer to our set. I also started to view dressing in a more femme way as a rejection of the idea that guitar music is inherently masculine or gendered. These days I’ll dress up to work on writing or music or other projects alone in my house. Wearing different shades, patterns, and materials can shift the tone and style of whatever I’m working on that day.
Audrey: Wearing something special for a performance helps me get in the mindset of “Oh yeah, this is a special time & I’m ready to bring that energy.” In some ways, it’s like getting dressed up for a date, where your clothes communicate to your partner the way you want to be perceived & that you’re giving extra effort for them, but for a much broader audience at once.
How do you conquer a creative block?
Audrey: It’s pretty basic, but working on something using a specific process always helps. Writing a song that uses at least 3 time signatures, using a specific source of language for writing, picking forms to work in, etc. Procedural work can be really rewarding on its own & aside from just a starting place a lot of the time.
Sadie: I love to give myself prompts and constraints—an amount of time, or a place I’ll write from, or a theme or reference I’ll include. Sometimes just setting a timer for sixty minutes gives me the adrenaline and motivation to write an outline of a song in ten. If you don’t set aside the time or framework to make creative work happen, it won’t. I like using other art as motivation—thinking about why I like or dislike something can give me context and insight on my own projects. So I try to take in a lot of kinds of media, good and awful.
Who is one of your newest found sources of inspiration?
Sadie: I’m especially inspired by other Philadelphians—knowing people are working on cool projects within the same city as me feels very exciting. Our band has all gotten pretty obsessed with the podcast Normal Gossip, so I’ll say Kelsey McKinney and her writing. And on a more macro level, I have been inspired by the WGA strike and other creative workers’ recent collective actions to elicit change in labor environments that have become unsustainable.
Audrey: I started teaching music to kids in the past year, & having to talk about & introduce things in ways that some of them who are as young as 6 or 7 can understand & work with is reminding me to take a look at fundamentals & think about what are really good basic & immediate ways to communicate via music. Also, I like to do improv & songwriting with them & it is very inspiring to see young people who never touched an instrument before a couple months ago suddenly make a melody for the first time!
Share something that’s meaningful to you or offers a window into your life.
Audrey: Every summer, I get really excited & happy to work on gardening with my partner MeiLi. We have a smaller yard & mostly do it in containers, but it’s a lot of fun to pick out a lot of fruit, vegetables, & herbs, & see them all pop up over the summer. Tomatoes are usually our star—we have 3 kinds in right now, black & red heirloom varieties & one roma tomato for sauces—& they’re so good every year in gazpacho, bruschetta, or just sliced with a little olive oil & salt. We also have peppers & zucchini for grilling, cucumbers for pickling, watermelon & strawberries for snacking, & various herbs that go in plenty of recipes. Mint is a favorite both for cocktails & spritzers, but also it’s nice & different in guacamole. Gardening is such a great way to create a feeling of home, & seeing all our plants start to produce gives me so much life all summer long!
Sadie: Funny enough, I met MeiLi almost twenty years ago (way before I met Audrey) because we went to summer camp together! We went to Buck’s Rock, an arts camp, which is where I first learned how to play in bands and record music, as well as do glassblowing, metalsmithing, bookbinding, and more. I’ve been able to see and collaborate with a few camp friends recently—the cinematographer and director Elle Schneider, who made a music video for us recently, the cartoonist and writer Mattie Lubchansky, who designed some t-shirts for Speedy and has a great new book out called Boys Weekend, and a couple more reunions like that are in the works. It’s fun and gratifying to see my friends pursuing their dreams and achieving such incredible things in the arts they learned as kids. I still love going back to visit Buck’s Rock to see my friends who work there every year, and hope I get to this summer.
Make a list. Everyone loves lists :)
10 Great Novels I’ve Read This Year (Not in Any Real Order):
Blood Sisters by Kim Yideum
Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) by Hazel Jane Plante
LaserWriter II by Tamara Shopsin
Gossip Girl Fanfic Novella by Charlie Markbreiter
Death Valley by Melissa Broder
A Minor Chorus by Billy-Ray Belcourt
My Father’s Diet by Adrian Nathan West
Tears of the Truffle Pig by Fernando A. Flores
Ripe by Sarah Rose Etter
Weasels in the Attic by Hiroko Oyamada
13 Songs from a Recent Playlist in Order from Least to Most Likely to Make Me Cry While Driving to Work:
Lykke Li - “Bad Woman”
Rebecca Black - “Destroy Me”
Feeble Little Horse - “Termites”
Helium - “Wanna Be a Vampire Too, Baby”
Songs: Ohia - “Love Leaves Its Abusers”
Cat Power - “Good Woman”
Julie Doiron - “Taller Beauty”
Aimee Mann - “You Never Loved Me”
Lana Del Rey - “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd”
Neko Case - “Night Still Comes”
All Dogs - “Skin”
Smog - “I Break Horses”
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - “Death Wish”
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