Thirteen years since breaking up after the release of their last album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, Ben Folds Five are back together and ready to share a mature new record with the world. The Sound of the Life of the Mind will be out Sept. 18 and reunites bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee with Folds for their first activity since playing a one-off show for MySpace in 2008.
“The band were together for a really intense six years,” Folds says. “Things happened really quickly for us and we really didn’t have a break. When it came to the end, it was something that the three of us were pretty spent on. I wanted to do other things and had a solo career and worked with lots of other people. But at some point, I just came to accept that it would be a good idea for us to get back together.”
After the MySpace show, a plan was hatched to work together again but it took Folds years to clear his schedule and make it happen. Initial impressions of The Sound of the Life of the Mind suggest that the extra time was worthwhile, but fans will also notice a somewhat less playful bent to these dark songs than the beloved BFF tunes of the band's heyday in the 1990s.
“Yeah, I can see that it might have a heaviness to it,” Folds agrees, after pondering the notion for a moment. “When I think of songs like ‘Michael Praytor, Five Years Later,’ I don’t know if we were ever that playful on our old albums. So maybe we’re just doing more, and that more equates to something that isn’t as light. There’s some silly shit on that song that you’re just not allowed to do, mostly on the drums. [Jessee] didn’t have the freedom to do that back in the day; he was worried something wouldn’t be cool. But I’ve never heard anyone play like that, it’s crazy.
“We are grown up. I don’t think that life gets brighter and more playful. That’s just life and, if we’re gonna be honest, we’re making a record that’s us where we are now. Definitely, we’re not gonna get together and try to re-live this or that — it wasn’t even discussed. We just got together and did what we do.”
Folds is quick to suggest that, unlike some of their contemporaries who’ve reunited, Ben Folds Five aren’t in it for nostalgia at all. As players, they have a unique chemistry and they write songs together in an idiosyncratic manner. That’s why they’re back really — for themselves first, the fans second.
“If someone wants us to sound like we used to, I think they shouldn’t waste their money,” Folds says. “I really don’t. I wouldn’t want anyone to be disappointed. We do sound like the same three people but after a lot of time has gone by and we don’t have it in us to manufacture some jive version of that.”
Ben Folds Five release The Sound of the Life of the Mind on Sept. 18 in Canada via ImaVeePee Records.
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