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Interview:
Ben Folds Five reunited, and feeling so good
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

The Ben Folds Five initially reassembled last year as "bookend thing" to record some tracks for the Folds anthology "The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective."

But it quickly became apparent that a more lasting reunion was in the offing, resulting in "The Sound of the Life of the Mind," the trio's first new album in 13 years.

"We hit on about 15 ideas," Folds, 46, says of those initial sessions. "I just started throwing ideas out there, one after the other, and they were all coming together and sounding like something from another album -- like an album in the future. Everyone just thought, 'Oh, the next record is gonna be like that.'

"So we really found ourselves very interested in making another sound."

Any sound from the BFF is a welcome return. The North Carolina group released three albums between 1995-99 to significant critical acclaim, scoring modern rock and college radio hits with "Underground" and "Battle of Who Could Care Less" as well as a broad-scale pop hit with 1998's melancholy "Brick." But come 2000, Folds says that he, bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee "parted on OK terms" after the adventurous "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner" album.

"We parted on tired terms," he recalls. "We were beat. We were right down to our last nerve. As soon as we got some rest over the next couple of years and weren't living in each other's back pockets, we were normal again."

Pulling the group back together wasn't easy, however. The BFF played a one-off show in September of 2008 in Chapel Hill, but Folds' busy career -- including three solo albums, a collaboration with novelist Nick Hornby producing albums for William Shatner and Amanda Palmer, serving as a judge on NBC's "The Sing-Off" and composing orchestral works -- presented some road blocks. Jessee had formed a band called Hotel Lights, while Sledge played in International Orange before starting his own group.

The retrospective gave Folds, Jessee and Sledge the impetus to hit the studio again, and when they returned to make the album the trio found it was as prolific as its initial sessions.

"We touched on maybe 40 ideas that I feel were solid," Folds says. "We had these snippets of songs and they just sounded so neat. Some of them made the album, and then we moved on to other things. It was really easy, and really inspiring. I think most of the stuff we were really excited about at first didn't make the cut at the end; for some reason other stuff overtook it.

"But (those songs) are going to happen at some point."

That bodes well for the future, but Folds cautions it may be a future that also takes awhile in coming. Though he's committed to touring with BFF well into 2013, he's locked into a number of other projects, including a 2014 run of symphony orchestras and a piano concerto of his own that he'll start composing in the near future.

"I don't see any chance of us getting together until 2015" to work on another BFF album, Folds predicts, before cracking that, "It feels like we're going to have to get together at midnight some time and not sleep for a few weeks and make some new music.

"But if that's what it takes, I'm in. I definitely want us to keep working together."

The Ben Folds Five and Kate Miller-Heidke perform Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35-$60. Call 313-961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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