Forming the band in late 2010 and coming off a whirlwind relationship that saw Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin having a baby and getting married, Big Harp began as a constantly shifting project that finally settled into a low-key folk rock act that drew comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave. Not content to simply rest on their laurels, Chris and Stefanie dug back into their influences and came out with their latest record for Saddle Creek Records called Chain Letters. According to Chris Senseney, “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.” Speaking about the creative process for Chain Letters, Stefanie has said, “The writing process wasn’t that different. We still worked out the songs after the kids went to bed on the same dirty old couch, and we still practiced in my parents’ guest bedroom. The only difference was this time we went in feeling a lot freer.” This new found sense of freedom comes through clearly in their music which feels looser and more intense than anything on their debut.
Having already played a few dates in a kind of pre-tour warm-up, Big Harp are setting up some dates for what is sure to be a fairly lengthy Spring tour in support of Chain Letters. In advance of this presumed tour, Stefanie took some time and wrote about some of the music that has been circulating in the band’s tour van. Consisting of music from artists that she personally knows, check out her list below in our latest installment of On Deck.
Lately, it seems like all my friends are making awesome albums, and that’s really what I’ve been listening to. I’m not writing about their records for any reason other than that I fucking love their music. The CD player in my van fits six albums, and these four are in constant rotation.
I first heard one of Nik’s songs at an aftershow party in Omaha, NE. Everyone was picking up guitars and playing songs. He took part reluctantly and played by far the best song of the night, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. This record isn’t even out yet, but it’s been in rotation in my van for months. He has an amazing knack for melody, and the arrangements are perfect. Best home recording ever? Maybe.
The first time I heard HERS was at a benefit for a girls’ rock camp I founded in Omaha, NE. I was blown away when I saw their band perform. Melissa and Rachel are both volunteers at the camp, and I was lucky enough to get their unmixed record in the mail. They have this kind of DIY, lo-fi spirit that I’m partial to. It’s sweet and tough, my favorite combination.
Another album from someone I know, my big brother Todd. He makes amazing electronic music — sprawling and complex, but totally punk-rock in its execution. He was actually the first person who taught me the basics of bass guitar. It’s nice when you actually love what your sibling does. He’s always been an inspiration to me, and this record is my favorite thing he’s ever done.
The dude is awesome. He writes great songs, works with amazing musicians, and has a beautiful voice. Sorry, Jake, but it’s true. This album, to me at least, is the most personal, intimate thing he’s done. I loved his old band, Neva Dinova, but it’s great to hear his songs and voice highlighted the way they are here.
Most Anticipated Record:
This guy is practically my brother at this point. We were in the band The Good Life together, and he’s one of my best friends and truly one of my favorite musicians. He’s been working on this album for years, and it’s finally done. I’ve been trying to get a copy forever, and I just got it in an email. It better be fucking epic, Foxy. Jake Bellows said it was.
Plugging away since 1999, The National finally hit mainstream success with the release of their 2010 album High Violet. Of course, this entailed their first world tour, but in the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers, it’s only the backdrop for the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger brother Tom, who had no idea that these short videos he was shooting would turn into a public document of their troubled, if still loving brotherhood.
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