Audeze catches up with musician and producer Sadie Dupuis

May 28, 2024

Sadie Dupuis is the guitarist, songwriter & singer of rock band Speedy Ortiz, as well as the producer & multi-instrumentalist behind pop project Sad13. As a producer, player, and topline writer, she has worked with artists including Lizzo, Backxwash, Ben Lee and The New Pornographers. Sadie heads the record label Wax Nine, edits its poetry journal, and is a regular contributor to Spin, Tape Op, Talkhouse, and more. Mouthguard, her first book, was published in 2018 (Gramma); Cry Perfume, a second poetry collection, was released in 2022 (Black Ocean). She is an organizer with the Union of Musicians & Allied Workers and its local UMAW Philly.

Sadie Dupuis wearing Audeze LCD-X headphones playing the guitar
"I've been using these headphones for just about everything since they landed at my desk... tracking guitars, stacking vocals, mixing, referencing our test pressings for Rabbit Rabbit, and also for non-work listening!" - Sadie Dupuis 
Here's our chat with Sadie:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

Speedy Ortiz - Rabbit Rabbit

Sad13 - Haunted Painting 

Sad13 & Lizzo - "Basement Queens

Backxwash ft. Sad13 & Ada Rook - "Song of Sinners

Ben Lee ft. Sad13 - "Born for this Bullshit"

Songs in the Key of Death Podcast Soundtrack 

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

I'm a composer, arranger and producer for my own projects Speedy Ortiz and Sad13, with an emphasis on guitars, synths and drum programming. I love adding textures and overdubs to flesh out my collaborators' and clients' existing arrangements, as well as writing toplines and backing vocals. I've also composed themes and other music for a handful of podcasts, and really enjoy interpreting narrative storytelling into a sonic complement.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I grew up playing piano and singing in childrens' choirs, so classical music was an early influence, but I also obsessed over rock and pop I heard on the radio in the mid-late '90s: Korn, No Doubt, Britney Spears, Destiny's Child. My parents had more of a taste for indie rock and introduced me to artists like Sebadoh, Liz Phair, and Pavement, and also to ska and punk, which influenced me when I started playing guitar at age 12. I played in bands throughout high school and picked up a little of the other rock instruments like bass and drums. I also got into home recording at this time, working on a Tascam 414 to demo my songs, later moving to GarageBand then Logic. I played in a few bands in my early 20s but Speedy Ortiz was the first one to take off, a huge gift that has taken me around the world and allowed me to meet many of my heroes. But when the band outgrew my engineering talents, I wanted an outlet for home recording, and that became Sad13. Through that project I've been able to delve further into production and collaborate with some contemporary favorites, and also explore genres outside of Speedy's brand of guitar rock, like orchestral arranging and hyperpop and new wave.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

I took a recording class in 2007 that introduced me to more experimental techniques of sound design —field recordings, aleatoric music, and software like Max MSP. This gave me a new way to look at my home recordings which had been a little more conventional up to that point, and has continued to inspire me to incorporate found objects subbing in for traditional instruments (like microwave buttons as a synth on the last Sad13 record). I studied writing in school and have worked as a journalist and a teacher; it was thanks to early tour offers from some of my heroes including Stephen Malkmus and the Breeders that I felt the courage to quit my day jobs and pursue music full time. Since then I've been beyond grateful that other heroes have worked or toured with me or my band, including Foo Fighters, Liz Phair, Mary Timony, Interpol, Letters to Cleo, and Wilco. I'm also grateful to engineers we've worked with who have tolerated my enthusiasm and taught me a ton about mixing and production, especially the ones who have become close friends, like Sarah Tudzin, Erin Tonkon, Justin Pizzoferrato, Emily Lazar, Mike Mogis and Gabe Wax.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

I try not to get too caught up in audio regrets, but I always hope to learn from moments of stress or disappointment. When something bothers me about an old mix or recorded performance, I work to learn how to do it better for next time. Every record I make I like better than the ones that came before it—I think this is as it should be, music-making is a lifelong pursuit and we should always be learning and growing. Another thing I'd emphasize is to make sure trust and respect are paramount in your relationship with your engineer or mixer. Some of the moments of frustration I experienced early in my career could have been avoided with better communication—collaborating with folks whose work styles resemble or complement my own is a big help.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I love using my guitar pedals to re-process or re-amp non-guitar sounds—vocals, snare and kick, synths. The weirder the effect the better—layering and panning unconventional sounds is great for carving texture and mystery into a mix, especially as an easter egg for headphone and close listeners. Earthquaker Devices, Red Panda, and Old Blood are some of my favorites. I especially love the Rainbow Machine for its versatility as a chorus or a modulator or a sprinkle-generator.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Don't be afraid to try new things or reject so-called best practices! Sometimes the "worst" or "wrong" equipment will provide inspiration or a creative route to an undiscovered sound. Sylvia Massy has been a big inspiration in this regard. Finding your own best workflow takes trial and error and a lot of practice, so might as well be adventurous as you start to figure out what works best for your voice and your sound. And this goes without saying but it's important to listen to a broad variety of music, including and maybe especially stuff you don't like. Understanding how songs and sounds are put together and what about them makes you feel good or bad, is essential ear training.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

Since I'm on the road so often I'm always working on a laptop, and headphones are an integral part of my composing, pre-production, and mixing processes. Even at home in Philly, I get different kinds of inspiration from different parts of my house (or outside of it), so it's great to be able to work outside of my project studio and know my headphones won't let me down. As my productions tend to be pretty dense, I also like to use a variety of headphones and speakers in referencing mixes and masters, so I can catch how a spectrum of listeners will pick up on different details and frequency ranges!

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you’ve been working on with them recently?

I've been using these headphones for just about everything since they landed at my desk... tracking guitars, stacking vocals, mixing, referencing our test pressings for Rabbit Rabbit, and also for non-work listening! The first time I used them I dropped an audible "wow." I love their clarity and transparency, how well details pop through, and best of all I never get ear fatigue working on these, which has not been true of any of my previous headphones. I was able to record overdubs for some collaborations with a couple favorite artists including Lizzie No and Lady Pills just before I left on tour, and it was great to be able to trust what I was hearing in my headphones so implicitly. I'm looking forward to diving deeper into production work!

Audeze LCD-X headphones in studio