Ben Folds Five

Ben Folds Five

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Ben Folds Five

Ben Folds Five are an alternative and piano 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.[1] In 2011, Ben Folds Five reunited to record three tracks for Ben Folds' The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective.[2] 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.[3] In July 2012 the band announced US and European tour dates for Fall 2012.


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."[4] Folds once described their music as "punk rock for sissies," a reaction to the angst prevalent in '90s rock.[5]

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.[6]

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[1] 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.[7]

In 2011, Ben Folds Five reunited to record three tracks for Ben Folds' The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective.[2] Sarah Rodman of the Boston Globe also reported that Ben Folds Five would be reconvened in December 2011 to record a new album.[3]

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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. [11] During the summer of 2013, Ben Folds Five toured with the Barenaked Ladies and Guster [12]


Ben Folds Five discography
Studio albums 4
Live albums 1
Compilation albums 2
Singles 9
Video albums 1

Studio albums

Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
Ben Folds Five
  • Released: August 8, 1995
  • Label: Passenger/Caroline
37 72
Whatever and Ever Amen
  • Released: March 18, 1997
  • Label: 550
42 8 6 30
The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
  • Released: April 27, 1999
  • Label: 550
35 5 17 22
The Sound of the Life of the Mind
  • Released: September 18, 2012
  • Label: ImaVeePee
10 24 72 40

Compilation albums

Album details Peak chart positions
Naked Baby Photos
  • Released: January 13, 1998
  • Label: Passenger/Caroline
94 62 65
The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective
  • Released: October 11, 2011
  • Label: Legacy

Live albums

  • Live (2013) - ImaVeePee


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Air
US Mod
1996 "Underground" 37 Ben Folds Five
"Where's Summer B.?" 77
1997 "Battle of Who Could Care Less" 22 26 Whatever and Ever Amen
"Kate" 39
"One Angry Dwarf & 200 Solemn Faces"
1998 "Brick" 19 6 11 13 26
"Song for the Dumped" 23 73
"Army" 17 65 28 The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
1999 "Don't Change Your Plans"
2012 "Do It Anyway" 88 The Sound of the Life of the Mind
"" denotes singles that did not chart.


  • Ben Folds Five - The Complete Sessions at West 54th (1999) - Epic Music Video

Soundtracks and compilations

  • Mr. Wrong soundtrack (1996) - Contributed "Song for the Dumped"
  • The Truth About Cats & Dogs soundtrack (1996) - Contributed "Bad Idea"
  • KCRW Rare On Air, Volume 3 (1997) - Contributed "Alice Childress"
  • Lounge-a-palooza (1997) - Contributed "She Don't Use Jelly"
  • MegaHits Dance Party, Volume 2 (1998) - Contributed "Brick (3AM Dance Remix)"
  • Triple J Hottest 100, Volume 5 (1998) - Contributed "One Angry Dwarf & 200 Solemn Faces"
  • Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (soundtrack) (1998) - Contributed "Kate"
  • Godzilla soundtrack (1998) - Contributed "Air"
  • Burt Bacharach: One Amazing Night (1998) - Contributed "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head"
  • Teleconned, Volume 1: We Want The Airwaves (1998) - Contributed "Theme From Dr. Pyser"
  • No Boundaries: A Benefit For The Kosovar Refugees (1999) - Contributed "Leather Jacket"
  • Me, Myself & Irene (2000) - Contributed a cover of "Barrytown" by Steely Dan from their third studio album Pretzel Logic
  • Songs for Summer (2000) - Contributed "Where's Summer B.?"
  • Non Stop '90s Rock (2001) - Contributed "Brick"
  • Songbook (2002) - Contributed "Smoke"


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  5. Thomas, Sarah, Ben Folds with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Morning Herald, 2006-08-25. URL accessed on 2006-09-23.
  6. Ben with the Breeze, The Breeze, 2005-04-01. URL accessed on 2006-11-27.
  7. "Ben Folds Five delights in reunion"
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  11. Ben Folds Five First Official Live Album To Be Released June 4 | The Official Ben Folds Site, 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
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  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Ben Folds Five at All Music Guide
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  21. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums, 19th, London: Guinness World Records Limited.
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External links

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