Ben Folds Five

Ben Folds Five is an American alternative rock band formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The group comprises Ben Folds (lead vocals, piano), Robert Sledge (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Darren Jessee (drums, backing vocals). The group achieved success in the alternative, indie and pop music scenes. Their single "Brick" from the second album, Whatever and Ever Amen (1997), gained airplay on many mainstream radio stations.

Ben Folds Five
Ben Folds Five at their reunion concert on September 18, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Ben Folds Five at their reunion concert on September 18, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Background information
OriginChapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.
Years active1993–2000, 2008, 2011–2013 (hiatus)
LabelsPassenger, Caroline, 550
Past members

During their first seven years, the band released three studio records, a compilation 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. They reunited in 2011, and released their fourth album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, in 2012.



Ben Folds Five was formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill by Ben Folds. They were 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."[1] Folds once described their music as "punk rock for sissies", a reaction to the angst prevalent in '90s rock.[2]

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, but 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 later emerged in solo projects.[3]

After the break-upEdit

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, Lonely Avenue in collaboration with novelist Nick Hornby in 2010, and So There in collaboration with the chamber group yMusic in 2015. 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 five studio albums for Bar/None Records including Hotel Lights in 2006, Firecracker People in 2008, Girl Graffiti in 2011, Get Your Hand in My Hand in 2016, and his first solo album, The Jane, Room 217 in 2018.

Robert Sledge played with International Orange until the group disbanded in 2005. He is currently the bass player in the three-piece Chapel Hill, NC band Surrender Human with Matt McMichaels from the Mayflies USA.

2008 reunionEdit

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 then-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.[4]

2011–2013: The Sound of the Life of the Mind, Live and hiatusEdit

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] The day afterward, The Sound of the Life of the Mind was released.

On June 4, 2013, the trio released their first live album, titled Live.[8] During the summer of 2013, Ben Folds Five toured with the Barenaked Ladies and Guster.[9] Following the tour, Ben Folds Five entered a hiatus. Folds has since returned to his solo work, releasing the album So There with yMusic in 2015. Darren Jessee toured as part of Sharon Van Etten's band in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 he returned to Hotel Lights, releasing the album Get Your Hand in My Hand. Later that year he joined Hiss Golden Messenger. In 2018 Jessee released his first solo album The Jane, Room 217. Sledge has focused on teaching music in Chapel Hill, as well as playing in the band Surrender Human.


Ben Folds Five discography
Studio albums4
Live albums1
Compilation albums2
Video albums1

Studio albumsEdit

Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
Ben Folds Five 37 72
Whatever and Ever Amen
  • Released: March 18, 1997
  • Label: 550
42 8 48 6 38 30
The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
  • Released: April 27, 1999
  • Label: 550
35 5 35 17 32 22
The Sound of the Life of the Mind
  • Released: September 18, 2012
  • Label: ImaVeePee
10 24 72 48 40

Live albumsEdit


Year Single Peak chart positions Album

US Alt
1996 "Where's Summer B.?" 76 Ben Folds Five
"Underground" 37
"Uncle Walter"
1997 "Battle of Who Could Care Less" 22 149 26 Whatever and Ever Amen
"One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" 134
"Kate" 39
"Brick" 19 6 13 12 26
1998 "Song for the Dumped" 23 73
1999 "Army" 17 65 28 The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
"Don't Change Your Plans"
2012 "Do It Anyway" 88 The Sound of the Life of the Mind
"—" denotes singles that did not chart.


Soundtracks and compilationsEdit


  1. ^ Hofmann, Pieter (March 10, 1997). "Waist Deep in Pianos and Buses". Drop-D Magazine. Retrieved September 2, 2006.
  2. ^ Thomas, Sarah (2006-08-25). "Ben Folds with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2006-09-23.
  3. ^ "Ben with the Breeze". Melbourne: The Breeze. April 1, 2005. Retrieved November 27, 2006.
  4. ^ "Ben Folds Five delights in reunion" Archived September 22, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Catch Ben Folds Five's First Reunion Performance Tomorrow! | The Official Ben Folds Site". June 1, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  6. ^ Folds, Ben (May 15, 2012). "Ben Folds Audio Interview – New Ben Folds Five Record". Blogger. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  7. ^ Folds, Ben (September 17, 2012). "EXCLUSIVE!: Ben Folds Five and the Fraggles Sing "Do It Anyway"". Nerdist. Archived from the original on September 20, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  8. ^ Ben Folds Five First Official Live Album To Be Released June 4 | The Official Ben Folds Site, 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  9. ^ "Ben Folds Tour". Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  10. ^ "Billboard > Ben Folds Chart History > Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Australian (ARIA) peaks:
  12. ^ Peak chart positions for albums in Canada:
  13. ^ Peak chart positions for albums in Japan:
  14. ^ Peak positions for singles in Scotland:
  15. ^ a b "Official Charts > Ben Folds Five". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  16. ^ "RIAJ > The Record > May 1997 > Certified Awards (March 1997)" (PDF). Recording Industry Association of Japan (in Japanese). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 23, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  17. ^ "American album certifications – Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  18. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1998 Albums" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  19. ^ "RIAJ > The Record > June 1997 > Certified Awards (April 1997)" (PDF). Recording Industry Association of Japan (in Japanese). Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  20. ^ "MC > Album > June 1997 > Certified Awards (August 27, 1998)". Music Canada. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  21. ^ "Billboard > Ben Folds Chart History > Radio Songs". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  22. ^ "Billboard > Ben Folds Chart History > Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  23. ^ Peak chart positions for singles in Canada:
  24. ^ "Billboard > Ben Folds Chart History > Japan Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2019.

External linksEdit