One of the greatest ways to discover/re-discover your favorite artists often involves binge watching vintage televised Beat Club performances from Germany. Big Harp also understands this phenomenon, turning back the clocks, and reversing time with the video premiere for “Numbers” (Live on German TV 1972). Filmed by Colin D. Graham, Ryan Elliott, and Jarred Elliott; Chris and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney present a mix of performance and television special effects. Found from the band’s new upcoming self-titled album, Big Harp looks to the European promotional forms of the past that are tried and trued in the crystallization act of solidifying artistry and character.
“It’s strange…even the numbers change,” the duo sings while trading 2014 for 1972. Also trading their LA home in the States for the retro styles of Bremen, West Germany—”Numbers” (Live on German TV 1972) entertains the band’s mystic side with green screened back drops of crystal caverns and cosmic, star-strung skies. In a minimalist set-up, Big Harp salutes the classic EU/UK buzzing electric technologies that helped popularize synthesized mechanics, while topping it off with copious amounts of fuzz guitar.
In our following discussion with Chris and Stefanie, the two takes us deeper into the throwback video, and discuss working with John Congleton on their new upcoming album.
How do the two of you describe the process of reinventing yourselves and sounds from White Hat, Chain Letters, to the upcoming self-titled?
It’s actually pretty natural. We never really set out with a specific sound in mind or anything, we just do whatever’s fun. This record definitely feels more comfortable than anything we’ve done before.
For this forthcoming album, how did your work with John Congleton help bring out and realize the sounds you were both looking for here?
John really helped with layering and texturing the things we brought in. He pushed our demos into unexpected places and allowed us to re-imagine what the songs could be. Before we started working with him, he asked us to describe what we were looking for and we told him we wanted a lo-fi, hi-fi, sci-fi, broken version of a pop record. Somehow, he actually made it happen. Dude is like a beautiful wizard. That we love.
What wisdom have the past three years granted both of you?
I think we learned not to rush. Our first two records were both recorded about a week after we started rehearsing them. We didn’t make any demos, and we didn’t really think about what we were making at all. This time we gave the songs more room to develop, and we were a little more particular about the details. We also added a full-time drummer (Daniel Ocanto) for the first time.
Really, in some ways, we feel a little more innocent now than when we started, which might be its own kind of wisdom. The lyrics are a little more abstract and less narrative, the music is more colorful and textured and there’s less weight.
Key to juggling band, while raising a family?
They’re kind of separate at this point. We had kids before we even started the band, so in the beginning trying to integrate the family with the music was maybe more of a struggle. We have it pretty figured out now—they’re not really babies anymore, and they kind of get what’s going on.
Love the Beat Club style video for “Numbers”, what was it like creating the feel and visual arts of vintage Euro television with Colin D. Graham and the Elliotts?
Those dudes are super rad. The whole thing was Colin’s vision. He made all the trippy crystalline backgrounds by hand on his own, and shot us on green screen. The video really plays with the aesthetic of the period. There are a lot of anachronistic things happening—the drum machine at the beginning, the 80s Casio that we play—that clearly don’t belong in that era. Our good friend Jenny Reyes (Geronimo) came in and styled the shoot, and made a couple scrubs look pretty all right. Jenna Nelson was kind enough to come out and do makeup and hair, which was also awesome. Daniel, our drummer, was still in the process of moving out to L.A., but we put his name in the video anyway.
Favorite Live German TV performances that the two of you love?
What are you two most excited about for CMJ, and who else are you jazzed up to see?
We’re excited to play some shows, see some friends, eat some food, drink some drinks, all the normal things.
Other shows we want to see:
Reptar, Courtney Barnett, Orenda Fink, The Wytches, Girlpool.
Big Harp’s self-titled will be available soon, and are playing the following CMJ shows:
23 Brooklyn, NY at Passenger Bar
24 Brooklyn, NY at Pete’s Candy Bar
25 NYC, NY at Fontana’s