Big Harp is a band of idyllic origins. Bassist Stefanie Drootin-Senseney got her start playing in the Los Angeles punk scene, moving on to perform with groups like Bright Eyes and She & Him before connecting with Chris Senseney while on tour. Chris, the guitarist and lead singer of Big Harp, was a native of rural Nebraska and began performing by immersing himself in the Omaha music scene. He was playing with Art in Manila on the west coast when he met Stefanie, while she was playing with The Good Life. Their stories eventually dovetailed into a life together, punctuated by children. In 2010, the duo became the core of Big Harp, a dreamy and soft-spoken folk outfit with rough edges. Their sophomoric album, Chain Letters, is what Senseney refers to as being “planted about halfway from [his hometown, Valentine, NE,] to Stefanie’s hometown, Los Angeles.” It is the power of their differing styles and the harmonic intersection of Stefanie’s urban upbringing and Chris’s more rural background that makes this a compelling follow-up to their first album, White Hat. Not only is their recorded music exceptional in its intricacies, but also their live performances are intoxicating; whether the duo is bobbing back and forth in a very self-aware manner, or throwing themselves to the ground, Big Harp is a genuine example of human vulnerability yielding amazing art.
The Good Life was Tim Kasher’s way of diverging from his musical work with Cursive, but the band ended up evolving into something so much more than a project. From the earnest opening lines of their track “Album of the Year” about meeting someone while being physically ill in the ladies room, to the soft vocals of “Your Birthday Present” juxtaposed with sharpened drum beats, The Good Life is a complex, dark rock outfit that is very precise in its movements throughout songs and even albums. The band is willing to go to dark places in their music, pulling their listeners through haunting, lush soundscapes that attach themselves to the ear and continue to reverberate even after the tracks have ended. Those able to catch The Good Life and Big Harp at The Echo will have the chance to see The Good Life on tour for the first time since 2010.