“I really wanted to shift towards merch that feels useful beyond just purely decorative. Certainly with everyone being at home, food merch seems like a fun thing to do.”
An artistic mind can’t stick to a single thing. Along with being involved or even renowned for one particular craft, extremely creative types often have side projects and passions.
Sadie Dupuis of the alternative rock act Speedy Ortiz is one of those types. The current Philadelphia musician (formerly of Boston—you’re welcome, Philly) is also a poet, is no stranger to activism, and recently became a marketer of vegan food. The latter sort of ties into the sophomore release of her indie pop solo project, Sad13, that is dropping via her Wax Nine Records label this week.
We spoke ahead of the release about incorporating string and woodwind instruments, using food as merch, how various artistic fields relate to each other, and focusing on recording over livestreaming.
With Haunted Painting, what did you aim to do musically with the album that you weren’t able to do while making your 2016 solo debut Slugger? String instruments definitely have more of a presence this time around.
A good place to start would be the strings, woodwinds, and a bunch of real instruments. The last record was basically just done, apart from drums and vocal overdubs, in a tiny bedroom using software instruments, a toy keyboard, and guitars that were directly plugged in. There’s a lot going on with that record and arrangement wise it’s similar to this one, but the big difference is that rather than stay in that box, I took everything outside of the box and recreated the software instruments with real instruments, and in some cases I brought outside players to do the orchestral stuff. A lot of it was me getting to play around on instruments that I don’t regularly get to use, like a theremin and all kinds of different weird synths, organs, keyboards, and things like that. In terms of composition, I don’t think it’s a drastic departure, or at least not one that doesn’t feel like a normal growth period. Getting to do everything in actual studios is really fun and that’s probably the biggest change.
Along with the album, people can purchase a Haunted Hazelnut Spread from Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz, New York, and Haunted Breakfast Black Tea from Craft Tea in Philly from your Bandcamp page. How did you get linked up with these businesses?
A couple of years ago, Speedy Ortiz did something on tour where we partnered with different local vegan restaurants to do a one-off special. The idea would be that we would collaborate on the item and the name of it and then the restaurant would give proceeds to a local organization that supports food justice. I’ve been vegan for so long and I really enjoy supporting and eating at small, local businesses that do vegan stuff. I’ve wanted to do a kind of merch that somehow worked with that for a long time and I’ve been talking to Dragon’s Blood Elixir, which is a boutique hot sauce company in Connecticut. We’ve been talking for around five years about doing a collaboration, so the first thing we did on this album was a hot sauce called “Haunted Peppers” and I had so much fun doing it.
I’m very skeptical about a lot of merch; a lot of it is environmentally impactful in a negative way, with a lot of waste being produced. I really wanted to shift towards merch that feels useful beyond just purely decorative. Certainly with everyone being at home, food merch seems like a fun thing to do, so that was why we decided to do it. I was already aware of Craft Tea from living in Philly because they’re at a bunch of cafes that I go to and I think they’re also stocked at some local music venues. Lagusta’s Luscious just came to me through word of mouth; some friends who were living up in New Paltz recommended them highly and they seemed really amazing and really cool. They also run a cafe that has a socialist soup special so I think politically they seem like a great place.
You don’t see a lot of musicians doing stuff with food for merchandise. Do you have any recommendations of what to use the hazelnut spread for?
I haven’t been able to have a vegan nut spread in such a long time because it’s hard to find them, so I haven’t gotten mine in the mail yet. They have a couple recommendations for it—obviously putting it on toast is the normal thing, but they also say to scoop it out and coat it with some kind of topping like crushed nuts so you can make truffles with it. It’s apparently very thick, so if you want to use it as a spread, they actually recommend watering it down because it’s very concentrated. Once I have some I’m certain I’ll have my own ridiculous procedure with it.
Outside of music, you’re also a poet. You have an MFA in poetry from UMass-Amherst, you put out a poetry book called Mouthguard in 2018, and your label Wax Nine Records has a poetry journal on its website. What do you feel is the main relationship that both music and poetry have with each other that people might not recognize?
I think there’s a relationship between any artistic fields. We all understand that it can be hard to get paid for our work and it’s a little thankless at times, but I think a lot of people who work in both music and poetry are really interested in it for the community and for using art to make a difference in their community while connecting with other people. Those are kind of the big similarities as I see them, but you could say the same thing about painters and dancers or comedians and non-fiction writers. We have a lot of parallels between if not work then our practices at work.
With COVID-19, touring in support of an album’s release unfortunately isn’t possible. So what are your plans to push Haunted Painting? Are you looking to do some livestreaming, do you plan on just maintaining a big social media presence, or do you plan on doing other things?
I’m sure that I’m going to be doing other things. I’m not especially excited by or interested in the livestreaming thing; the arrangements in this album don’t really translate well to playing solo, so it’s kind of boring to me. There’s a couple things that I haven’t been able to back out of that I will do, but beyond that I’m much more interested in studio work. Not to say that I don’t like touring, at least with touring you get to play with a lot of people, you’re playing off one another and the arrangements can feel kind of full. Playing in my room in front of an iPhone is not amusing to me at all, but I’ve been doing a lot of recording work along with some collaborations, remixes, and a ton of covers for compilations.
If I can keep doing stuff like that while touring is off the table, then that feels pretty good to me. I just heard something that I didn’t know before about how Steely Dan stopped touring during the mid-’70s because they didn’t like it and preferred to record and arrange things. I guess they didn’t tour between then and the late ’90s, so I’m taking that as my excuse to do as few livestreams as possible and just focus on recording.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.