Words by: Isabella Scola-Lawryshyn
With a tumultuous and infamous ex-reality tv star now at the wheel of one of the most influential and powerful countries in the world, many musicians and artists have been sharing their opinions across social media. Some have suggested these individuals should stick to their craft and leave the politics to the politicians. Never one to censor her opinions, Sadie Dupuis, front person and main lyricist for Speedy Ortiz and more recently, solo-artist behind last year’s awesome “Slugger“, took time out of for us to answer a few questions for our guest contributor, Isabella Scola-Lawryshyn of DUNES. Touching on topics like consent, representation, diversity, and self-love, Sadie’s humorous and uncompromising responses come at a time when it is more important than ever for folks to share their opinions, especially individuals with the means to reach the masses.
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
– Elie Wiesel
On your album ‘Slugger’, you cover a broad spectrum of uncommon subject matter, some of which includes consent, representation, diversity, and self-love. What inspired you to boldly take on these often overlooked themes?
I guess I wonder more why these are uncommon issues. In a country (and world) that’s growing increasingly racist, violent, xenophobic and transphobic, I find it extremely grating to listen to music that doesn’t address the state of our world in some way–while I understand that music provides escapism, the stakes are too high for me to care about artists who are apolitical or disengaged, and I don’t think I need to hear a chill band or an apathetic band for at least the next four years. The subject matter you mentioned above is central to my life; I think about consent, representation, diversity and self-love on a daily basis, and so it makes sense that these themes are reflected in my lyrics. And I think that’s why so much of the music that’s spoken most to me in the past few years–whether that’s local punk or mainstream pop–has been politically focused.
What did you hope to achieve through the release of “Slugger”?
Mostly, I was trying to have fun producing a pop record for myself. But I have a hard time restraining myself lyrically, so it was an interesting challenge trying to fit every word and concept I wanted to articulate into a glossier medium. Many of the rock bands I’ve admired have a tendency to be more verbose; pop can be direct and simple. And while I think those attributes are valuable, they don’t come incredibly easily to me.
There has been considerable public outcry about the concept of a show being a “safe space”, as some believe “there are no safe spaces in the real world… [rhetoric about society being overly PC]”. What is your opinion on “safe spaces” and do you take extra steps to ensure these exist at your shows?
Anyone concerned about society being overly PC isn’t welcome to my shows. My extra step is to tell them to fuck off; the shows will be safer as a result. LOL.
In seriousness, I think it’s hard to promise a show will be a “safe space” but we can all work towards “safer spaces” by sharing information about what is and isn’t acceptable at a rock show… basic rules about human decency that center around anti-bigotry and de-escalation tips. I always appreciate when venues post these. And Speedy Ortiz started a text hotline so fans can contact us if they’re experiencing harassment at a show. I’ve seen a few other bands do that since we did, and it’s nice to see the idea spreading.
How do you practice self-love/self-care in the every day?
Haha, I’m not good at this at all. And I guess I’m more concerned with caring for others at this trepidatious point in our country in which so many people’s lives, livelihoods, and protections are at risk. Self-care = care for your community = call your elected officials, take to the streets, protest our horrifying new government. I do like taking baths.
Growing up, who were your biggest influences musically, artistically or in general?
Some childhood faves: Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, Sebadoh, Pavement, Liz Phair, Britney Spears, Wilco, et al. Sailor Moon, Tenchi Muyo. Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine. Archie Comics but Josie & The Pussycats in particular.
In the past, you’ve said that fashion is very important to you. I’d say something that distinguishes you from other musicians in your genre is your flamboyant and overtly “femme-centric” attire. Why is this form of self-expression so important to you? Were you always this way or did something spark it?
Women often feel excluded from rock music, especially when they’re young–it’s still viewed as a boy’s medium (although organizations like Girls Rock Camp do a lot to combat that). And a lot of that belief has to do with representation. As a kid, many of the rock bands I cared about deeply were comprised solely of men–I’m lucky that I fell into playing guitar as a young teen, since so many of my friends only began to play rock music later in life. And when women were present in the bands I cared about as a kid, they’d adopt a more masculine aesthetic. I did this too for the first slew of years I was a touring musician, partially under the misguided belief that my legitimacy wouldn’t be questioned if I fit in sartorially with the male-majority I saw onstage. As I got older (especially since most of my non-music work has been as an educator) I thought about the internalized misogyny that was inherent in some of my fashion choices. I don’t see an interest in feminine clothing or cosmetics as a direct contrast to an interest in performing heavy music, or knowing about gear, and I’d like to represent that those interests shouldn’t be gender exclusive with my own stage presence.
Minorities/LGBTQ+/Female/Female identifying musicians are wildly underrepresented in music scenes, both small-scale and large-scale. What do you think can be done to improve this?
Support the women, POC, and queer people in your local music scene. Book these bands on shows, buy their records, go see them when they come through on tour, play them on your local radio shows. If you’re a promoter and you’re booking bills that are comprised entirely of men, or entirely of white people, or entirely of straight people, you’re doing a bad job. If the local bands you care about are underrepresented, make a zine to let more people know about them! Or start your own booking collective!
The media often views female artists through a different lens than it does their male counterparts; scrutinizing every personal choice they make re: their bodies, wardrobe, relationships, sexuality, etc. Have you ever experienced this type of treatment and scrutiny throughout your interactions with the media/press and do you have a message for these individuals?
I guess when I see this kind of reporting–writing and criticism that seems unfairly gendered– I view it as important to respond publicly. Editors should know better than to let this kind of thing get published, and are usually receptive to the criticism. We’re all striving to undo the misogynistic training we grew up with so I think it’s important to let people know when they’ve done wrong and hope they can learn from their mistakes.
Do you have any advice for today’s youth?
Play original Pokémon!
What is your favourite music video of all-time?
Too hard OMG! I love “Heartbreaker” by Mariah Carey because it features some of my favorite film tropes: live action mixed with animation, and one actor playing 2 characters who interact with one another. I love most TLC videos too (and any late ’90s – early ’00s video in which the musicians are performing in a futuristic looking space station.)Add to favorites