Music Interview

A Potato Inquisition: The Sad13 Interview


Sometimes you just know a Tweet is going to be semi-controversial. That’s not going to stop you from sending it, of course, but as your fingers touch the keyboard, as they slide across the phone screen and through to the moment you press that glorious blue button that says “Tweet,” a power is unleashed. 

Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz fame is no amateur Tweeter. One of the elite follows of the DIY and indie rock Twitter world, she’s long been one to engage with her own thoughts publicly for the rest of us to see for years. But early on Saturday, October 17th, 2020, Dupuis delivered a take so immediately controversial that it led her to follow it up wondering “is this gonna be my first ratio ??.” 

The take in question? “How did everyone get brainwashed into thinking potatoes are a good food?” Spud hate so early on a Saturday? It was something that had to be investigated further. Fortunately for Dupuis, a 110 Comments / 31 RT / 216 Favorites statline wouldn’t quite indicate a ratioing, although I suppose I’d leave that analysis for you to decide. What it DID do was lead many fine music lovers across the world wondering just what on earth was fueling such vitriol against America’s favorite root vegetable. For that, we had to turn to Dupuis herself. 

At what point did you definitively know you just didn’t like potatoes? Has this been something that you’ve dealt with your whole life or just more as an adult? Because if my research is correct, you’ve been vegan for more than a decade and that’s a tough food (I would think) to readily admit to yourself you don’t like and thus avoid eating given how central it is to lots of vegan cuisine. 

Sadie Dupuis: I’m a little scared to give you this answer since people got so mad about my somewhat troll-y Tweet! 

My potato feelings are more confused indifference than hard dislike. I grew up eating plenty of McDonald’s fries, potato hashes, and baked potatoes loaded with every kind of dairy product, of course. But yeah, I became vegan in 2006, and starting to cook with other vegetables made me realize potatoes are over-hyped. It takes almost no work to make eggplant or cauliflower or corn or any other vegetable delicious. Potatoes feel like a chore to eat unless they’re very thinly sliced and fried, or I douse them in sauces and seasoning, and I find they absorb flavors less well than most other veggies I cook with. 

On tour, I’ve been burned too many times by the sole vegan menu item (usually a very overpriced tofu scramble) being 75% poorly cooked potatoes, which has soured me on them. There are, of course, exceptions—I’m Jewish and I love latkes (but, again, much better with an apple sauce). I like pierogi and I love gnocchi. Barbecue chips are a favorite food. Sweet potatoes are EXCLUDED from this conversation and I think they’re perfect—I’ve had two sweet potato dishes this month that I would consider personal best meals of the year (a vegan choila and one covered with a maitake gravy and greens). But whenever I get potatoes in my CSA box I’m a little disappointed. They usually feel like a waste of space in my kitchen and my stomach.

BBQ chips are easily the best flavor of chips (sorry to Sour Cream and Onion people), what are your go-to brands? If you have the option for corn chips or tortilla chips instead of potato chips, do you move more in one of those directions (shout out to the Fritos Honey BBQ Flavored Twists)?

SD: I’m usually on the hunt for boutique-y vegan snacks (shout out to spicy chili and lime kelp jerky, my snack of the week) but as far as BBQ chips go, I actually think Lay’s do it best! They’re sugarier and oilier than any other chip and that’s the whole point. I regularly fuck up a whole bag of party size barbecue Lay’s chips on tour. 

Do you consider chips to be a part of the larger potato family or are they kind of their own thing? Because I think it’s fair to lump them in outside of conventional potato dishes since really, they’re a snack. With that in mind, and the fact you like fries, where do you fall on potato skins, which are kind of in between the two worlds? 

SD: Chips are potatoes, for sure, but like I said before, I’m more inclined to like potatoes the thinner they’re sliced and the more they’re fried. So do I like potatoes, or do I just like FRIED? Potato skins are a pass for me.

Sad13 Screenshot

I’m to assume that when given the option between regular fries and sweet potato fries, you’re going SP all day every day. Are there any specific brands or restaurants that might prove the exception to that rule? I know people swear by the McDonald’s fry. 

SD: I haven’t had McDonald’s in a really long time since they don’t serve any vegan food. I basically have no interest in fries, sweet potato or not, unless they’re covered in something really good. One of my bandmates is REALLY averse to ketchup—smelling it makes her nauseous to the point of vomiting—so I think in sensitivity to that I’ve stopped really enjoying ketchup, which I consider a requirement for plain fries (unless there’s some kind of cool aioli situation going on). 

I like the nacho fries from a vegan gaming cafe in Philly called Queen and Rook. Tattooed Mom in Philly has some amazing waffle fries that are doused in a thick spicy barbecue sauce and vegan cream. On tour, I like to get the “green poutine” from Fresh in Toronto, which is fries covered in bok choy and mushroom gravy and some other toppings. But I’d probably just eat the toppings without the fries given the choice. 

On a scale of “food I absolutely will not put in my mouth if it can be avoided” to “I just don’t get why people like it and I avoid if possible,” where do potatoes fall? What is your actual least favorite food so I can get a benchmark of what we’re dealing with here. 

SD: It’s definitely more an “I don’t get why people like it.” I don’t throw away food, and if I can’t unload the potatoes onto my boyfriend or whoever I’m eating with, I’ll eat them and just be silently unhappy about it. If there’s a delicious hot sauce on my plate I need to sop up, I will eat the potatoes. If they’ve sat around in a curry long enough to absorb its flavors (why does it take so long for potatoes!!!) I will eat them. Come to think of it, on my album release day, I got the aforementioned nacho fries as a present to myself! But it’s more about potatoes as a vehicle for more delicious flavors. I would not gladly prepare a dish that centers potatoes. My only real “won’t touch it” food (other than animal products or something I’m allergic to) is olives; I respect that people love them and I feel like my reaction there is more like people’s cilantro aversion: olives just taste inedible to me for some reason. Potatoes are not offensive to me in that way. I just can’t imagine having a strong feeling about them in either direction, which is controversial in and of itself, I guess! Sort of like how GAME OF THRONES is just totally not for me, and while I respect that everyone seemed to like it, I am a little confused how they all got to that place of fandom. 

I absolutely agree on the olive to cilantro comparison. Maybe olives aren’t looked at as a controversial food to dislike but I think that largely speaks to how polarizing they are by their very nature. I feel like I’ve spent a decade avoiding ordering martinis because the prospect of that singular olive isn’t for me. A martini if it wasn’t made with gin would be kinda double jeopardy for you if it was a potato vodka. 

Potato vodka is good (although I slightly prefer corn vodka)! Unlike potatoes, vodka isn’t a pain in the ass to chew. 

I wanna rapid-fire a few potato-adjacent pop culturisms and characters at you, and you just give instant, raw feedback on them. First, TOY STORY’s Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head?

Incredible characters. They would not want me eating potatoes either. 

Richard Dreyfuss’ mashed potato recreation of Devils Tower in Wyoming in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

I can’t watch this whole thing. Look at that gloopy mess. 

Tyler, the Creator and A$AP Rocky’s “Potato Salad”?

Good song. It’s not really about potatoes, which is fine by me.  


Countering with “have you seen the significantly worse ATHF that originally debuted on Space Ghost?”

All I can think is “original Frylock can’t hurt you,” but… wow. Final one: the Pringles logo, whose real name is, honest to god, Julius Pringles.

I think they just stretched the Monopoly Man wide to make this. Good name, though.  

Much to the chagrin of many potato lovers, I wanna make sure I get a few questions in about music. HAUNTED PAINTING is out now on Wax Nine, which is your label. Even though the label has had great releases from Melkbelly and Johanna Warren, this is your first personal release on your label. What’s that process been like? Has it been freeing to effectively be your own boss?

In some ways it’s been more stressful to helm the label side of my own project. On the Johanna and Melkbelly albums, I’m helping out artists I deeply admire, so the work almost does itself because I’m so excited about promoting their music. It’s less easy to make those commitments for my own work, when it’s just in service of me. But I do have a better understanding of more steps of the record-making process, and as someone who likes to have a hand on everything, that is gratifying to a degree. And since my album sales are benefitting a local harm reduction org (Prevention Point in Philly), it doesn’t feel ENTIRELY in service of myself.

If you can, tell me a bit about what it’s been like distributing written poetry, which isn’t something I can think of another music label doing. What’s been the response to that?  

So far Wax Nine’s poetry foray has been a digital-only journal, but I am very inspired by labels that have also published books—Drag City is a most notable example, but Third Man also has its own publishing wing and my friend/collaborator Jessi Frick’s label Father/Daughter has also published books. As someone who works in multiple disciplines I think it’s cool when curatorial projects can incorporate several mediums and it would be amazing to do a book with Wax Nine eventually. I’d say that’s a soft goal for us. 

Listening to HAUNTED PAINTING, I feel like the song in the larger Sadie Dupuis universe that sonically informs the album the most with regards to that playful, bombastic pop sound is actually “Lucky 88” off of TWERP VERSE, my favorite song on that album but one that even feels a bit like an outlier to me. Now that you’ve had several releases from both projects over the last five years, how do you differentiate the two from a songwriting perspective? 

It’s funny, producing the first Sad13 album made me really interested in synths and drum machines, and I wound up tracking all of those at home for TWERP VERSE. I think “Lucky 88” is a pretty direct byproduct of (the first Sad13 album) SLUGGER, just featuring my bandmates in Speedy as well. The songwriting process is basically identical, but the biggest distinction is I’m producing all of Sad13 and playing pretty much everything. In Speedy I get the reprieve of bringing the demo to other people at some point, getting to hear their perspectives, figuring out a way to make it work for four people instead of just me. 

Not a question but “WTD?” bangs. For sure a BBQ chips-level song. 

Haha, thank you.

It has to be asked: You had a lot of fun food options for HAUNTED PAINTING’s merch rollout. Will we ever see potato chips as a Dupuis piece of merch? 

Unlikely. But we did talk about a chocolate bar, and I do really like crumbled-up potato chips as a chocolate bar filling, so maybe that’s something.

You can find Sadie on Twitter at @sad13, and listen to HAUNTED PAINTING, some of the year’s most vivacious, excitable indie pop, over on Bandcamp!

CJ Simonson
CJ Simonson is Merry-Go-Round's Editor-in-Chief and representative for all things Arizona. The only thing he knows for certain is that "I Can Feel The Fire" by Ronnie Wood is the greatest closing credits song never used in a Wes Anderson movie. Get on that, Wes.

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