After five years, Speedy Ortiz is finally back. Today, the Philadelphia-based quartet led by Sadie Dupuis released Rabbit Rabbit. We can confidently say that this is the group’s finest work yet. Speedy Ortiz spent time over the past few years, recording in several states and crafting its fourth album, which was produced by the band along with Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties. Ahead of Rabbit Rabbit‘s release, we caught up with the group and its four members broke down the stories and meaning behind every song on the album.

Kim Cattrall

Sadie: The album opens with a nod to Jenny Hval’s book, Girls Against God—a novel about black metal, witchcraft, nihilism, and collective action (and art’s) power to destabilize. The song’s about marveling at the magical things in my life, and wondering how I’ve survived to see them—but also wanting to keep out of that gift horse’s mouth. “Kim Cattrall” is an ode to compartmentalization, an instinctual gesture of self-preservation. Its namesake had recently ditched the Sex and the City reboot, citing miserable experiences on the original set. She served as a good figurehead for a song about making better choices. It was important to me that the guitars on Rabbit Rabbit convey melody and emotion just as much as vocals do. Putting this guitar-intensive track first felt like an opening salvo. 

Joey: Something I really like about Sadie’s album writing process is that every voice has a narrative, and I think that’s especially true for the drums. There is so much feeling and melody for me to interpret and so much room for me to express it. “Kim” is a great, bombastic example. It’s heavy, it’s cutting, it’s intricate, it’s groovy, and the drums are constantly in motion. 

Audrey: I really like this song as an opener because so much of the recording of it was very playful and weird. Other than playing bass, I did a lot of just turning knobs—no-input mixing, running tracks through a bunch of pedals and effects and making them feel woozy and unstable. The song really hits, but there’s a lot of chaos under the surface and the tension was great to play with.

Sadie: Every morning at 6 a.m., a bird yodeled outside my window at Rancho de la Luna. That yodel made it into this intro, alongside some other magic-conjuring field recordings, and the no-input mixing from Audrey.

You S02

Sadie: For the record, I like L.A. a lot. I also like picking up on different cities’ ingrained traffic patterns, and LA drivers really do love to cut you off from the right lane. It’s an easy metaphor for ruthlessness, someone who tries to get ahead of others when there’s no real reason to do it. I’m happy (and lucky?) that most of the musical heroes I’ve met have lived up to my expectations. But once in a while, someone I formerly idolized lets me/us down. That’s what “You S02” is about: ex-punks who abandon their ethics when they become bosses or boss-adjacent.  In You’s second season, the show’s serial killer protagonist trades Brooklyn for L.A. and unsurprisingly remains the same terrible person. (Which we could say about a lot of musicians who make that same move.) 

Audrey: We have a song called “Scabs,” but this one references some union-busting by a certain LA company too, right? I think it’s great to have two songs on one album bringing that stuff up.

Joey: Rhythm section really shows up in these verses. *flames emoji*

Andy: I grew up with a slightly warped perspective of Los Angeles, visiting often with family because my half-sister lives there, convinced by age 13 that the entire West Coast culture was irredeemably vapid. I came to realize in later years that those feelings are better directed toward the entirety of humanity. Los Angeles is really a wonderful, strange and often mysterious city, and I had one of the best weeks of my life there at the start of this year. This song, to me, somehow accurately captures that duality. It’s also one of the most fun to play on the record. One of the greatest challenges and most exciting parts of making Rabbit Rabbit was adapting and inhabiting the amazing demos that Sadie made, and “You S02” is one that I feel ended up truly firing on all cylinders.

Sadie: I tried my best to channel the unhinged synth and guitar leaps of Brainiac, forever an inspiration.


Joey: I obsessed over this main drum beat for so long. Longer than anything else on the record. It needed more detail than just dancey hi-hats the whole time. It’s funky, it’s clinical and has made me a better drummer learning how to play it.

Sadie: I wrote the shell of “Scabs” standing in line in the post office, where Audrey and I share a P.O. box, after listening to customers berate a mail worker. A year into the pandemic, some people still signified their support for essential workers with online posts and yard signs, but not with their actions. This song made me reflect on organizing work I’d helped with for UMAW’s Justice at Spotify campaign, as well as the No Music for ICE anti-Amazon campaign. We’d asked musicians to take a stance against these companies, and many did, but others chimed in with frustrating “yet you participate in society”-isms. Hence the “don’t talk to me!” It was fun hearing Audrey and Andy and Sarah and Ram do a few octaves of that refrain—and to have Joey on vibraslap, since CAKE was a big influence on this track (n.b. John McCrea almost did some BGVs, alongside Eve 6’s Max Collins). It’s one of a couple of songs to feature our original bassist Darl Ferm with extra guitar flourishes—rhythmic touches that helped glue together the arrangements.

Andy: To the folks yelling at workers at the post office, or any person working in a public space: please stop! On the plane from Philadelphia to Joshua Tree, I was feeling quite excited about the approaching sessions—to finally do something with music again after years of doomscrolling on my couch! To prepare for this record, Sadie, Audrey, Joey and I rehearsed what felt like almost every day for a month at our practice space in Kensington. We played the tracks live over and over, workshopping them furiously, and I would often record them on my phone to listen back to after the fact. Listening back on the plane, half out of boredom, I pitched the “Scabs” voice memo up +23 semitones. The result was…truly demented. After showing the rest of the band, they agreed, and this haunted voice memo would make appearances throughout the recording sessions, played to induce a hearty laugh between the crew. At some point, it was floated as the intro of the song, and I’m thrilled that it stuck. This is one of the deep guitar songs on the record, and I’m happy it ended up as the first single. 

Audrey: Shout out to everyone who works at Sadie and I’s post office. This song really quickly became one of my favorites to play live because it’s really bouncy and changes time signatures so it never feels settled. I was trying to play a dancy bassline at some parts and bring in a Tina Weymouth feel, almost. Oh, also the part at the beginning is our tribute to the wonderful genre that is nightcore, which we all love to listen to.

Plus One

Sadie: “Plus One” is about estrangement, choosing to break connections that skew transactional. What began as a fingerpicked waltz ultimately incorporated more post-hardcore-indebted riffs to provide unruly momentum. West Philly turns up some interesting street trash, and over the course of a month, I watched the full contents of a jigsaw puzzle degrade in fascinating ways—soaked by rain, bleached by sun, blown up and down the block, trampled into smaller, fraying pieces. It was an IRL imagistic parallel to the story of a relationship that once fit and no longer can. The intro samples a spam voicemail, harmonizing with itself, paired with a recording of a carwash we sat through with Tony, the fascinating owner of Sonic Ranch. 

Audrey: The way the chorus guitar line sounds like it could be from a blues song out of context but is transformed into a really anthemic and big post-hardcore line, and that hitting with the super heavy drums, is such a good moment.

Joey: Tried my best to create an atypical, galloping tom part for the chorus lines that would bring as much propulsion as it would a stable tempo. Really fun to experiment here, and I think it pays off.

Andy: The carwash sounds good. I think of this as an archetypal Speedy Ortiz song, really. It does all the stuff. The aforementioned galloping tom part by Joey really does give it a sense of urgency and propulsion, and Audrey’s bass plus the repeating guitar mania gets really scrungy. Have you ever thought about donning another person’s petticoat?

Cry Cry Cry

Andy: There’s a frigidness about “Cry Cry Cry” that gets me feeling a deep solitude. Like taking a good long look over a big cold lake in the morning. I imagine it would be nice to listen to on a walk alone in nature. 

Joey: Probably my favorite drum sound on the record. The acoustic drums are doubled up with midi triggers and it gives more emphasis to my phrasing during the verses.

Sadie: A bunch of artists have written or performed “Cry Cry Cry” songs—this one’s in a lineage after Johnny Cash, Peggy Lee, Connie Smith, and Roxy Music. My “Cry Cry Cry” was painful to work on, but it’s also the song I’m proudest of. It’s about my alienation from tears and tendency toward minimization in the wake of childhood abuse. I’m a long way removed from that time, but I squirm when I have to sit with painful feelings. Reading Susan Rogers’ book This Is What It Sounds Like, she describes how certain kinds of music elicit emotion “from the neck up,” using formal composition rules to engineer raw feeling. I used this song’s arrangement to trip sonic wires that tap me into vulnerability—sputtering drums, electrocuting synth, contrapuntal guitars climbing and tumbling, ominous choral vocals ramping up without resolution.

Ballad of Y & S

Sadie: I wrote this on an OP-1, parked outside a coffee shop in Richmond. Midway through reading Red Comet, the very long but very good Sylvia Plath biography by Heather Clark, I learned that Plath and Yoko Ono briefly shared a college boyfriend. I considered overlaps between these two artists: how their works were overly interpreted through the lenses of their biographies and their male partners, despite Plath and Ono’s singular practices. This line of thinking made me scrutinize my own memoiristic songwriting and the current commercial trend toward hyper-confessional art. Musically, it’s a semi-nod to the Yoko Ono album Approximately Infinite Universe. Of the four thousand guitars on here, one is me playing a Casio Digital Guitar Synth—my goofiest and favorite overdub on this record.

Andy: Happy that we got to sneak some Vocaloid in here. One thing I love about playing in this band is that there is never a fear of exploring melodic ideas, and this one is as densely packed as any with melodic layers.


Audrey: The way the very busy and complex verse just kinda slides into a really clear and pretty chorus still catches me off-guard even when I’m in the middle of playing the song. Elliott Smith is a touchpoint that’s been brought up before, and the way this song combines that feel with prog rock is so fun.

Joey: Tried staying true to Sadie’s drum ideas for this one. It’s pretty sicko and took me forever to learn. The shortest songs are always the hardest. 

Sadie: I used to live at a busy intersection—street races, screaming matches, gunshots, fireworks, all happening near-nightly around the witching hour. That’s the backdrop here, but “Kitty”’s message is pure: even when I’m barely sleeping, I hope my loved ones clock a good night’s rest. This is the first song I demoed for the album, and it originally ended after the twin guitar solos. Right when I finished it, I got a text from my friend Steve Hartlett: “You are on my list of top 10 friends to never ghost if possible.” So I went back and built that sentiment into a modulated last verse. When we were working on guitars for this, Andy came over and we watched a bunch of Mars Volta live videos—which seeped into this, at least in the snaky and stuttery guitars, and the persistent percussion. I also love his woozy cassette synth solos in the intro, which sound like a twisted RPG.

Andy: This was a moment of real true collaboration between me and Sadie, with different sections of “my” guitar part being written by both of us. It was really fun to sit together in my living room and question, “What does this section want?” and go from there. Also had a lot of fun with the Onde Magnétique on this one, especially during the intro.

Who’s Afraid of the Bath

Sadie: I used the sonic palette of an album that captivated me as a teenager and that I still love, Deftones’ White Pony, to react to the lyrics of its “Digital Bath,” in which a woman is randomly murdered by the song’s narrator. After my experiences with abuse and stalking, I engaged in the common trauma response of self-blame—but the shared factor in stories like this isn’t the victims or anything about their behavior. The guilt lies with a person who chooses to enact violence. “The bath” (Deftones’, and mine) stands in for the fantasies others use to justify harm. While I was tracking this, my dog Lavender wailed nonstop. I wound up recording a few layers of her cries and wove them in. Her first feature! At Rancho, I played a lot of the guitar layers on a Flying V for this one, and had to face out the front screen door and into the desert wind and pretend I was playing an amphitheater or something in order to get it right.

Joey: This was another example of Sadie’s drum programming being so fun and melodic that I wanted to try and mimic it as much as possible. One of my favorite beats on the record. When we were all tracking this together, there was a rogue background guitar sample in our headphones that mysteriously turned up to 420 decibels. I think I cried. I almost had a panic attack. We took shots of mezcal and 10 minutes later I nailed the take. 

Andy: I felt so bad when Joey’s headphones got maxed out. That was awful. But “Bath” was really fun to work on. I kept viewing the guitar interplay as a “puzzle” that was revealing itself to me as we progressed. I have long been obsessed with songs that have a “freckle,” as in a part that happens once and never again, and “Bath” contains perhaps my favorite timing change on the record when one section is inexplicably longer than normal. 

Ranch vs. Ranch

Sadie: Every ‘90s-set period piece is scored by the indie and radio rock of my youth. It’s fun to be the target for nostalgia syncs (thank you, Beef supervisors), but it’s also a mindfuck to be 30 years out from that decade, now as vintage as the ‘50s in Back to the Future. I turned 33 while writing this record, and I’ll be 35 by the time it’s out. More things hurt than they used to, but I’m also getting scarier, in a good and powerful way. I tried to write a soundtrack-y homage to the bands I’d needle-drop in my fantasy ‘90s-to-Y2K-set movie—Imperial Teen, The Folk Implosion, Enon—after watching the horror show Brand New Cherry Flavor. So the working title was “Cherry Flavor” but there were a few too many TV references already for my comfort. 

Andy: The first Speedy Ortiz song that I (accidentally) named. We knew we wanted to rename it, and kept joking about “Spy vs. Spy” during the writing session. At some point I blurted out “Ranch vs. Ranch,” and when we realized the correlation between Sonic Ranch and Rancho de la Luna, the name stuck. 

Audrey: When we were at Sonic Ranch tracking overdubs, we wanted Andy to use a specific organ in a different studio than we were using, so we waited until late one night when the session there had wrapped and really quickly all ran over to get some organ tracks as quick as possible. I just remember sitting in the control room listening to Andy play a really beautiful organ and looking around like, “Yeah, this is a good place to be.” The song’s title ended up a reference to the two really special places we made this record at, Rancho de la Luna and Sonic Ranch, and so this one will always feel like a love letter to moments like that late-night organ to me.

Sadie: Every ‘90s-set period piece is scored by the indie and radio rock of my youth. It’s fun to be the target for nostalgia syncs (thank you, Beef supervisors), but it’s also a mindfuck to be 30 years out from that decade, now as vintage as the ‘50s in Back to the Future. I turned 33 while writing this record, and I’ll be 35 by the time it’s out. More things hurt than they used to, but I’m also getting scarier, in a good and powerful way. I tried to write a soundtrack-y homage to the bands I’d needle-drop in my fantasy ‘90s-to-Y2K-set movie—Imperial Teen, The Folk Implosion, Enon—after watching the horror show Brand New Cherry Flavor. So the working title was “Cherry Flavor” but there were a few too many TV references already for my comfort. 

Joey: Love the Propellerheads / Stabbing Westward vibe. I was able to sneak in some little drum solos and everybody went along with it. 

Sadie: Recording this included another of my favorite moments of the whole session: I played the guitar solo into a Boss Slicer while Joey manipulated the pedal with his fist to cut in new rhythmic patterns. 

Emergency & Me

Sadie: The “emergency” is conflict avoidance and the frustration of colliding with other people’s defensiveness when you’re trying to find resolution. But the song is also about online wellness grifters who’ve meme-ified every mental health diagnosis; therapy speak is unhelpfully discharged to pardon people from their bad habits or beliefs. Audrey played an eight-string bass in the intro which broke a string on her first take; luckily, that take was perfect, and its eerie warble is one of my favorite sounds on this record. It was also fun-slash-funny doing Thin Lizzy-style guitarmonies with Andy.

Andy: I especially love the intro here and Audrey’s very strange melody. Also, the outro was sculpted during our practice space sessions and finessed by a suggestion from Joey. I would suggest that in these ways, this is the most collaborative Speedy Ortiz record that I’ve been a part of, and I really think the album benefits from these loving touches.

The Sunday

Sadie: When I was seventeen, my mom brought home a drum kit because she thought it might help me deal with anger, then my high school bandmate Dana taught me to play. Drums are the sound I listen for first in most recordings and play a heavy role in articulating emotion in my songs, so they were frequently the first instrument I wrote parts for on this record. Aside from the memory of drum practice, this song is about feeling stuck in depression, losing full days to catatonia… and then feeling lifted out by music. We begged David Catching to add lap steel to this, and watching him record his part was very moving. It felt like an embodiment of what I was singing about: the power of music to transform a mood or moment for the better.

Joey: I think I can speak for everyone in saying that watching David track was easily a top moment of recording.  This song was fun for me. Sadie’s like, “Record an entire drum overdub but make it a little different,” and that first take of an overdub is what you hear, hard-panned in one of the ears. Was very freeing to play loose, wing it, and see what happened.

Andy: The black sheep of the album, in my opinion. The most vibe-y, the most acoustic. It hits me in a deep way, listening back to it. It feels naturalistic to me. I also relate a little too strongly to the theme of being paralyzed by depression, unfortunately, which makes this track hit even harder. And yes, David’s take was both mesmerizing and moving for all of us. After spending over a week with this new friend, and forming what felt like an instant and deep bond, having the privilege and pleasure of him playing on a song and coming up with his parts in a matter of minutes was truly a moment of beauty.

Brace Thee

Sadie: This was one of the last songs I wrote for Rabbit Rabbit and its images are more surreal than some of the other tracks: the smell of enraged horses, a glove that strangles, a neon moon illuminating apocalypse. In flashbacks to old wounds I’ve wished there was someone to hold accountable, but anyone that could shed light is no longer in my life. I can only ask unanswerable questions. The uncomfortably slow tempo was designed as an affront, and the way the timbres shift— glitching harmonics to baritone boom to vocal screaming—is meant to reflect how a memory can warp from different facets of perspective. Devin McKnight, Speedy’s previous guitarist and one of our favorite musicians and friends, added some epic and extraterrestrial guitars to this one, which really make the finale. 

Andy: The slow burn. I was happy when Devin added his parts to this song, because there were a few sections that vexed me. What does this song want? It was to take its time; it wants to build. The infamous haunting piano at Rancho de la Luna along with some 12-string acoustic guitar really lends a hand to the vibe of the choruses on “Brace Thee,” and I was quite satisfied about the way this one turned out. 

Joey: The instructions were: when the volume escalates, give your best Kris Kuss. Extremely tall order but tried my best. I did maybe 7 or 8 takes of just that short, loud section. 


Andy: One of the first from the record to debut live. When a song no one has heard before gets the heads to bob, that’s a good sign. I watched a lot of the TV show Ghostwriter when I was 8 years old at my babysitter’s house (we had no cable, so PBS it was.) When we were tracking, I tried to imagine a multicolored blob floating around the room, showing us the way. I think our “Ghostwriter” does the heavy lifting of ending Rabbit Rabbit on both a low and high note, simultaneously a downer and an upper. This is how I like to think of the entire album, constantly surfing the highs and lows in search of a stable place to land.

Audrey: Some of this song, especially the verses, feels more like “Meant to Live” by Switchfoot than it does like the things I think people usually compare Speedy Ortiz to, for me at least. I really love that and hope we captured the total joy I get when I hear stuff like that. 

Joey: I’ve always been on the smashy-crashy spectrum of drumming styles so from the moment I heard the demo I was eager to work on this song.  It felt nostalgic to me but I couldn’t quite place why. Weeks into rehearsing I realized I was just trying to replicate Jimmy Chamberlin licks, like I did when I was 14. 

Sadie: In planning the “Ghostwriter” music video, I realized a lot of the lyrics refer to water—a drawbridge spanning a river, waterlogged slime, the horror of the rising ocean. There’s also a pun on “The Song of the Wandering Aengus,” a Yeats poem about a magic fish that transforms into a girl, and a fisherman who dedicates his entire life to finding her. Touring can similarly feel like an uncatchable target. It’s something I aggressively throw myself into to avoid stillness and the self-reflection quiet brings. I’m not always good at picking my battles, but the mantra behind this song is to broach less situations with fury, to flow with my surroundings—or at least to try.