Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
There are three children in this house right now that I'm responsible for and have been for all of five years for one, three for another, and the littlest one has been monitored and lorded over for just over a year and a half. There's no stopping it and once you're there, you'd rather not be anywhere else. There's something about everything being frightening and every person and object being legitimate threats to the well-being of your children that - while sometimes paralyzing - feels right. Akron, Ohio, group the Shivering Timbers is a husband and wife act (rounded out by drummer and toy piano player Brad Thorla) who got very familiar with the cascade of fears that come after having one's first child.
Jayson and Sarah Benn now live in a world where most of the day is filled with panic-driven sprints to other rooms of the house, responding to one or the other child screaming bloody murder. Most of the time, it's fighting over a marker or a doll, but every once in a while there's actual blood so you race every time - heart rapping harder and voice getting louder, trying to get information. They now live in a world where the bedtime stories have that ringing lather of rhyme and general silliness, but the themes are actually very dark. It's all that anthropomorphism that lets them get away with the violence and the great cruelty of character in some of the nursery rhymes and fairy tales. The Queen wanted Snow White's heart brought back to her in a box, all because she couldn't stand to be the second fairest looking babe in the land. It's a whole lot of jealousy to swallow.
The Benn's debut album as the Shivering Timbers was meant as a response to the birth of their daughter, four years ago, and it was produced by their friend, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. "We All Started In The Same Place," is a collection of songs that are blissfully all over the place, from Mother Goose shrapnel to playful, but serious warnings about not playing with plastic bags or poking fingers into light sockets. It's a strange blend of freak folk and "wholesome" historical tales like the one about the Grand Old Duke of York and his ten thousand men ready to fight. Even if they don't come right out and say it, in the backs of their minds, mommy and daddy Benn are thinking about the farmer's wife cutting of tails with a carving knife as they write every one of their songs.
*Essay originally published January, 2012