It's a strange occurrence when within minutes of listening to a record, you know that it's going to become a part of you, the kind of record that when you listen to it five or ten years down the line, it will transport you to the place where you were when you first heard it. It's exactly what happened as soon as I heard "I'm In Love," from Umm's excellent new record, Double Worshipper, out July 28. A loud feedback noise gives way to a jangly melody that quickly burrowed through my ears and my heart and made me feel like a teenager listening to the Breeders for the first time. I felt a simultaneous wave of nostalgia that made me think, I can't wait to grow up and do cool shit, but also I am a grown-up now who does do cool shit. It was like being struck by happy lightning.
Umm (SUCH a great name!) is made up of Stefanie Drootin and her husband, Chris Senseney, who've played in a variety of bands previously but most recently were part of a trio called Big Harp. Now the two of them have created the perfect summer chill-out record, and if you're anything like me, you won't be able to listen to it just once. I talked to Stef over the phone about traveling with toddlers (they love Las Vegas!), being a musician for hire, and the DIY-punk scene.
Laia Garcia: So where are you calling from right now?
Stefanie Drootin : I'm at my house in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.
LG: Did you grow up on the West Coast?
SD: I did. I grew up here in the Valley, and then I moved out to Omaha, Nebraska, in, like, 2001 or 2002.
LG: That's like the opposite move most people do!
SD: Yeah, it's so funny coming to LA from Nebraska, but I was playing in some bands that were out there. It was so cheap there, too, and that's when I started making a living playing music, which was amazing. That became my job, with rent being so cheap and touring so often that I was able to do it there and I would not have here.
LG: So how did you first get into playing bass?
SD: I would say there's two reasons I started playing bass. One was, my brother's a year older than me, and he hung out with some friends that were a little older than him, and they started a band together. I thought the bass player, whose name was Dave –– he's one of my best friends now –– was so cool. He loved this band fIREHOSE, so I listened to them and I loved them. Then I saw them play live, and I thought the way Mike Watt played bass and sang was so cool! He was just all over the place. I wanted to learn how to do that, too.
LG: So you'd been making music with your husband already as Big Harp. What made you decide that these songs needed to be a different project altogether?
SD: The thing about Chris and I is that I feel like music is really like an art project for us in ways. Like, we've expressed that form of art, and then repeating it wouldn't be satisfying for us. It would be very hard for us to make the same record twice.
This is very different, to me and to Chris, than what Big Harp was. We were listening to a lot of Everly Brothers, and we were so drawn to the tight harmonies, and we wanted to use that. We wanted to both be singing together, constantly, and harmonizing. We also wanted to kind of take a simpler, more laid-back approach to the writing and the songs.