ELLEN: You still treated me the same and didn’t turn me into your gay best friend, like so many of my other friends did. That was so refreshing. It definitely opened the door for me to embrace the culture of queerness as something that’s not to be tokenized, let alone ostracized. Your support allowed me to be fearless in facing the politics of my sexuality, and, in some cases, gave me the confidence to help other queer friends of mine accept themselves as well.
SADIE: I’m just real proud of you for that. Not, like, proud in that I have anything to do with it, just proud that I’m friends with an amazing and fearless person.
I feel like we hold our other friends to impossibly high standards sometimes because of how tight we are with each other. How has our friendship impacted your other friendships?
ELLEN: Oh, dude, please. [Laughs] I hold everyone to impossibly high standards, which has actually led to me having better friends than I’ve had in the past. Not better, like, “cooler.” But really just nicer and more honest and accepting.
Being friends with you showed me what it was like to be friends with girls and not constantly be talking about boys the whole time, which was especially crucial for me at the time when I was coping with being queer. That friendship taught me a sort of self-love that I hadn’t been exposed to before.
SADIE: But also, I feel like we do a fair amount of crush-gossiping, you and I. Actually, it’s extremely important that anyone I date gets along with you. ’Cuz you my fam. Any person who mistreats you in a relationship is on my shitlist for life.
ELLEN: I’m always second-guessing people who you have a bad feeling about, ’cuz most of the time, you’re totally right on.
SADIE:Sometimes, those people I have a bad feeling about wind up inspiring some of your amazing songs! Which I’m going to talk about now. I’ve always loved your guitar playing. You have a really excellent command of chord voicings, and this obviously incredibly developed, but also fairly understated, way of riffing. You’re playing tough shit, but you make it look easy. Your vocal melodies jump all over the place in a really exciting way—I’m always getting your songs stuck in my head.
ELLEN: I can’t imagine where I’d be as a songwriter if it wasn’t for you. In terms of technical shit, a particular example I can pull is when you taught me to include the low fifth in bar chords. Like, if you’re playing a fifth-fret D chord, add that low A. That inspired a whole wave of shit for me, and I still play that way. Another thing is how you will sometimes integrate a vocal melody of your songs into your chord progression and pick along.
SADIE: Sometimes when I do that, I think I’m ripping YOU off!
ELLEN: I’d never met a songwriter who had a mathematical and articulate way of tracing melody, like you do, before. Your songs always had a lot of intention behind them, and never in an overthought or trying-too-hard way.
SADIE:I love when we have songs that came from the Songwriting Circle class we taught [at Buck’s Rock]. I know which of your songs came from which prompt, and I know which of my songs came from the same prompt, and I feel like those songs are friends with each other, too.
ELLEN: Songwriting Circle impacted my writing hugely. In hindsight, that whole workshop was SUPER self-indulgent of us, because we really just wanted to hang out and write songs together. There wasn’t much direct “teaching” going on, if we’re gonna be honest here.
SADIE: At Buck’s Rock, you’re just sort of thrown off on your own with materials and no plan. If you fail at something, it’s OK, because you learned something about the process. Buck’s Rock really taught me to value process over product.
ELLEN: The theme workshops, when we wrote a song based on a word or phrase, pushed me to write songs that I knew I’d be playing for you. I’d actually put effort into writing songs that I thought you’d like. Even past camp, when I put together [Ellen’s solo project] Kempa’s demos, I was doing it for myself, obviously, but also doing it to make you proud, in a way. Every time I would write and record a demo the first thing I did—and still sometimes do—was send it to you. If you liked it, I knew it was a keeper.
SADIE: I still do this to you! When you sent me the demo for “Dry Food,” which is on your forthcoming album, I got so obsessed with it. I listened to it over and over again. Then I wrote like three songs inspired by how yours sounded to send back to you [laughs]. You’re so talented at guitar and at songwriting that it makes me wanna try harder in both those realms.
Our approaches to songwriting are basically identical—we both write alone, often from stuff we think of while walking around, and then sing into a voice recorder—but I’ve always worked best in a collaborative band. You view Palehound as more of a rotating collective of musicians to play in what is ultimately your project. I remember you drawing parallels between yourself and St. Vincent in this regard, and I was really impressed by your confidence. It inspired me to be a lot more forthcoming and honest with myself about what I want from my own songwriting and who I collaborate with—which is a lot of what Speedy’s new album is about.
Being such close friends with you has taught me how much you can learn from someone of any age. I’ve always valued your opinions and insight as much as my friends of my own age or older.
ELLEN: I’m so grateful to have had the experience of growing up with you, and watching our friendship evolve to a point where our age difference doesn’t seem like anything at all.
SADIE: Except for when you try to go to a bar with me.
ELLEN: IN CONCLUSION: Shamir favorited one of my tweets on Friday night, and my heart skipped a beat.
SADIE: How cool is Shamir? Also, how cool is our Nicki Minaj Bad Bitches Only banner hanging in the living room? Even though it’s technically a Chris Brown line and I wish that guy would disappear.
ELLEN: Our Bad Bitches Only banner sparkles even in the dark. I love you so much. You’re truly my best friend.
SADIE: I actually don’t like you very much. I’m only pretending to for the internet. JK, we’re sisters. I love you, too. ♦