Ben Folds Five In-depth Biography
A guitarless band may seem strange at first, but the piano, bass and drums trio Ben Folds Five} have dispelled any misgivings about their ability to rock} as loud and hard as the next band. Calling themselves "punk rock} for sissys," the band have been grouped with the nerd rock} movement of the mid-'90s with one exception, Folds} knows how to write catchy and clever pop} songs that hold up after repeated listens.
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 the decade when 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. To 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, 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 strong enough 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 sound-alike guitar bands, Ben Folds Five} and their witty, off-beat 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 all 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}. ~ Steve Kurutz, All Music Guide