In the realm of indie music, Sadie Dupuis has become a household name. As the frontperson (or, as Dupuis jokingly refers to herself, “frontdemon”) of the critically-acclaimed grunge-revivalist favorite, Speedy Ortiz, Dupuis is well-known for her complex lyricism, grittiness, unabashed passion for social justice, and overall admirable bad-assery. Considering that Speedy hasn’t released an album since 2015, it would be an understatement to say that fans/the music world, in general, were blessed the day she released her debut album as a solo artist under the moniker Sad13 last November. The album, Slugger, emphasizes the importance of affirmative sexual consent via glitzy, industrial pop beats and memorable melodies that will inevitably have you bopping along, while simultaneously considering the consequences that contemporary culture houses for anyone who isn’t a cis-het white man. Standout tracks such as “Get A Yes” and “<2” serve as a beacon of hope in genre that rarely strays from subject-matter that isn’t drugs, alcohol or sex. In other words, Slugger is a f*cking masterpiece.
So, you can imagine my nerdy excitement when Dupuis informed me she was teaming up with the Philadelphia/Minneapolis-based record label, Dirty Pillows, on a compilation album to raise money for the ACLU chapter in each city. The album, which we are thrilled and honored to premiere here at BUST, features an electro-poppy remix of Sad13’s “<2,” as well as new songs from Philly-based band Purling Hiss, and Minneapolis-based bands France Camp and Fog, to name a few. As of today, the album is digitally available for download on Bandcamp, and is $5 for ten songs. The physical record, a 7-inch printed on randomly-colored vinyl, is $10 (plus a digital download) and will ship in September. This will be the first in a series of releases that will follow the same format but feature other cities. 100 percent – a 50/50 split between the two cities – of the proceeds will be going to the ACLU.
Trust me, it kicks major ass. If this news isn’t enough of a treat for you already, check out my interview with Dupuis below, in which we discuss details of the project, DIY politics, and the notion of “safer spaces.”
Can you tell me a little bit about this project and its goals? How did the label get in touch with you to participate?
Alex, one of the label owners of Dirty Pillows, reached out to me about a benefit compilation that would feature bands residing in Philadelphia and Minneapolis (the two cities in which the label is based) and proceeds would go to local ACLU chapters in both cities. I’m a relative newcomer to Philly so I’m always happy to be included in something that supports our community directly. There have been so many awesome benefit compilations springing up since Tr*mp’s election, and while I’ve been psyched to be involved in a lot of them, they’re mostly digital-only. It’s exciting to have something tangible that also has direct benefit to my city.
Are you familiar with the other bands included on the comp? Is there a unifying theme among the bands/songs that were selected?
I think the idea was to represent local scenes, so the Philly project Purling Hiss shares Side A with Sad13. There’s also a digital version that features more artists, like Louds and Dulls and a whole bunch of other Philly and Minneapolis bands.
Can you tell me about the Sad13 track, “<2” that’s been remixed on this comp? Does the song carry a message that folx should be listening for? Why was it selected, as opposed to other Sad13 or Speedy Ortiz songs?
“<2” was the first song I wrote for the Sad13 project, and it’s about embracing and celebrating the intersectional identities and interests that coexist in one person, even when the outside world views those identities as at odds. Lucy Stone, who is one of the guitarists in the live version of Sad13, also plays in an amazing Philly band called Vexxed. When Alex asked me to contribute to this compilation, I wanted to contribute, but my reserves of b-sides and covers and demos was totally depleted since I’ve given them all to other benefit compilations this year. But since this project is about celebrating and raising money for a local scene, I asked Lucy if her band Vexxed would do a remix of a Sad13 song, and this is the one they chose. I love what they did with the song; can’t deny a dial-up internet sample!
In light of recent events within the DIY music scene, the importance of safe spaces is, at the moment, painfully prevalent. Can you define the term “safe space” and what it means to you?
I prefer to use the term “safer space,” since guaranteeing absolute safety for all people in a space would be an empty promise – you can’t account for everything that could happen, especially as a space becomes larger and more people are involved. And safety means different things for different people. What’s safe for one person may not be safe for another person, and often depends upon race, gender identity, sexual identity, personal history, or more likely some intersection of these. “Safer” implies an effort, though, and at the core of any safer space is a community promise to strive to do better for everyone, especially those who have been underrepresented and denied space. Safer spaces at their best make equal rights paramount, work towards inclusion and representation among participants (and, if it’s a performance space, onstage) and are dedicated to anti-bigotry and zero tolerance for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, gentrification, and other types of violence. Self-identified “safer spaces” are set up in different ways to serve different communities, of course, but having some ground rules and some protocol for accountability when those rules aren’t respected is a good way to start.
I know that you, personally, set some ground rules at Speedy Ortiz/Sad13 shows with the hope that they’ll be safe and inclusive environments. Can you talk a little bit about that process? Have you noticed results?
Speedy Ortiz set up a hotline a few years ago so that if someone in the crowd was feeling unsafe or experiencing harassment, they could text a number that would forward to everyone in our crew, and be connected with security or a volunteer at the venue who would be able to help get them to a safe place and mediate the situation if needed. We set this up because playing at festivals, I noticed some things in the crowd that really upset me, and realized how hard it can be as a show-goer to locate security or someone who will care and help. Certainly, I’ve experienced harassment at shows and done nothing about it because I didn’t think anyone at the venue would care. Modern Baseball set up a similar hotline a little after that, so it’s nice to see that the idea has spread. We also require that the venue post and comply with a version of safer space policies the night of our show – in short, no bigotry or unwanted touching or you may be ejected from the show – and we ask for signage for gender neutral bathrooms. Lately, on tour with Sad13, I’ve distributed a sheet that Jes Skolnik put together for us – they led a bystander intervention and de-escalation workshop before a Sad13 show in Chicago, and this sheet has some key strategies and tactics they taught at our workshop.
What steps can the community (show attendees, venues, other artists) take to reduce and prevent problematic and/or abusive behavior?
It’s great when venues devise their own safer space policies and make those visible. Having an infrastructure in place to prevent harassment is much better than relying on artists to do so, especially when artists may not know the city well. Even just posting policies helps educate people on how to respect and share space with their fellow show-goers, and deters aggressive behaviors. Working with community organizations dedicated to stopping harassment is important too; Our Music My Body in Chicago, Safer Scene in Baltimore, Collective Action for Safe Spaces in DC, Girls Against in the UK, or Hollaback globally are some great examples. At a base level, show attendees should be respectful of each other; be mindful of the space you are taking up at a show and never intentionally touch someone without asking and receiving their consent first. If you want to do even more, starting a local group like one of the ones I mentioned earlier is a great way to help.
Do you think, as an artist and member of the community, that creating a truly safe environment is ultimately attainable?
“Truly safe,” to me, means the 100 percent elimination of all possibilities of violence. I don’t think this is possible at a show or anywhere else. You can’t predict or control the behaviors of every person. What we CAN do is teach better consent from a young age. What we CAN do is make sure that more kinds of people are represented onstage and hired behind the scenes, so the continued presence of people of color, women, nonbinary, trans and queer people in the scene is normalized and celebrated, leaving many of us less open to targeted harassment and abuse. We need to learn to listen and respond better to survivors when they decide to come forward, and to follow their lead on how to make things right. We need to hold our friends and members of our scene accountable when we see or hear of them exhibiting problematic and harmful behavior. And we can’t hold artists up as infallible bastions of good; everyone is fallible, no one person or band can be a safe space, and propagating those kinds of beliefs just leads to wild abuses of power. Care for your community, take care when you need it, and support the folks who put in the work.
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