Speedy Ortiz talks mixtapes, curation culture, and “secret” In-N-Out menu items
by Tom Beedham
With its debut LP Major Arcana, Northampton, Mass. noise pop outfit Speedy Ortiz received critical acclaim over the summer and – after the suggestion of friend and Thurston Moore bandmate John Moloney – recently laid tracks through Canada on tour with Chelsea Light Moving. But between the gas stations and the venues the band has been playing, Speedy Ortiz has found ample time to get behind others’ music.
Besides more standard releases, the band has also released a series of mixtapes through their record label Carpark, establishing itself as an establishment for curating as much as creating. Before its opening slot for Chelsea Light Moving Sept. 15, Burden of Salt sat down with three quarters of Speedy Ortiz at the Horseshoe in Toronto, ON to discuss a mixtape series the four-piece has been working on and what it means to toss music that isn’t your own to your fans.
“I feel like curating in this time is a unique thing. I think it’s almost like a folk art in a way – something that everybody does.” -Matt Robidoux
One of the first things the band pointed out was that with mixtapes being somewhat in the tradition of hip-hop, what they’re doing is nothing new, but for them it’s less to do with making the material your own than it is about sharing discoveries.
“Hip-hop mixtapes are built around – a lot of it is – taking other peoples’ songs and rapping over it, and this was more of just a fun thing we wanted to do,” said drummer Mike Falcone.
“I feel like curating in this time is a unique thing. I think it’s almost like a folk art in a way – something that everybody does,” said guitarist Matt Robidoux, who also runs Northampton record label Hidden Temple Tapes. “You’re a curator. You download these songs on a computer. You even curate the type of media that you choose to receive.”
Band founder, vocalist, and guitarist Sadie Dupuis says that curating media to share it with
those who might be interested is a passion shared by Speedy Ortiz members not just within the context of the band, but in their general careers as well.
“Mike’s a college radio DJ and I used to be,” said Dupuis. “Matt teaches at a school where he’s constantly learning new songs and putting together collections of songs. I think it’s just something that we’re all interested in for fun.”
While Falcone has additionally been known to make video shorts and found footage VHS mixes, bassist Darl Ferm also studied film in college, and that shared passion led the band to sculpt the second of their mixtapes, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, out of songs that originally presented themselves to the world as soundtracks for visual images.
Animal Style, the band’s newest mixtape, is comprised of tracks from the likes of Syd Barrett and Ween, as well as lesser-known acts like Potty Mouth and Wire, all of the selections tied together by the common thread of a loose animal theme, and it has its own objectives outside of theme-based curating.
A third of the 15 songs reference dogs directly in their titles, but Dupuis insists (if a little tongue-in-cheek) that the group made an effort to mix things up. “It was important to us to get Hatebeak on this list. We felt that the parrot voice is under-represented in mixtapes.”
While the “Bird Bites, Dog Cries” Hatebeak track presents a subversion of the reigning hegemony canines hold in the world of human-animal relationships, in the same perspectivist spirit, not all of the mix addresses the “man’s best friend” dialogues humans invoke when discussing their furry, feathered, or scaly friends; Robidoux says the mix’s Animal Style title is actually a reference to a secret menu item at In-N-Out Burger.
Some brief Internet gumshoeing will reveal that for the supposedly streamlined fast-food joint, “Animal Style” is a menu variation that can be applied to any In-N-Out burger order. Uttering the words at the cashier simply results in your burger coming as a mustard-cooked beef patty together with some mixed in pickles, cheese, “spread” and grilled onions.
“I don’t think it’s that secret,” said Dupuis. She might be right, but if this is news to you, you can thank Speedy Ortiz for your newfound expertise on America’s semi-hushed fast foods.
The band’s got more than themes on the mind, though; several songs come from friends of the band, with Speedy Ortiz counting Krill, Potty Mouth, Sam Gas Can, and Chris Weisman as associates they were proud to direct some ears to.
Others tracks like Syd Barrett’s “Octopus” land on the tracklist out of compromise.
“It was kind of suggested that we include a Pink Floyd song, but we thought that would be too obvious, and the Syd Barrett song fit with the flow of the songs a lot better,” said drummer Mike Falcone. “Instead of putting a ten-minute-long song, it fit a lot better with the sequence.”
“Syd Barrett’s cooler anyway,” said Dupuis.
Animal Style was released Aug. 12 via Carpark. Stream the whole mix below.
Animal Style tracklist
01 The Problem Solverz – “Doghouse”
02 Sam Gas Can – “Life of a Dog”
03 Sparklehorse – “Pig”
04 Deerhoof – “Kidz Are So Small”
05 Wire – “I Am the Fly”
06 Krill – “Piranha Girl”
07 Hatebeak – “Bird Bites, Dog Cries”
08 Dr. Octagon – “halfsharkalligatorhalfman”
09 Syd Barrett – “Octopus”
10 The Shaggs – “My Pal Foot Foot”
11 Chris Weisman – “Elephant In The Room”
12 Potty Mouth – “Dog Song”
13 Porches. – “Fog Dog”
14 Guided By Voices – “Chicken Blows”
15 Ween – “Fluffy”
Concert photos: Speedy Ortiz, Chelsea Light
Moving, METZ, +more @Supercrawl Concert review: Chelsea Light Moving and Speedy
Ortiz @Horseshoe Tavern