Ben Folds Five was an American alternative rock trio formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The group comprised 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 active
  • 1993–2000
  • 2008
  • 2011–2013
  • 2023
Past members
Ben Folds performing, Knoxville, Tennessee, 2006

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, but reunited in 2011, and released their fourth album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, in 2012, before disbanding again in 2013.





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-up (2001–2011)


Folds went on to pursue a successful solo career, releasing his debut album Rockin' the Suburbs in 2001, followed Songs for Silverman in 2005, Way to Normal in 2008, and Lonely Avenue in collaboration with novelist Nick Hornby in 2010. He produced and arranged actor William Shatner's second album Has Been, co-writing the majority of the songs with Shatner. Folds also contributed songs to the soundtracks for the animated movies Hoodwinked! and Over the Hedge, as well as forming the one-off side project The Bens (with Ben Lee and Ben Kweller) in 2003.

Jessee formed the indie band Hotel Lights in 2004, with his songs featured in television and film. Jessee released three studio albums for Bar/None Records in this time – including Hotel Lights in 2006, Firecracker People in 2008, and Girl Graffiti in 2011.

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

Reunions (2008, 2011–2013, 2023)


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]

In 2011, Ben Folds Five reunited to record three tracks for Ben Folds' The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. They made their first live appearance in four years as one of the headliners of the 2012 Mountain Jam festival.[5] They made further appearances at that year's 2012 Bonnaroo and Summerfest festivals.

The band's fourth studio album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind was released in September 2012, supported by the single Do It Anyway, with a video featuring Anna Kendrick, Rob Corddry, and the cast of Fraggle Rock.[6] and a tour of the US, the UK, Australia and Ireland.

In June 2013, the trio released their first live album, titled Live.[7] During that year Ben Folds Five toured with the Barenaked Ladies and Guster,[8] before entering a hiatus that ultimately became permanent. Folds resumed his solo career, releasing the yMusic collaboration So There in 2015[9] and continuing to tour extensively. Jessee, meanwhile, released a new album with Hotel Lights in 2016, entitled Get Your Hand in My Hand,[10] before releasing two solo albums: 2018's The Jane, Room 217[11] and 2020's Remover.[12]

Caleb Southern – the producer of the band's first three albums and considered the "fourth member" of the band by Folds – died on July 6, 2023.[13] The band reunited for a concert in tribute to Southern on August 28, 2023, at the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill.[citation needed][14]


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

Studio albums

List of studio albums, with selected details, chart positions and certifications
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
Ben Folds Five 37 72
Whatever and Ever Amen
  • Released: March 18, 1997
  • Label: 550, Caroline, Epic
42 8 48 6 38 30
The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
  • Released: April 27, 1999
  • Label: 550, Caroline, Epic
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 albums

List of live albums, with selected details
Title Album details
  • Released: May 31, 2013
  • Label:
The Complete Sessions at West 54th
  • Released: July 10, 2018
  • Label: Real Gone, Epic

Compilation albums

List of compilation albums, with selected details
Title Album details
Naked Baby Photos
  • Released: January 13, 1998
  • Label: Caroline
Playlist: The Very Best of Ben Folds Five
  • Released: April 10, 2015
  • Label: Epic


List of singles, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart positions Album

US Alt
"Jackson Cannery" 1994 Ben Folds Five
"Underground" 1996 37
"Where's Summer B.?" 76
"Uncle Walter"
"Battle of Who Could Care Less" 1997 22 149 26 Whatever and Ever Amen
"One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" 134
"Kate" 39
"Brick" 19 6 13 12 26
"Song for the Dumped" 1998 23 73
"Army" 1999 17 65 28 The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
"Don't Change Your Plans"
"Do It Anyway" 2012 88 The Sound of the Life of the Mind
"—" denotes singles that did not chart.



Other appearances



  1. ^ Hofmann, Pieter (March 10, 1997). "Waist Deep in Pianos and Buses". Drop-D Magazine. Retrieved September 2, 2006.
  2. ^ Thomas, Sarah (August 25, 2006). "Ben Folds with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
  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 (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.
  7. ^ Ben Folds Five First Official Live Album To Be Released June 4 | The Official Ben Folds Site, 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  8. ^ "Ben Folds Tour". Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  9. ^ Kivel, Adam (September 10, 2015). "Album Review: Ben Folds and yMusic – So There". Consequence. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  10. ^ "Hotel Lights: Get Your Hand in My Hand (Bar None)". Innocent Words. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  11. ^ Ham, Robert. "Darren Jessee: The Jane, Room 217 Review". Paste Magazine. Paste Media Group. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  12. ^ Mosk, Mitch (October 13, 2020). "SWOON, DEEP, & REAL: DARREN JESSEE'S 'REMOVER' IS A TENDER, QUIET TEMPEST". Atwood Magazine. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  13. ^ Brodsky, Rachel. "Ben Folds Five & Archers Of Loaf Producer Caleb Southern Dead At 53". Stereogum. Stereogum Media. Retrieved July 19, 2023.
  14. ^ Cat's Cradle concert ticket listing Retrieved January 18, 2024
  15. ^ "Billboard > Ben Folds Chart History > Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Australian (ARIA) peaks:
  17. ^ Peak chart positions for albums in Canada:
  18. ^ Peak chart positions for albums in Japan:
  19. ^ Peak positions for singles in Scotland:
  20. ^ a b "Official Charts > Ben Folds Five". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  21. ^ Pesselnick, Jill (August 11, 2001). "Five-less Folds Finds Solitude, Fights Aging on 550/Epic's 'Rockin' The Suburbs'". Billboard. Vol. 113, no. 32. p. 17.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ Billboard Staff (May 4, 2005). "'The Boss' Back On Top". Billboard. Retrieved February 21, 2024.
  24. ^ "American album certifications – Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  25. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1998 Albums" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  26. ^ "MC > Album > June 1997 > Certified Awards (August 27, 1998)". Music Canada. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  27. ^ "RIAJ > The Record > June 1997 > Certified Awards (April 1997)" (PDF). Recording Industry Association of Japan (in Japanese). Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  28. ^ Billboard Staff (August 31, 2012). "Fall Album Preview 2012". Billboard. Retrieved February 21, 2024.
  29. ^ "Upcoming Releases". Hits Daily Double. HITS Digital Ventures. Archived from the original on August 19, 2015.
  30. ^ "Billboard > Ben Folds Chart History > Radio Songs". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  31. ^ "Billboard > Ben Folds Chart History > Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  32. ^ Peak chart positions for singles in Canada:
  33. ^ "Billboard > Ben Folds Chart History > Japan Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2019.