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It’s officially fall, which means it’s officially SP00KY SEASON, which means it officially feels extra-fitting that Sad13 (Sadie Dupuis) released Haunted Painting (her fantastic new LP) this past Friday. (If you haven’t gotten it yet, grab a copy on October 2nd, aka Bandcamp Friday! She’s also got some pretty incredible merch available, so snag some of that as well!)

We had a little pandemic check-in a few months ago (July 17th, if the concept of time still interests you), and she told me how she’s been coping, whether or not her house is haunted (either literally and/or figuratively), what projects she’s been working on aside from her own to keep busy, etc.

Internet-eavesdrop on all of that RIGHT NOW, and (I REPEAT) hook yourself up with a copy of the new record ASAP:

Happy belated birthday!

Thank you! It’s my drummer Zoë’s [Brecher] birthday today, so in the two minutes that I waited for this call to connect I pulled up like fifteen memes about turning thirty to send her.

Ah, thirty. Remember that? You and I are both thirty-two now, and I saw you’re having all the back issues.

Unfortunately those aren’t new for me! I’ve been having chronic back stuff since I was like fifteen.

That’s crazy!

Once every two years I throw it out like this, and honestly, it always coincides with when I have plans to do something.

Ugh, the worst. How’ve you been doing otherwise? This has kind of been the most bonkers (to put it lightly) year.

Yeah, it’s pretty weird. I’m fine, you know? I can’t really complain. I’m not happy any of this is happening, but for the most part, all my friends and family have been healthy. I can’t really complain. Just trying to make the best of it.

Yeah, that’s all any of us can really do.

Yep, just wait it out and try to be safe.

So with the record that’s coming out, what was the timeline like for writing and recording and everything? I assume it was before everything got turned on its head?

I started recording in June of last year, and I finished it in December.

It’s funny how relevant the haunted theme is right now.

I know. I like haunted stuff. I’ve been writing for quarantine my whole life I guess. [Laughs]

I know it’s mainly metaphorical from how you’ve talked about it, but just for funsies, in the literal sense, have you ever seen or experienced a ghost? The NY Times actually just did a piece about how people are realizing they live in haunted places because they’re stuck in their houses all the time now, and they’re able to notice all the weird shit that goes on.

I saw that! In a similar sense, I’ve seen more bugs in my house than I ever have before, and I think it’s strictly just because I’m used to being on tour ten months out of the year, so I’m just not home enough to notice that I get fun night-crawlers or whatever they are. That’s similar to ghosts I guess. (This is a good time to definitively say I don’t think my apartment is haunted. Being home this much I’d have finally noticed it, but alas.)

I know, I was kind of hoping for something interesting to happen in mine (especially since I’ve been alone this entire time), but it’s always felt very, incredibly neutral. No weird energy here. But certainly in the figurative sense, a lot of people are being forced to sit with their ghosts in this moment. For you, how has that manifested, if at all? I know for me, I guess it was October that I mutually split from my therapist since he switched practices; I felt like I was in a good place, was happy not to spend $200 an hour since he didn’t take my insurance anymore, etc. And honestly I’ve been fine up until like mid-June, but then I was just like, “TAKE MY MONEY, I AM LOSING IT,” and we did a virtual session.

Well, working on this album…how do I put this all in one time when time doesn’t mean anything to me anymore…I have OCD; I had it as a kid with sort of one set of symptoms that stopped around the time I became a legal adult. I have certain OCD stuff, but I don’t ever experience super bad symptoms. But a couple of years ago, I started to around a couple of friends dying. And I started to have really obsessive thoughts, just bad OCD symptoms particularly triggered by…a couple of friends OD’d in a short period of time, and I got into a therapist around that time because it was just really impacting being able to function on a day to day level. And I hadn’t worked on music in a long time, which was sort of connected to this; I just didn’t…I felt so much anxiety surrounding working on any creative projects. It had been really tricky for me to be in therapy for the past however many years because I tour so often, and I just couldn’t find a therapist who could deal with that, basically. So I specifically found someone I could continue to work with while I was touring, and I’m still seeing her now. I think having someone who was able to help me work through some of these symptoms and what to do when they flare up, and my other sort of bad mental habits (not “bad, I shouldn’t talk about myself that way), but we’ve all got mental health stuff, and learning how your different mental health stuff interacts with your other mental health stuff, and how that impacts how you work, and both your good and your bad work habits, is really crucial. It has especially been so in a time where I’ve just been at home and all I can do is work from home. I can’t even remember what your question was…how quarantine is helping me deal with my figurative ghosts?

Right, right!

Yeah, I have a great therapist, and I’m lucky I was working with her a couple of years before this happened. I don’t think any of us are taking this well, but certainly if you have OCD and it’s triggered by death, and feeling very helpless watching people get critically ill at this time…I think I was certainly tail-spinning (as were many of us) worrying about residents of my city experiencing homelessness, or people who were incarcerated…just feeling really, really helpless. But I have a great therapist, and there are so many great activists taking the lead in trying to make the…not the “best” of this moment, but trying to protect people as best they can. So that certainly makes it feel a little bit less like ghosts are plaguing me. Not to say a really serious thing and then return to your euphemism, but… [Laughs]

I get it, I do. But just in terms of doing creative work right now, are you working on anything, whether it’s meant to be released to others or just for yourself? I know a lot of people have felt a weird pressure (especially if they were meant to be touring right now) to do something “productive” with this unexpected “downtime”.

I’ve been doing a lot of stuff, but I wouldn’t say it’s personally creative work. I finished up this album (mastering it, anyway) right before quarantine, or maybe two weeks into when stay-at-home was first floated as a concept. Beyond that, I worked on another book that was pretty much in final editing stages (at least my first pass of the manuscript), and that was right prior to the quarantine. Not only do I have no interest in working on my own creative projects (just because there’s so much going on in the world), but I kind of already wrapped up two big things that haven’t been released, so there’s too much in the bank already for me to even want to think about working on something new.

But I run a record label called Wax Nine; we had two albums come out in “these times”, both Melkbelly and Johanna Warren. So just working on those has been part of what I’ve been doing. Wax Nine also launched a poetry journal the first day of April, so we’ve been running weekly or biweekly three poets at a time, different illustrators; the whole concept is just to be able to offer some money to writers, many of whom are out of a job right now. So just editing that, publishing the schedule for that, has taken up a lot of my time.

What other things? Wax Nine also co-released a tribute compilation to Adam Schlesinger, who was a member of Fountains of Wayne and Ivy and a million other bands. We were able to raise a pretty tremendous amount of money for MusiCares COVID-19 Relief, the compilation charted on three Billboard charts as a Bandcamp-only release, so that’s been pretty cool. That’s taken up a lot of time. So I’m really working a lot, and they are creative projects, but it’s really trying to work in service of other people’s creative projects, especially ones that will help out causes that are really necessary right now. That’s sort of what I’ve been mostly up to, other than I’ve done two music videos, and trying to work on video projects in a pandemic-safe way. (It takes a really long time! That’s been my learning experience.)

One other thing I’ve been doing (because I’m just trying to find any other ways to work other than touring, which is where 95% of my income came from) is I’ve been writing a lot of band bios for people. A few of them are all kind of coming out right around now; I did a bio for Sen Morimoto, who just announced his album a couple of days ago. It’s really, really good. He’s one of the people who runs Sooper Records with NNAMDÏ. It’s just awesome. He’d hate me saying it, but it’s sort of jazz-influenced rap and rock, just super cool arrangements. Meticulous. I also worked on the No Joy bio; their record is very trip-hop, also kind of nu metal-y. It’s awesome. And then the Illuminati Hotties sort of mixtape that’s coming out (today I think!) is one of my favorite things I’ve ever heard. So those are three that I would’ve loved anyway, and getting to hear them early and write the bios was really fun for me.

Grab a copy of Haunted Painting here.


Featured photo by Natalie Piserchio