(CelebrityAccess) – If it feels like itfs been a long time since Big Harp released an album, imagine how it feels from their perspective. The duo of Chris Senseney and his wife, Stefanie Drootin-Senseney, have released music on an ASAP basis to this point, keen to give it to fans as quick as they possibly can. However, Big Harp is a new band these days, not only in structure with the addition of drummer Daniel Ocanto, but in values as well, as they learn to be patient and strategic about a musical release for the first time.
The waiting isnft easy. It never is. But Chris says itfs been a good lesson learned for the band. For now, you can only hear a single song from their sessions with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent), but the first fruits are delicious. gItfs A Shameh is featured on a new 7 single (Fat Possum) and whets the appetite for much more. We recently asked the band about label changes, the unknown future and why theyfve scaled back at South by Southwest.
Stereo Subversion: You guys are headed to Austin for SXSW. Youfve played there before, right?
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: Yeah, we have a couple times.
SSv: Usually itfs a love it or loathe it response. Where do you land?
Stefanie: I think if you ask each of us separately, we might have different answers, but honestly Ifm in between. I love things about it and I hate things about it. Itfs a little hectic and exhausting, but itfs also really fun and full.
SSv: How many times are you playing? I talked to a band last week who are playing 13 times or so.
Stefanie: Three times. Wefve done it that way before and we decided to take it a little easier this time. That gets to be a little bit too much.
SSv: I love the new single, gItfs a Shame,h thatfs out via Fat Possum. Howfd you hook up there?
Stefanie: Fat Possum came to see us play at CMJ. We just got along well and they liked our music so we decided to make a 7 together.
SSv: Is that a way to test that relationship?
Stefanie: Kind of. Yeah, Ifd say so. I think we just decided to start with that and see what happens from there.
SSv: Is that a brand new song?
Chris Senseney: We recorded the song last year along with a bunch of other songs with our producer, John Congleton, so wefve had them for a while and wefve been waiting to see what wefll do with them. So this is our first release from that batch.
SSv: Ifd love to jump off of what you said about adjusting your approach at South by Southwest. What else are you doing differently now that youfve got some good experience at this cycle?
Stefanie: In a way, wefre doing more. Wefve never had a drummer in the band before. Since Daniel [Ocanto] has joined as our drummer, we can play more shows. Before wefd have to scurry to find a drummer for a show and then get tight enough to play and now we practice and write together, so thatfs a whole different situation. Wefre still doing the things wefre supposed to do, like CMJ, but the experiencec I donft know. I think itfs really the same this time but now wefve got a drummer.
SSv: Daniel, howfd you come into this?
Daniel Ocanto: I met these guys through a mutual friend a couple years ago and was asked to go on tour with them. When it came time to record, they sent me some songs and we recorded and started to think about how to move forward. I was in Omaha at the time, however, so it still felt very disjointed. I finally decided to move to L.A. to pursue this more seriously and full-time. It was a drawn out thing, a long introduction to themc
Stefanie: Yeah, we hired him before, but now we donft pay him at all. [Laughs]
SSv: Before playing with these guys, what was your musical background?
Daniel: I was living in Nebraska and was involved with a few bands back there. I think I actually met these guys at a label showcase for Saddle Creek with another band. I was a hired hand for their tour. Ifd played a show on the same bill as Big Harp, so I was always a fan and loved their music. Itfs interesting to know a band and love a band and then to join that band.
SSv: How does the change affect the songs themselves?
Stefanie: This last record, we had electronic beats written but Daniel came in and put real drums on them.
Daniel: The electronic stuff is still there, but we then added the drums. It wasnft until I moved to L.A. that it became more collaborative. When I went into the studio, the foundation was already there.
Stefanie: Yeah, but wefve got some new songs where the three of us go in and piece it together.
SSv: Whatfs inspiring you on these new songs that wasnft there before?
Chris: Wefve made a couple albums before, but I donft really feel like we really knew what we were doing. I feel like theyfre all really different from each other. We just keep moving in whatever direction wefre interested in. Whatever idea sounds fun to pursue, we pursue. So things just go wherever they go. I think wefre like most people in that we love all kinds of music, so we donft restrain ourselves. If it seems fun, we go after it.
Stefanie: I think we figured out things we do well as a band together. I think wefve worked out that stuff a lot more.
SSv: What are those things?
Stefanie: A lot more harmonies. A lot more aggressive rhythms and some different time signatures. And shredding. [Laughs] Just kidding. Well, sorta kidding.
Chris: I think on some of the other records, the music sort of took a backseat to the lyrics or to the writing and now itfs going the other way. Now these songs are more about the music.
Stefanie: Or more of a balance.
Chris: Yeah, more of a balance.
SSv: What informed that shift?
Chris: I think it was just a natural progression. Our first album almost felt like a singer-songwriter album in some ways. It was very much about the lyrics and the writing and the music was in a supporting role. It was partially due to the fact that originally I was working on making a solo album and then Stef started to get more involved, so we decided to make it a band. As wefve gone on, itfs just naturally started to swing the other way as it becomes more of a collaboration.
Stefanie: Also since wefve made those other records so quickly, I think wefve figured out how to be a band through all of that.
Chris: One other thing that has a big impact is that wefd never played any live shows when we first started the band, so the more we play live, the more those songs even start to shift and change. I think now that wefve played, we realize thatfs a facet of the music.
SSv: Are you glad you had to learn on the fly like you said?
Chris: I havenft really thought of it too much. I think itfs good. Those records are snapshots of exactly what they were supposed to be. I think every record is just that. I definitely do feel like wefve changed quickly in ways, which I think is fine. I like it that way. Personally I like the changing and finding new things to do.
Stefanie: Yeah, Ifm not embarassed at all by our other records. I like our other records. We have thought, eOh, if we only had more time with this or that, it would be different than how it ended upf, but you never know. Itfs just hard to say, really.
Chris: I think no matter how much time you spend on them or how long you wait, a year after you make it, youfll be in a different place. There will always be things that if you took a little more time that youfd do differently. Thatfs just a part of it all. You take what youfd do differently and use it on the next
SSv: Biggest lesson learned in the last year on the business side?
Stefanie: My really big lesson is patience. Wefve had to learn a lot of patience. As you might be able to tell, Chris and I have zero patience. We wanted to always get the music out as quickly as possible.
Chris: Yeah this is the longest wefve gone between releases. I think it was good because at one point, we were definitely impatient to release everything wefd recorded and move on. But I think itfs been good to sit on it and figure out exactly the right thing to do for it has been good for us. ~Matt Conner at StereoSubversion
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Music / Agent: Pete Anderson
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Fat Possum Records
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