For fans of ’90s indie-rock, Speedy Ortiz sounds like more than a throwback. They come across as an authentic representative of that musical era. The tangled guitar lines, which always seem to find their way into an exploding chorus, recall the likes of Polvo, Helium, and Archers of Loaf. Whatever happened to all of these bands that dominated alternative rock radio in the mid-’90s?
“I don’t think they really disappeared from the radar,” Speedy Ortiz bassist Darl Ferm tells the Reader via e-mail. “Each of those bands had long life-spans and several albums, and I think the members probably wanted to move on. I discovered each of those bands after the ’90s and before they began playing reunion shows, so they couldn’t have gone too far.”
The group is the brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Sadie Dupuis who recorded the initial Speedy Ortiz LP, the lo-fi Death of Speedy Ortiz, while she was working at a camp teaching songwriting. A year later, she pulled together a band, and in 2012 the line-up released the Sports EP. This was followed in 2013 by the LP Major Arcana. The title, which in tarot parlance means “major mysteries,” foreshadows songs such as “No Below” and its haunting lyric, “You always said, I was better off just being dead.” When you watch Dupuis play guitar, her distinctive take on playing the instrument is a far cry from the basic chords many lead singers rely on. Her fingers contort across the frets into bizarre chords that are the perfect compliment to her unique lyrics. With Dupuis’s background in poetry, one might assume that Speedy Ortiz’ off-kilter rhythms are a result of some sort of free-form poetry influence.
But it is really the opposite, as Dupuis feels that “playing music often informs my sense of meter in poetry more than the other way around.”
Anchored in Massachusetts, the band is yet another original act from the area in a long line of them, which includes Mission of Burma, the Pixies, and, of course, Boston.
Guitarist Matt Robidoux explains his love of the region’s legendary music scene: “When I was a lad living in New Hampshire, I idolized the scene in Boston to the point of reading individual club listings in sequence and listening to the bands on MySpace!”
- Saturday, March 29, 2014, 8 p.m.
2501 Kettner Boulevard,
One other band that Speedy Ortiz is often compared to are ’90s slack-rockers Pavement. Surprise! Their San Diego stop this year has them opening for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at Casbah Saturday night, March 29. Coincidence, or true band love?
“It’s a huge honor,” drummer Mike Falcone explained. “Both Pavement and the Jicks are pretty important to all of us. I’m not sure how the opportunity landed in our laps like this, but we feel very fortunate.”