Husband and wife duo Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney have banded together to form Big Harp, a country-punk-folk outfit from Los Angeles, newly signed to Saddle Creek. Stefanie is a sometimes touring member of Bright Eyes, The Good Life, and She & Him, while Chris has logged time in Art in Manila. The two met when Art in Manila were opening for The Good Life — how’s that for kismet? We asked Big Harp about the origins of their band name, getting along on the road and in the studio, and the Omaha Girls Rock! Camp, which Stef founded and directs.
Take a listen to their excellent debut album, White Hat, before it hits stores September 13, below.
Big Harp – White Hat by SaddleCreek
How’d you get your band name?
Chris: The Harp brothers were a pair of notorious bandits and killers who operated in the late eighteenth century. Their names were Micajah and Wiley, but they were known as Big Harp and Little Harp. The story is fascinating and the name rolls off the tongue, plus it has the musical connotations.
How do you approach the songwriting and arranging in the band?
Chris: I usually bring in songs with lyrics and melodies, and then we sit down and work on them together. Stefanie always has a lot of ideas for things like tempo, feel and structure — she pulls things out of the songs I didn’t know were there.
You’re a husband and wife duo. How do you deal with inter-band disagreements?
Both: Avoid them.
Do you approach them differently than you do in your interpersonal life?
Both: Not really. We’re both pretty willing to compromise.
You recorded the album in three days. Was that liberating?
Stef: It was for me! When you’re in the studio, your mind can get scrambled until you don’t know what you’re hearing anymore. Doing it quickly made it impossible to second -guess yourself.
We’re huge fans of Conor Oberst. Tell us something about him that might surprise people.
Stef: I can’t think of anything that would be too surprising. He’s an extremely generous, giving person and a good friend.
How are things going with the Omaha Girls Camp that you run?
Stef: Things are amazing! We just finished our first camp, and it exceeded all our expectations. We’re already planning for next year.
Who are some of your lyrical influences?
Chris: You know, I’m not sure. I love all the old standbys — Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, Tom Waits — but it’s hard for me to gauge what impact any of them have on the lyrics. I think everything factors in. Things I read, things people say, it all filters through. I suppose someone looking in from the outside might have an easier time figuring these things out.