SPEEDY ORTIZ – ” The Death of Speedy Ortiz & Cop Kicker …Forever “

Posted: March 27, 2022 in MUSIC
The Death of Speedy Ortiz & Cop Kicker ...Forever by Speedy Ortiz

Marking their tenth anniversary, Carpark Records bundles up the first two self-released EPs from Speedy Ortiz, dating from a time when it was still Sadie Dupuis’s solo vehicle rather than a full-time band. Both originally released in 2011, ‘Cop Kicker’ and ‘The Death Of Speedy Ortiz’ laid the groundwork for one of 2010s American indie’s most compelling artists.

Speedy Ortiz haven’t released an album since 2018’s lively “Twerp Verse“, an unabashedly pop-leaning turn from a band that established itself at the beginning of that decade with a considerably less polished grunge sound providing a solid foundation for the project. Instead, the group’s mastermind Sadie Dupuis has set out on a solo venture as Sad13 to explore various facets of this pop-star persona hinted at on “Twerp“, fully chasing the experimental highs achieved on the synth-infused choruses of “Lean in When I Suffer” and “Lucky 88.”

Yet this technically isn’t Dupuis’ debut as a solo artist—the earliest Speedy recordings were captured before the band expanded into a four piece, with the EP “Cop Kicker and LP “The Death of Speedy Ortiz” celebrating 10 years of life in 2021, as commemorated by the package-deal compilation “The Death of Speedy Ortiz & Cop Kicker .​.​.​Forever”, a fused-together collection of tidied up versions of those projects released digitally back in November. In place of the band’s familiar deadpan wisecracks and bulky riffs was the lone Dupuis kicking out demo-quality noise-rock jams documenting a period of extreme uncertainty in the song writer’s life, documenting everything from heartbreak, to more impactful personal tragedies, to an obsession with late-’00s feminist horror.

1. “Hexxy Sadie”

I wrote this on my 23rd birthday, about being a “twinless twin” and the random luck of being alive. Sometimes fighting to stay alive makes you do gross, weird, ruthless things. I was really into horror manga then (and now), and imagined myself as a bug, eating all the other hatching insects around me, final-girl-style. I was really into early Rob Crow bands—my then-bandmate Chuck was constantly singing the Thingy song “Rope Swing” that summer—and I can hear those bands’ influence in some of the arpeggios. 

2. “Cutco”

The most passive-aggressive way of letting your friends know you’re pissed is through an elaborate cannibalism metaphor. The real Cutco is an O.G. MLM scheme, and an ex-boyfriend had worked for them right out of high school and lost money. A losing effort of putting on a brave face for diminishing returns—that’s how it feels trying to be honest about your hurt feelings against defensiveness. There’s a very specific kind of half-step-up, universe-shifting Deerhoof does in its chord changes, and this bridge is the first time I can remember trying to incorporate that move into my own writing. 

3. “Phish Phood”

A scary story about breaking and entering laid over pitched-down audio of me reading a long confessional letter from the serial killer Albert Fish—but make it cute by giving it an ice cream name? I loved the Earl Sweatshirt mixtape and basically all horrorcore; I tried to make this creepy with swelling dark tones on the guitars. The serial killer stuff scared me so much to listen to in mixing I had to reverse most of the speech vocals, one of the only substantial edits I made in 2021. Timpani booms for extra fright factor! I kinda called myself out for over-milking the slasher tropes with a line that still has my number: “You’re no ghost / You’re just some kid / So why are all your songs so mean?”

4. “Kinda Blew”

Chris Lord-Alge, am I the only person to sing your full name in a song? A reference that cracks me up—I definitely used some of his plugins on this. This is about a specific brand of late-’00s/early-’10s feminist horror protagonist—I was obsessed with Jennifer’s Body and Scream 4 around this time, and still. I wanted some of that debauchery-adjacent, whip-smart nihilism for myself. Lots of late night lake swims and putting out matches in my mouth that summer. This is skinny-dipping and fire-swallowing but translated into a whole lot of guitars. I really loved Telephono by Spoon, and slid a little reference to “Don’t Buy the Realistic” in.

5. “Ken-Ohki”

Ken-Ohki is the half-cat, half-rabbit from the anime Tenchi Muyo, who transforms into a spaceship for the bounty hunter Nagi. Now that you’re caught up on my super-cool reference…the character singing this song is some kind of ruthless bandit, acting shitty, but half-apologetic, and at least they didn’t traffic organs? The aforementioned Cutco boyfriend really had gone on a drunk rampage after scratching his truck, and then became a Marine; I brought that in as a contrast to the coldness I saw in myself while moving on from my life in New York and the friends I’d left behind (both in moving and in living past them). It’s a bitter rubberneck away from grief, perfect for several layers of banjo—all of which I recorded from my tiny single bed, feeling like a townie. The Chipmunk-y, pitch-shifted backing vocals felt like an alien and left-field texture to me at the time; now it’s Bandcamp de rigueur! 

6. “Speedy Ortiz”

The cutest part of this song is how I can hear Ellen Kempner singing and laughing and trying to get me to laugh in the back of the drum tracks. This song is super literally about the character Speedy Ortiz from Love & Rockets, and pulls plotlines from a few different issues surrounding that character’s death. Jaime Hernandez’s stories were lifesaving escapism for me, even when they dealt with issues that closely resembled my own. Despite the dark subject matter, this song sounds palpably joyful because it’s a tribute to comics I love so much. Thanks, Jaime! 

On a musical level, this is one of the simpler songs I’ve written, and acted as sort of a mission statement for what I wanted my new project Speedy Ortiz to sound like. My old band Quilty had veered toward proggy and space-rock-y, with a big pedalboard and weird open tunings. I initially called this new solo project my “no pedals, standard tuning band,” a chance to get a literally clean break with a diminished arsenal of effects. So “Speedy Ortiz” is a simple punk song, not too many sections, and the only real treatments are distortion times twenty.

7. “Hurricane Speedy”

All of these songs came out of songwriting prompts from the kids I taught (or my co-teachers), and this one was ”Spirited Away.” The lyric “I know there’s a No-Face waiting for me” sounds so menacing, removed from the Miyazaki context! I can’t remember this song’s original title, but when I was finishing mixing these to first release on Bandcamp, it was the middle of a pretty intense hurricane season. The structure of the song—a quiet, acoustic intro building to a psychedelic clash of sliding guitar riffs and pummelling drum layers—echoed the ominousness of an impending storm. And maybe there was a parallel to the inner turmoil of uprooting myself to a new state—the hurricane is coming from inside the house. I think I was trying to sound like Trail of Dead, but one of the riffs is a pretty direct homage to The Craters, whose frontperson Wes Kaplan is the brother of Speedy bassist Darl Ferm’s high school bandmate Cas Kaplan—six degrees of Massachusetts, etc., etc., etc.

8. “Thank You”

Keep It Like a Secret” is the single biggest influence on my guitar playing, so here’s my big blatant Built to Spill moment! I remembered this one as harsh, but when I went back to re-mix it, I wound up pretty impressed…maddened by the 40,000 guitar tones and three layers of drums competing with the vocals, but still, impressed. I think I made most of these parts up on the spot, something I don’t do much anymore. Lyrically, just a classic kiss-off to somebody who wasn’t good for shit! Thanks for nothing, jerk!

9. “Frankenweenie”

This song still fucks me up. It’s about putting down my childhood dog, but I used that as a metaphor for my first big breakup—euthanizing your first love after five years of codependency. Yeesh! I’m a sucker for slow-build, mid-tempo ballads with pianos and twisting guitars, a formula Elliott Smith pretty well perfected and I keep trying to inhabit, never more directly than here. The snare sound is one of my favourite things on this record—I tracked it in a tent with the laptop mic right on the drum as a way to dampen it. It sounds like the wildest re-amped sample ever, but it’s all natural clipping, baby.

10. “Blondie”

Written a few weeks after the rest, my song writing friend group remotely worked on the prompt “blown away”—during one of those aforementioned late-summer hurricanes. During re-mixing, Justin Pizzoferrato and I both had a head-scratching session trying to figure out how my guitar and vocal doubles were so close to the original, and how to make them more distinct from each other. Then we realized some of the dripping faucet and tapping sounds are only in the “original”—I guess I tracked guitar and vocals separately, then played them both back through a speaker in the bathroom, which (we guess) I recorded to create an echo chamber effect, with some weird auto-gating kicking in, too. Sneaky move, past me!.

11. “Ka-Prow!”

My covers band Babement has been written about way more times than we actually practiced or gigged—two whole shows. But I made this song shortly after those, and I actually hear the Pavement influence, especially in whatever Malkmus-patented tuning I used. The prompt for this song was “explosions”; Porches, my friend from another band’s brand new solo project, had just put out a song “Tan Lines,” and I think my “tans” here are a reference to that. I loved including easter eggs to my friends’ bands’ songs back then, since that was basically the entire demographic of folks who’d hear mine. This was one of the first songs I tracked for this project, and it had a lot less layers of guitars than the ones that came later. So I dove really deep into automating delays and tremolos to make the one lead line as colorful and dynamic as possible. It was first called “Ka-Pow!,” like the comic book onomatopoeia, then a friend misread it as “Ka-Prow,” an Austin strip mall restaurant where I’d once tried to get a dishwashing job, and then that was its name. 

12. “Necronomicon”

The original mixes of these songs had a lot of ambient sounds in them—other people whispering or shouting in adjacent rooms, laptop spacebar clicks, some intentional noises, some not. I had a good time shaping the rustles into new textures, especially in this intro and outro. “Necronomicon” vaguely touches on the plot of Evil Dead, duh, and there were some definitively evil sounds I did battle with in trying to re-mix. Bringing out the piano and kick and climbing guitars also brought up some cursed hissing. At some point, I had to let the evil noise prevail—just as the woods would’ve wanted. 

13. “Teething”

This melody kicked around in my head for at least a year before I recorded (unlike most of the rest of them, written in an hour and recorded later that day). Around the corner from my apartment, I witnessed a man on a motorcycle hit by a truck. He was thrown about 20 feet from his bike, landed in a scarily contorted position, and I never knew if he survived. The shock and brutality and sadness of it stuck with me then and still does. I was re-diagnosed with OCD in 2019 after dealing with complicated grief—similar to the circumstances I was in before writing this album—and “Teething” feels like a recognition of my need to verbalize my fears about death and dying, rather than ruminating cyclically. (“A word should come from my head before it grows in size / But what breaks through me instead are all the spiders inside” equals talk about your fears, maybe, before they overtake you?). I was really into the Scout Niblett album Kidnapped by Neptune, where her drumming feels like it’s bending time, and I can hear her influence.

14. “Doomsday”

Another one I’d written a few months before recording. It came to me while I was biking over the Williamsburg bridge into Manhattan, shortly after my roommate James McDowell died. Someone in my family had a TBI from an accident while biking, which scared me off it for a while, but James loved biking all around the city, and I got braver because of him. He was an amazing photographer, writer, and friend, who championed the music and art of those he cared about. Life felt doomed without him, to put it plainly. He’d died suddenly and unexpectedly from an undiagnosed heart condition, and it just didn’t make sense that I wouldn’t see him again. There are no silver linings to losing a friend, but knowing him and losing him inspired me to seek out art and community and adventure, because that’s what he did every day. I even got a tattoo of one of his photos to remind me to stay engaged. My old band Quilty tried to do “Doomsday,” but it wasn’t coming out right, and I knew this song was too important to get wrong. Speedy re-recorded it as a full band a few years later, but this early solo one still feels definitive to me. I can hear my love for James in every layer of the recording.

15. “All Red”

This was recorded along with the “Death of Speedy Ortiz” and “Cop Kicker” stuff, a re-telling of the Grey Selkie folk song, but I wasn’t brave enough to mix it right so it’s stayed unreleased ’til now.  Its layers feel unwieldy, lots of raw sounds whirling around and turned up. I love noisy home-taped recording projects and was especially enamoured with Sparklehorse, which I can hear on this one. The ending cracks me up

I remember recording this in a practice shed the camp would use for strings and woodwinds lessons. A friend is clearly waiting for me to finish up recording so we can go eat dinner or something, and I’m stalling for time. “Should we do it? Right on, do it! Wait—what the fuck? Let me make sure…”

16. “Let’s Get Evicted”

If there are cellos and violins and upright basses in a closet you have the keys to, you are obligated to record with them, even if you don’t know how to play them. That’s the philosophy of “Let’s Get Evicted.” Some brutal breakup lyrics on this co-dependency jam—”Let’s kiss off a cliff / Take a nap in the grave / Let’s get evicted and torture our enemies.” True love, right? Puddles of irony dripping off those ending “la-las.”

17. “Open Sesame”

Tracked in my mom’s basement, a nylon string guitar layered over some unhinged drums and a whole lot of layers of spoken and screamed vocals. A friend was dealing with a shitty parole situation, and I think that’s where the lyrics came from—as well as the title “Cop Kicker,” even though this song didn’t make it to that EP. I love all the delay squiggles that sound like a radio being tuned, and the Casio-y drum loop that comes in for only four measures. 

18. “Bill Sauce”

Get in and out quick! Inspired by and sounds like the cheap beer–saturated punk and hardcore shows I was hiding in the corner at when I first moved to Western Massachusetts. All of the boy-band drummers wanted to sound like GOAT Brian Chippendale, I didn’t stand a chance of that, so I looped some ridiculous fill named “Chugger” from a sample pack I stole from an old bandmate and sped it way up, adding irregular MIDI hi hat accents to it. I had to work hard to track down “Chugger” in 2021—the file probably lurking on a hard drive two or three past—it involved looking up the names of owners of a drum samples company that was seemingly many years defunct, who very nicely emailed me the file so I could do my re-mix. 

19. “Summon It”

There was some bumper music on MTV(U?) around 2011 that was a soundalike for a section of YYY’s “Maps,” and some of the triumphant rhythm guitar/noodle interplay is way in that vein. The verse is probably the surfiest part I ever plucked—definitely a then-hot trend among the Brooklyn DIY crew I gigged around with, but which I mostly avoided (along with all reverb). I got diagnosed with a rare blood clotting disorder that’s tested for by mixing blood with snake venom, the gothest medical procedure I’ve ever been party to. How could I not write a song about that? I clearly wanted “Summon It” to sequence into “Deady,” since the former’s outro anticipates the latter’s chorus. And now that these songs are seeing release for the first time, I’m happy I get to honour that old idea. 

20. “Deady”

“Deady” is the name on a prominent tombstone in a notable cemetery at an unskippable stoplight in Amherst, MA. Tracked in 2011, this first came out on a Post-Trash compilation in 2015 under “Sadie Dupuis.” But, let’s be real, this was Speedy. There are 10 guitars on this one, all tuned down lowwww. No bass! I remember my neighbour coming over to knock on my door, like, “Hey, can you turn down the bass you’re playing?” I was like, “I’m not playing bass! No bass here at all.” A medieval jam about working through depression, every wart out. Acknowledge your worst thought, sing it in a song, then let it go, something like that. I was absolutely in a regular D&D session with other students in my MFA program. Will I ever be this cool again? 

21. “Meat of Contract”

Another “no bass” jam, but you sure wouldn’t know it after all the octave and re-amping effects on the guitar. The prompt was “critter,” and I wrote it after the Angela Carter short story “The Tiger’s Bride,” a warped re-telling of Beauty and the Beast“White meat of contract” is her line, and I chant it in demonic, wall-of-sound harmonies over the outro. It’s kind of shadowed and spooky—“Critter, c’mere, lick the blood out my bullet hole” is one of my favourite lyrics from this whole collection. But a lot of the critter-y language that seems like a metaphor was just from happily hanging out with my sweet dog Buster, who loved to curl up at my feet all day long. 

22. “Son Of”

This kind of sounds like Sugar Ray to me now, and don’t let anyone tell you that’s not a good thing! Legally, my name is “Sarah”; “Sadie” is a nickname for Sarah, and one of my great-grandparents went by it. I started going by Sadie for all music-related endeavours when I was 20 and didn’t want people to connect me at my day job to me in my bands on MySpace. Around 2011, as playing in bands had become the most important part of my life, I stopped wanting to go by Sarah at all. This song was about forming an intense new bond with someone, and wanting them to know the real me, not just the “Sadie” they knew through music. In hindsight it’s very funny that I had these concerns over my own authenticity when I was regularly playing to, like, eight to 10 people. But, for whatever reason, needing to carve out a private, honest space for myself through lyrics has been a concern for me since I started making songs around age 13. Please don’t call me Sarah, by the way. Unless you’re my mom.

“Speedy Ortiz” is taken from Speedy Ortiz’s album, ‘The Death of Speedy Ortiz & Cop Kicker… Forever,’ out now on Carpark Records.

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