Los Angeles-based Big Harp just released a video for “You Can’t Save ‘Em All,” the lead single from their sophomore album Chain Letters out now on Saddle Creek. The video premiered on IFC, who said “they make low-key rock with a faintly folksy edge, reminiscent of M. Ward or Townes Van Zandt, but with a twinkle in their eye that comes through in their melancholic yet humorous lyrics.” The video is also available to view on the official Saddle Creek YouTube Channel. All Music Guide raved, “Chain Letters is an evolutionary step. Idiosyncratic, revelatory, raucous, it’s a nasty, beautiful rock & roll baptism in pleasure, both carnal and spiritual.” Big Harp was featured on a recent episode of NPR’s Weekend Edition where the pair discuss balancing parenthood with band life. You can listen to the piece online and order the album at the Saddle Creek online store. The band plays tonight at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles.
Chain Letters was recorded at Omaha’s ARC studios with engineer Ben Brodin and partly at the band’s Los Angeles home. The album was mixed by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M Ward, First Aid Kit). On Chain Letters, the duo of Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney is joined by their friend John Voris on drums. The album moves away from the rustic, pastoral sound of their debut and towards a truer union of their backgrounds (Chris grew up in Valentine, NE, an isolated cow town of 2,800; Stefanie is a native Angeleno). Built on a foundation of crackling fuzz bass and angular electric guitars and keyboards, the songs on Chain Letters play like a series of character sketches centered around escape and surrender, and the blurred borders where the two become indistinguishable.
Chris and Stefanie (The Good Life, Bright Eyes, She & Him) formed Big Harp in December 2010, after a three-year whirlwind that saw the two meet, have a baby, move halfway across the country, get married, move halfway across the country again, and have another baby. As Chris tells it, “I was playing in a band opening for The Good Life. Stef and I started hanging out, binge-smoking and chain-drinking, and we never stopped. Never stopped hanging out I mean. Within a few months Stef had a gut full of baby, and the bender came to a quick and bloody end.” When the dust settled, they holed up in Stefanie’s parents’ spare bedroom, practiced for a week, and recorded their debut album White Hat, a collection of intimate, low-key folk-rock laced with subtle irony and dark humor that earned them comparisons to songwriters like Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt.
From the pained apathy of “You Can’t Save ‘Em All” to the cracked parade march of “Call Out the Cavalry, Strike Up the Band,” Chain Letters finds the band enveloping and exploding their literate songs with fuzzed-out, needle-sharp textures. Chris says, “We really built the songs around Stef’s fuzz bass. It was kind of funny — we were sitting around in a bedroom playing really loud with no drums, just kind of trusting that it was going to make sense once we put it all together. Hopefully we landed closer to mid-’70’s Iggy Pop than Leonard Cohen this time. Really I’d like it to sound like Leonard Cohen fronting The Pixies. It doesn’t though. Maybe a little. You tell us.”
Big Harp Tour Dates
02.06 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Bootleg
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