Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney (The Good Life, Bright Eyes, She & Him) formed Big Harp in December 2010, after a three-year whirlwind that saw the two meet, have a baby, move halfway across the country, get married, move halfway across the country again, and have another baby. Their debut album, White Hat, was a collection of intimate, low-key folk-rock laced with subtle irony and dark humor that earned them comparisons to songwriters like Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt. Built on a foundation of crackling fuzz bass and angular electric guitars and keyboards, Chain Letters moves away from the rustic, pastoral sound of Big Harp's debut and plays like a series of character sketches centered around escape and surrender, and the blurred borders where the two become indistinguishable.
From the pained apathy of "You Can't Save 'Em All" to the cracked parade march of "Call Out the Cavalry, Strike Up the Band," Chain Letters finds the band enveloping and exploding their literate songs with fuzzed-out, needle-sharp textures. "We really built the songs around Stef's fuzz bass," says Chris. "It was kind of funny -- we were sitting around in a bedroom playing really loud with no drums, just kind of trusting that it was going to make sense once we put it all together. 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. It doesn't though. Maybe a little. You tell us."
The album was recorded at Omaha's ARC studios with engineer Ben Brodin and partly at the band's Los Angeles home. Chain Letters was mixed by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M Ward, First Aid Kit).