Sometimes lyrics are so good, they read like poetry. That’s certainly the case with Massachusetts alt-rock act Speedy Ortiz, although it comes with a simple explanation.
When lyricist and front woman Sadie Dupuis isn’t onstage, she can be found studying or in class at Amherst College, where she is finishing her master’s degree in poetry.
“Songwriting is more structured,” she said. “I have to write something that will hammer a tick into the guitar melody. Writing lyrics, though, is actually less pressure. You have to have more consideration, but it’s more free at the same time.”
If you are expecting bookish music delicate to the touch, however, you are in for a shock. With crunchy guitars, heavy distortion and plenty of attitude, Speedy Ortiz’s literary formidability is matched only by its snarl.
“We think of ourselves as boring people, but we want to have a personality as band,” drummer Mike Falcone said. “It seemed like a lot of bands I was hearing in the middle of the 2000s didn’t have their own voice. We didn’t ever want to come across that way. We’re more influenced by bands that aren’t just trying to sound the same as everything around them.”
Formed just last year, the group already has found itself incessantly compared to the likes of Pavement and Exile in Guyville-era Liz Phair, but to dismiss Speedy Ortiz has another ’90s college-rock revivalist would be unfair. The band’s brand-new debut album, Major Arcana, is more ratcheted and diverse than much of anything produced in the past two decades.
“I like songs that have surprises … that go places you don’t expect them to go,” Dupuis said. “I don’t like hearing the same four chords over and over. Things that are multifaceted and can evolve in the course of four minutes are what I am geared toward.”
Playing Wednesday, July 31, at The Conservatory, Speedy Ortiz has been rewarded for its work with a slot opening for Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and some of the summer’s most glowing reviews, including the Best New Music badge from the notoriously harsh Pitchfork.
“It was flattering, and we’re happy people have found us because of it,” Dupuis said. “We met two of the nicest people we’ve ever met in Kansas City, and they had never heard of us before that review. That sort of thing is gratifying.”