Speedy Ortiz debuted as Dupuis’ home-recording outlet in 2011, but the solo project quickly blew up into a full-fledged band beloved around the world for its pointed lyrics, disarmingly hooky choruses, and musical ingenuity—as well as its activism. The band has since released an expansive and critically beloved discography, toured worldwide, and inspired next generations of bands with inventive songwriting and advocacy to better the music industry. The group graced festival stages from Bonnaroo to Primavera, supported heroic artists from Foo Fighters to Liz Phair, and brought acts including Mitski and Soccer Mommy on some of their earliest tours. In 2016, the band relocated from Massachusetts to Philadelphia, with the lineup changing shortly thereafter to include sonically inventive guitarist Andy Molholt (Laser Background, Eric Slick), drivingly melodic bassist Audrey Zee Whitesides (Mal Blum, Little Waist), and heavy-hitting drummer Joey Doubek (Pinkwash, Downtown Boys). Rabbit Rabbit is the first Speedy album to feature the longtime touring members as full contributors, and Dupuis and her bandmates blaze with unpredictability, their intrepid playing thrusting songs in exhilarating new directions.
The gnarled guitars and imagistic lyrics that defined 2013’s Major Arcana, 2015’s Foil Deer and 2018’s Twerp Verse are still present, but Rabbit Rabbit’s recordings feel as vast as a desert landscape. “As I was channeling scenes and sentiments from decades past, I wanted to honor the bands I loved when I first learned guitar, ones that taught me to get lost in the possibilities of this instrument,” Dupuis recalls. Speedy Ortiz delved into its members’ most formative musical favorites—post-hardcore, the Palm Desert scene, alternative metal—pushing the agile complexity of the guitars and forceful rhythmic interplay between the drums and bass to unprecedentedly tricky extremes. “Every voice has a narrative,” offers Doubek of the arrangement process. “There is so much feeling and melody to interpret, and so much room to express it.”
Sadie Dupuis has remained busy outside of Speedy Ortiz as well, releasing solo music (and collaborating with the likes of Lizzo, The New Pornographers, Ben Lee and Backxwash) under the moniker Sad13, publishing and touring for two acclaimed poetry books, and running the Carpark Records imprint and literary journal, Wax Nine (Spacemoth, Johanna Warren, Melkbelly). In her past few years of work as a writer and interviewer, Dupuis recognized a recurring thread among artists with parallel backstories to her own: music had provided escapism from childhood abuse, but those same turbulent circumstances had normalized the grimmest aspects of the music industry. These were flashbacks she’d shied from, and constant touring enabled that avoidance. But while Rabbit Rabbit pulls no punches, either in its self-reflections or its call outs, there is still a sense of fight at the forefront of the record. That energy is fueled by the band’s activist efforts; Molholt and Dupuis are community organizers with the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers and its Philly local, which has worked to place instruments in state prisons. The band has also collaborated with harm reduction organizations, Girls Rock Camps, and other grassroots groups while on tour.
Drawing from literary influences that include workplace apocalypses, magical realist family dramas, and artists’ biographies, Rabbit Rabbit is Speedy Ortiz’s most ambitious and expansive record to date. Guitars remain the focus—the group played on about 50 of them, through over 100 effects pedals and 30 different amps—but the band incorporated a wide range of found sounds too, sampling everything from bedpans to debit cards to car washes to BB-guns. Dupuis added electronic tones as part of an ornate pre-production process, completed using a synesthetic constraint in which she immersed herself in a different color to arrange each song. As always, she designed the album artwork, which is a mixed-media painting of a fire-engulfed pickup truck, an image inspired by the trucks on fire she drew compulsively as a kid in therapy.
“I turned 33 while writing this album, a palindrome birthday and a lucky number associated with knowledge,” explains Dupuis. “I wanted to mark how I was making better choices as I got older, letting go of heedless anger even when it’s warranted.” The album’s stirring immediacy owes much to the band’s strength as a collective, working together toward a better future—or, as Molholt puts it, “constantly surfing the highs and lows in search of a stable place to land.” With considered muscularity, captivating earworms, and genuine solidarity, Speedy Ortiz is equipped to confront the world’s indignities—with or without a good luck charm.