Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineering by Mike Gentry
Ben and Vesper Stamper, the married couple behind the New Jersey group Ben & Vesper, lead us out into the backyard at night. It's that time when the owls are taking their wings to their bird eyes and rubbing the sleep out of them, ready to punch in for a wee hours session of perching and asking questions, burning holes through the mice, as they're scurrying around, oblivious. They take us out there, back by the woodshed, with a little penlight, but nothing that's going to shed too much, just enough to illuminate what's immediately in front of our feet. We can hear all of the other little critters scattering, heading for the better hiding places that they didn't think were going to be necessary at this time of night. They thought they were safe, but they were wrong. The grass is damp and fronts and sides of our feet are now too, having soaked easily through the canvas after just a few brushes and steps. We can hear those owls puffing out the air they're done with, their yellow eyes big as watch faces, and we're drawn to the words that the Stampers finally start to sing.
They're unmistakable tales of peculiarities, of people and what they choose to concern themselves with. You feel as if the people in Ben & Vesper songs are infatuated with certain things that they hope might bring them closer to prowling nights, to the homes of the earthworms and the buried. It's bizarre where they take us, when they want to take us somewhere.
"Find Your Friend" is an intriguing piece, as it hands us over to the consideration of what the best response would be if a bird of prey were to swoop down and land upon your head, nesting in your hair. The thought is that the bird isn't going to leave the top of your head without taking something that it wants. The advice that Ben gives is just to let the bird take it. It's going to hurt quite an awful lot, but the screaming or the frantic waving about the arms isn't going to help anything and you're best off to try and be a good host and see the bird get in and get out as efficiently as possible. It's your only hope.
The song dips further into more of a discussion of real life, not the hypothetical and allegorical, as Vesper sings, "How's the wife and kids?/Tell me how it really is/Do you have a garden growing?" We stay out in that garden, as we're told about the quality of that soil and we think of all that's come from it and put back into it. Some of the leftovers from the bird's dinner - those gristly piece of us that it didn't have the heart or the teeth to chew and digest - are already being processed into more soil. It's like the bird of prey always knows what it's doing.
Ben & Vesper Official Site
Sounds Familyre Records