Many indie-rock bands struggle to find an identity even years into a career, but Speedy Ortiz has built a name for itself quickly. In the four years since its inception, the Massachusetts-based group stands out by quietly offering help to those who need it, while avoiding the grandstanding pratfalls that some bigger stars tend to commit.
On the heels of making the news for opening a “help hotline” for fans at shows who feel unsafe, they also announced that for a run of 11 all-ages shows during their winter tour, the band would donate 100 percent of net proceeds to Girls Rock Camp Foundation. The GRCF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing funds for camps that develop life skills while promoting creative expression and collaborations through music.
Formed in 2014, the GRCF has already supported over 44 camps for girls of all economic backgrounds throughout the country. Both the charity and the band hope this small run of shows will make a positive impact in 2016.
“We booked this tour with the intention of giving money to a charity that provided accessible and affordable music lessons to kids,” explains Sadie Dupuis, Speedy Ortiz’s lead vocalist. “We have lots of friends who have done work with different Girls Rock camps, and we’re just huge fans and believers of what they do for kids, so it was an obvious choice. Then we just picked cities that we loved, where we had friends, and where we may have only played 21-and-up in the past so not everyone could come see us that wanted to. That was sort of the idea, and now we get to do it, so that’s cool.”
For a band of Ortiz’s background, the all-ages aspect of the tour is key. While their careers have blown up over the past couple of years, first with the release of their 2013 debut album “Major Arcana” and now with their much buzzed-about “Foil Deer” disc, these musicians could have been caught playing a random house show on the East Coast only months ago. With success come venues with stricter rules on who can attend concerts.
“When we first started touring, about four years ago, we were only playing DIY spaces, basement venues, community-run arts spaces,” Dupuis says. “In the past year and a half of touring we have made this our day job, we’ve ended up doing a ton of club and bar shows where it is 21-and-up, and the tickets are maybe a little more expensive than what we would prefer. We’ve just been doing a lot of shows like that, and we were starting to miss doing shows that were a little more community-oriented, and were more accessible to everyone.”
Feeling part of a community is something the members have been missing from their day-to-day lives now that they have gone “full-time” with Ortiz. Success brings long weeks away from home, working to make new fans both within the crowds at venues and among the programming directors at local radio stations.
“I think it’s really important to us, especially the way that touring can make you feel disembodied and not grounded by community, just by being away from home so much,” Dupuis says. “There’s a nice aspect to using this sort of ephemeral job to give a signal boost to something that you find is important, or something that benefits the community that you are spending nine months out of the year away from. I think we all are pretty excited whenever we are able to use our somewhat minimal platform to bring attention to something that we view as important.”
So when the band unpacks their gear at The Pinhook in Durham Tuesday night, everything behind the scenes will be exactly as they want it. All ages are invited, the venue itself strives to be progressive in its attitude toward all possible clientele, and the profits will go to a deserving charity. So with all that being said, how would Dupuis describe her band to those who may give it a shot this week, if for no other reason than just the spirit of giving during the holidays? What is her elevator pitch for getting possible new fans into the show?
“Ugh, I’m terrible at describing our music,” she begins with a laugh. “We were just on tour over in Europe through October and most of November, and we were just getting home. I always get flagged by customs for some reason, so I always end up having to go through a separate long line while my bandmates just breeze through. My favorite questions are always from customs agents who see my guitar and want to talk rock music; they are clearly so bored from staring at passports all day that they just want to talk about anything that might be interesting for a minute. So I had to explain to this last customs guy that I played punk rock, which led to him rattling off all of his favorite punk bands. Then when I told him I was actually more ‘prog,’ he just gave up.
“I don’t know how to explain what we sound like other than just loud guitars, But we are nice people, and you’ll have a wonderful time at the show.”
Who: Speedy Ortiz with Aye Nako and No Love
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Where: The Pinhook, 117 W. Main St., Durham
Cost: $10-$15 (proceeds go to charity)