Speedy Ortiz, preparing for Madison show, carry Top 100 favorites with them on tour

Speedy Ortiz returns to Madison Friday for the first time since their August Live on King Street show.

Speedy Ortiz returns to Madison Friday for the first time since their August Live on King Street show.

Image By: Photo Courtesy of Carpark Records

It’s been a hot minute since Speedy Ortiz last hit Madison; or, more specifically, just a few months short of a year since they demolished Live on King Street, opening for tUnE-yArDs. The appearance felt like a bit of a victory lap after the release of 2013’s triumphant Major Arcana and 2014’s equally massive “Real Hair” EP, but it wasn’t the first time they had played the city. 

“That was a really cool festival, with tUnE-yArDs, but we also played [in Madison] one time in some type of college dorm type thing … Minor Threat or Hüsker Dü had played there at some point, I think, in the 80s,” drummer Mike Falcone said. 

He couldn’t quite recall the venue, but the more he described it, the more it sounded like Speedy Ortiz—and either Minor Threat or Hüsker Dü before them—had eviscerated Sellery Hall at one point in the past. “On the bottom floor there was a big room with a piano in the corner,” Falcone added, “and we spent some time there trying to figure out Wu-Tang songs on piano.”

The band recently added Devin McKnight to their lineup while guitarist Matt Robidoux takes a hiatus from playing. He’s a new element, but his frantic Spiral Stairs-esque style blends perfectly into frontwoman Sadie Dupuis’ anxious song structures—not surprising, since he’s been a fan since the beginning. 

“I just remember when Speedy started being a band and I started seeing [them] around Boston more, and [2012 EP] ‘Sports’ came out, and I bought it, and it was great,” he recalled, laughing. 

With McKnight on guitar the band recently recorded and released their third album, Foil Deer, another rock-solid entry in the band’s catalog in April. As always, the record is a mess of intricate and cryptic songwriting over snaking indie rock—it wasn’t surprising, then, that Falcone noted Elliott Smith’s ’90s band Heatmiser as a large influence. 

Maybe more than ever before, though, the record demonstrates the band’s investment in pop music. “We listen to a lot of ’90s R&B, a lot of hip-hop, both bad and good, so whenever you kind of hear the pop elements come out in the songwriting—there’s a lot of singy, big R&B hooks,” McKnight said, which explains the roots of the permeating pop in thier music. 

The pop influences permeate all parts of Speedy Ortiz, as even on tour it makes up the majority of the band’s listening habits. “I like to bring CD-Rs on tour, where you burn, like, the Billboard Top 100 from like, random years, like 2005 or 1995 or something,” said Falcone. “And if we had a really long drive, like seven to eight hours, we’d just listen to the whole thing. We’d end up skipping maybe 30-40 [songs] because a lot of them are really bad.”

“I was actually really surprised,” McKnight added, “I really hated ‘Fergalicious’ and ‘My Humps’ and ‘London Bridge’ when they were new, but they don’t actually sound that bad however many years later. They’ve actually aged very well, which is something I hadn’t expected.”

On the subject of pop music, I had to ask about the band’s feelings regarding Taylor Swift, espoused via early single “Taylor Swift” (featuring the impossibly great line “I got a boy who likes to fuck to Can”). 

“A lot of people really get defensive about it. ‘How dare you make fun of her…’ and it’s like, I don’t know, I don’t think we’re making fun of her, this is just objectively what a lot of her songs are about,” Falcone said. “I liked Red a little more than [1989].”

Finally, when I asked the two what would make Friday’s Speedy Ortiz set particularly special, Falcone paused, and then answered, “A crowd that feels a little more intimate is always nice, there’s not as much separation between the stage and the people when you’re playing. And I would say, things like there being… dope beer in the back or something.” 

I don’t think he’ll be disappointed.

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