This last year, Sadie Dupuis, the founder and singer for the rock group Speedy Ortiz, decided to take a step away from the band and release solo music under the moniker Sad13. She released a debut album, Slugger, which trades Speedy Ortiz’s crunchy, distorted guitars for silky synth riffs and R&B-influenced beats.
SF Weekly spoke with Dupuis about her album and the pros and working solo.
Catch her on Friday, Dec. 2 at Hemlock Tavern. More info here.
SF Weekly: So what prompted you to start a solo project?
Sadie Dupuis: I just write a lot of music and didn’t want to let it all back-pile up. Speedy had a really busy last few years, and we needed a little bit of down time. We didn’t have plans or time to record another album with a full band. I had some time when the band wasn’t doing anything, and we all kind of needed a little break — not for any other reason other than we’d been touring for 10 months. I just thought I had a whole lot of songs that I wanted to record, and I couldn’t really do them with the band, so the opportunity to work on them as Sad13 opened up.
SFW: Did you write these songs knowing that they wouldn’t be part of a Speedy Ortiz album?
SD: I generally write towards records, so if I’m writing and I know what it’s for, I set it aside for something in particular. So I was really writing something very specifically, and it happened to be a Sad13 record. However, I wrote a lot more than that what is on this album, and some of those songs we’re now reworking with Speedy Ortiz, so it kind of goes both ways.
SD: For Slugger, the keyboards and the synths are a lot more upfront. I was able to sort of let those cheesy synth parts take a more central focus. But, no, I don’t think these kind of songs would never make it on a Speedy record.
SFW: How did your songwriting approach change for Slugger?
SD: Usually for Speedy, we start by me making a demo and then sending it to everybody. Then we have to learn how to play it all together, and that might mean that parts on the demo might disappear or get changed to a different instrument. Like, often I’ll write a keyboard part and it’ll wind up as a guitar line, or something like that. So the biggest different here is that it didn’t go through that rearrangement process. I just kept working on these demos until they were done. I mean, there are audio files from the original demos that are on the recording, so it didn’t go through the rearrangement during the recording process.
SFW: The songs on this album are very blunt and politically pointed. How much of that was a reaction to the divisive election process that ended with Donald Trump as our president-elect?
SD: Bear in mind, that I wrote this album almost a year ago, and back then, we had a number of Republican nominees who were especially heinous and had made the focus of their political career rolling back control of women’s bodies, or infringing upon the rights and protections of LGBT people. So, certainly that was in the back of my mind. Still, I thought that there was no way that Trump would be the Republican candidate at that point in time, so it wasn’t writing it with him particularly in mind. And in many ways, the lyrics are a nature of the form. I tried to make a more pop-oriented record, so I thought I should be more explicit in the way the narratives are created.
SFW: You also address topics that may seem taboo — like celebrating sexual consent — for a pop album.
SD: These are subjects that aren’t normalized in the world of pop culture, but I don’t think there has to be anything dour or uncomfortable about talking about consent. Consent is obviously a good thing — it doesn’t have to be this frightening, wonky topic. I think that’s part of the very intentional decision to make a very poppy, melodic record that deals with topics that maybe aren’t always at the center of pop cultural discourse, even though they are at the center of people’s lives.
SFW: Were there any contemporary musicians who had an influence on Slugger?
SD: I think a lot of my favorite records of 2015 were by women working in pop and electronic music, who self-produced. The Grimes record, or Computer Magic, who is a new York-based producer and songwriter. I was also thinking a lot about Blood Orange production, too, particularly on the Solange record that came out a few years ago, which had a lot of drum machines and that ’80s-sounding production. And Charli XCX was a big influence too — she’s really fun and weird, and I tried to get some of that cheekiness into this record, while trying to explore topics that were important to me.
SFW: Will this be a project you return to in the future?
SD: Yeah, I hope so. It’s been a lot of fun so far, so I’m looking forward to exploring more possibilities with this band.