Interview: Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz on the Joys of DIY Recording

Sadie Dupuis — the guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter of Massachusetts indie rock band Speedy Ortiz and more recently of her electronic lo-fi pop project SAD13 — has been recording her own music since she was a teenager. In late 2016, Dupuis put out SAD13’s first record, Slugger, which she recorded entirely by herself.

Slugger boasts tracks like “Line Up” and “Hype” with shredding guitar and sparkling synth leads over a ripping rhythm section that rattles your ribcage. The album proves you don’t necessarily need to rent studio time to record a complex and impressive work.

We recently sat down with Sadie and chatted about doing it all herself, from recording her own albums to starting a record label.

I know your band Speedy Ortiz has another album coming out soon, but I wanted to talk a bit about your solo project, SAD13. You released an album with SAD13 that you recorded yourself called Slugger. How did SAD13 come about, and what inspired you to try recording and producing your own solo album?

So Speedy toured kind of non-stop after Foil Deer (Speedy Ortiz's second studio album) and toward the end of that I started talking with Lizzo, and she worked on a remix for a Speedy song. Something came up where we wrote a song together and we were sort of collaborating over Google Hangouts to do that. She was basically like "Can you just make a track and send it to me and I will come up with something over that?"

Sad13 - "Less Than 2"

So I produced this more poppy song at home to send to her and I had so much fun doing it that I thought it would be really cool to do a whole record in this way.

When our touring ended for that album cycle I rented a small bedroom in Philly for a couple weeks and tried to make as many songs in that vein as I could and that turned into the SAD13 album.

So as far as DIY recording goes, do you feel that electronic music is more accessible? Did you find it easier to record than the music you write for Speedy?

Yeah, I think you need a more extensive set up for a band like Speedy than for a project like SAD13. I don’t think I have the means to do justice to a big–sounding rock record, whereas with something that is more of a bedroom pop project, I didn’t mind recording the guitars directly into my audio interface.

I used some synths — there’s a lot MIDI on the record — and these maybe gestures that I wouldn’t make on a bigger–sounding rock album. But I think a lot of the pop music that I have gravitated towards in the past few years sort of has quirky, lo–fi elements to it, even if it is recorded very nicely. I think maybe that’s because so many people produce at home now, so I didn’t find it difficult.

Grimes is a big influence on the SAD13 project, for instance, and I felt like I could achieve some of those kinds of sounds working at home without having to buy anything really expensive or go into a studio.

What software did you use? What was your recording setup?

I used Logic.

Was Slugger your introduction to home recording or did you have experience before?

I actually recorded the first and second Speedy Ortiz releases at home. I played everything on them. They were more demos than albums at that point. I definitely got a lot better at it between 2011 and the SAD13 record in 2016.

But I have always recorded myself — since I was young — to make demos. When I first started writing songs, I got a four–track and would work on those before going in to record them properly in the studio. And yeah, I guess I have always been home recording stuff, but I didn’t really take it seriously until this project.

You mentioned that to record Slugger, you didn’t have to buy new or expensive gear. What software and gear would you recommend to someone who is just getting started in home recording?

I basically did this record as cheaply as possible. I really didn’t spend any money making it. I just have an interface with a few different inputs. I had one microphone — a Shure SM58 — and I had a lot of guitar effects pedals that I already had from touring.

I would suggest running through different combinations of pedals and trying out different things in terms of plugins. You can experiment with the ones that either come with the software you are using or find free ones. There are tons of great resources for finding those or even springing for the ones that you think are really exciting.

I think it is just a matter of trying out new things that interest you and seeing what kinds of exciting sounds you can make.

In the same vein of doing your own recording and producing, you recently started your own record label with your mom called Wax 9. What inspired you to start your own label, and how did your mom come into play?

A couple of years ago, I had some friends who are in one of my favorite bands. They were looking for a label, and I sent them to Carpark, which has done all of Speedy’s records and the SAD13 record. They were really excited about the record, and we were like, “Do you want to start an imprint to put this out?”

At the end of the day, this band that I was really excited about found a way more established label to go to and that was great. I was sort of like, “I guess I don’t really need a label.”

But then, Melkbelly had this record they were looking for a home for, so the idea came up again. So we basically made a label to put out this record. I just want a chance to be able to introduce bands I think are amazing to people who might not otherwise get to hear them.

It was called Wax 9 because that was my mom’s pen name when she was working and writing for Punk magazine. She made the logo and did some of the illustration for the website.

Speedy Ortiz - "Raising the Skate"

Do you have any advice for musicians who are looking to put out their own recordings?

I guess my advice is just very boring. Anything that you want to do and are interested in is a matter of practicing and doing it a million times to see what works for you. Booking your first tour, in a way, is like practicing because you learn what kind of things you like about touring and what kind of places you like to play and what kinds of bands you like to play with.

But with recording, maybe you record your first song and then listen back to it to figure out the things about it that excite you and the things that bother you and try to tweak those until you are happier with what you’re doing.

I think the cool thing about being an artist is that you have the same motive decades into it as you do when you’re first starting. I feel like the motive to try something that excites you and learn from that and find out what works from that practice is always there.

You are never are going to get to a place where you feel that what you are working on is perfect, and that’s a good thing because it means that you are always exploring something different." - Sadie Dupuis

I wouldn’t say that I’m a super experienced engineer/producer, but I can still get lost. I will sit down to record something and ten hours later, I’ll realize it’s 4AM, and it feels the same as when I was 15 and first using that four–track, figuring out how to get the kinds of sounds I wanted from the different things I was recording.

I think it’s just a matter of putting in time. You are never are going to get to a place where you feel that what you are working on is perfect, and that’s a good thing because it means that you are always exploring something different.

I think that’s great advice. Thanks so much for catching up with us today. I’m really excited for the Melkbelly release, for the new Speedy album, and to continue listening to Slugger because it is amazing.

Thank you.

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