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Led by the pop-minded prowess of their namesake frontman, Ben Folds Five dispelled any misgivings about a band's ability to rock without guitars. Calling themselves "punk rock for sissies," the Chapel Hill natives were often grouped with the nerd rock movement of the mid-'90s, although their debt to jazz music -- not to mention Ben Folds' acerbic spin on the classic pianist/songwriter tradition -- ensured the trio a long-lasting legacy after their split in October 2000. The band also provided a launching pad for Folds himself, who continued releasing piano-based pop songs well into the subsequent years.
The group's story is, in many ways, the story of its de facto leader and namesake, Ben Folds. The son of a carpenter, Folds was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Upon graduating high school in the mid-'80s, the young songwriter drifted from place to place in hopes of discovering a good scene to sow his brainchild. Throughout a decade in which hair bands ruled the airwaves, Folds spent frustrating stints in Miami, Chapel Hill, New York, and Europe before landing in Nashville in the early '90s. In spite the fact that Nashville was a songwriter's mecca, or because of it, Folds found the city's approach to songwriting frustrating and exclusive. While producers and managers wanted obvious hits, Folds wanted, instead, to follow his own muse, and a notoriously eccentric one at that.
When Folds finally drifted back to Chapel Hill in 1994 he formed a piano-based trio with bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee, and within weeks, the band cut an indie single that attracted the attention of Caroline. Their 1995 self-titled debut sold enough copies to warrant the kind of major-label bidding war that young bands fantasize about. Eventually signing with Sony, the group released Whatever and Ever Amen and continued the strenuous touring schedule that the band had become known for. Releasing the singles "Battle of Who Could Care Less" and "Brick" into a climate awash with soundalike guitar bands, Ben Folds Five and their witty, offbeat, piano-based music were a welcome difference and the group became critical and commercial darlings.
Inevitable comparisons to piano composers of yore such as Todd Rundgren, Billy Joel, and Joe Jackson followed, but the group fought hard to maintain their individuality. Over the next two years, Ben Folds Five kept their name in the press by releasing songs on soundtracks, as well as an album of outtakes, B-sides, and early live appearances called Naked Baby Photos. In early 1999 they released their third full-length album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. In November 2000, Ben Folds Five abruptly announced their split, shocking fans and the media. However, the trio quickly announced that they would be pursuing individual projects. Bassist Robert Sledge was going to put his own group together while balancing his tour efforts with former Squirrel Nut Zippers multi-instrumentalist Tom Maxwell's group the Minor Drag. Drummer Darren Jessee also went after similar opportunities, playing club shows around New York City. Ben Folds didn't stop either, for the singer/pianist contributed "Lonely Christmas Eve" for the Grinch soundtrack, as well as the cut called "Wandering" for the 2000 independent comedy 100 Girls, before releasing a string of successful solo albums. The group re-formed in 2011, contributing a new track to Folds' 18-track The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. They made it official the following year with the release of The Sound of the Life of the Mind, the band's fourth studio album, and first since 1999.
Wikipedia:Ben Folds performing, Knoxville, Tennessee, 2006
Ben Folds Five are an alternative rock trio formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The group's members are Ben Folds (lead vocals, piano, keyboards, melodica, principal songwriting), Robert Sledge (bass, contrabass, synthesizer, backing vocals), and Darren Jessee (drums, percussion, backing vocals, songwriter). The group achieved mainstream success in the alternative, indie and pop music scenes. Their single "Brick" from the 1997 album Whatever and Ever Amen gained airplay on many mainstream radio stations. During their seven years together, the band released three proper studio records, one retrospective album of B-sides and outtakes, and eight singles. They also contributed to a number of soundtracks and compilations. Ben Folds Five disbanded in October 2000.
The group reunited for a one-off concert on September 18, 2008, where they played their album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, in its entirety. In 2011, Ben Folds Five reunited to record three tracks for Ben Folds' The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. It was announced on Folds' Twitter in January 2012 that the band had reunited to record a new album, released on September 18, 2012, titled The Sound of the Life of the Mind. As of March 1 of the same year, at least three tour dates have been added, including the Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tennessee, DeLuna Festival in Pensacola, Florida, and the Mountain Jam Festival in Hunter, NY. In July 2012 the band announced US and European tour dates for Fall 2012.Currin, Grayson (2008-09-02). "Ben Folds Five to perform in Chapel Hill". Independent Weekly. Archived from the original on 5 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-02. Folds, Ben. "Details On The Upcoming Retrospective Album Announced". Retrieved 2011-08-11. Rodman, Sarah. "Music scoop at TV press tour: "Sing-Off" judge at benfolds is reconvening Ben Folds Five to record a new album". Retrieved 2011-08-11.
Ben Folds Five was formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill by Ben Folds. They were, in fact, a trio in spite of their name, and the primary motivation behind the name, apart from the band's well-known use of humor, was simple preference, according to Ben: "I think it sounds better than Ben Folds Three." Folds once described their music as "punk rock for sissies," a reaction to the angst prevalent in '90s rock.
Their first radio single was "Underground" from their self-titled debut album, released in 1995 on Caroline Records. The band's biggest success was the single "Brick" from their second album, Whatever and Ever Amen, released in 1997. It was followed by the more somber and jazz-based 1999 album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. The group contributed an outtake from the Reinhold Messner sessions, titled "Leather Jacket", to the 1999 benefit album, No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees.
The band's final released recording was a cover of Steely Dan's "Barrytown" for the Me, Myself & Irene soundtrack. The band had begun work on a fourth studio album, however following the worldwide tour in support of The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, the band "amicably" broke up in October 2000. Tracks from the sessions would later emerge on subsequent solo projects.
After the break-up
Folds went on to pursue a successful solo career, releasing Rockin' the Suburbs in 2001, Songs for Silverman in 2005, Way to Normal in 2008, and, in collaboration with novelist-writer Nick Hornby, Lonely Avenue in 2010. He produced and arranged actor William Shatner's second album, Has Been, as well as co-wrote the majority of the songs with Shatner. Folds also contributed songs to the soundtracks for the animated movies Hoodwinked! and Over the Hedge. Darren Jessee formed the acclaimed indie band Hotel Lights, with his songs featured in television and film. Jessee released three studio albums for Bar/None Records including Hotel Lights in 2005, Goodnightgoodmorning in 2006, Firecracker People in 2008, and Girl Graffiti in 2011. Robert Sledge soon after took up singing, sharing song-writing and bass playing duties with International Orange, but the group disbanded in 2005. He subsequently formed The Bob Sledge Band, which plays locally in North Carolina.
Ben Folds Five made a one-off concert appearance in September 2008 at the UNC Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill as part of the MySpace "Front to Back" series, in which artists play an entire album live. The band played its final album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, and were briefly joined on stage by Ben's father, Dean Folds, who read a transcript of his voice mail message that is used in the album song "Your Most Valuable Possession", encoring with some of the songs from their first two albums.
In 2011, Ben Folds Five reunited to record three tracks for Ben Folds' The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. Sarah Rodman of the Boston Globe also reported that Ben Folds Five would be reconvened in December 2011 to record a new album.
For the 2012 Mountain Jam festival, Ben Folds Five was announced as one of the main headliners. It was at Mountain Jam where Ben Folds Five reunited for their first live performance together in years. They were also announced in the 2012 Bonnaroo and Summerfest lineups. The band announced an August release of their new album, followed by a full American tour in September and October. They then travelled to Ireland and the UK for a tour in November and December 2012. These dates eventually formed The Sound of the Life of the Mind Tour.
On May 7, 2012, Ben Folds Five launched an interactive pre-sale campaign for the release of their new album on PledgeMusic. The campaign shot to 200% in its first week of being live. Folds has said that they have enough material for at least two more records.
During a June 28, 2012, Ben Folds Five performance at Summerfest, Folds announced the album had been completed.
On September 17, 2012, Nerdist posted the video for "Do It Anyway", the first single off the album The Sound of the Life of the Mind, featuring Anna Kendrick, Rob Corddry, Chris Hardwick and the cast of Fraggle Rock. The day afterward, The Sound of the Life of the Mind was released.
On June 4, 2013, the trio released their first live album, simply titled Live.
During the summer of 2013, Ben Folds Five toured with the Barenaked Ladies and GusterHofmann, Pieter (1997-03-10). "Waist Deep in Pianos and Buses". Drop-D Magazine. Retrieved 2006-09-02. Thomas, Sarah (2006-08-25). "Ben Folds with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2006-09-23. "Ben with the Breeze". Melbourne: The Breeze. 2005-04-01. Retrieved 2006-11-27. Cite error: The named reference indyweekly was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Ben Folds Five delights in reunion" Cite error: The named reference folds1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference twitter was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Catch Ben Folds Five's First Reunion Performance Tomorrow! | The Official Ben Folds Site". Benfolds.com. 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2012-09-18. Folds, Ben (2012-05-15). "Ben Folds Audio Interview - New Ben Folds Five Record". Blogger. Retrieved 2012-06-01. Folds, Ben (2012-09-17). "EXCLUSIVE!: Ben Folds Five and the Fraggles Sing "Do It Anyway"". Nerdist. Retrieved 2012-09-17. Ben Folds Five First Official Live Album To Be Released June 4 | The Official Ben Folds Site, 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-06-10. "Ben Folds Tour". Benfolds.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29.