Ben Folds Five was an alternative rock trio formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The group comprised Ben Folds on vocals, piano, and principal songwriting; Robert Sledge played bass and provided backing vocals; and Darren Jessee played drums, sang backing vocals and co-wrote some of the songs. The group achieved mainstream success in the alternative, indie and pop music scenes. The band is best known for the hit single "Brick" from their 1997 album Whatever and Ever Amen, which gained airplay on many mainstream radio stations.
Much of Ben Folds Five's work was influenced by jazz, evident in frequent improv-styled passages through bridge and/or ending. During their seven years together, the band released three proper studio records, one retrospective album of B-sides & outtakes, and eight singles. They also contributed to a number of soundtracks and compilations. Ben Folds Five disbanded in October 2000, apparently under amicable circumstances.
The group reunited for a one-off concert on September 18, 2008, where they played their final album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, in its entirety.
Ben Folds Five was formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill by Ben Folds. They were, in fact, 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". Folds once described their music as "punk rock for sissies", a reaction to the angst prevalent in 90s rock.
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. Despite a more somber record in Reinhold Messner album, live shows continued to pack in the energy and improvisation that Ben Folds Five had grown to have quite a reputation for.
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 recording was a cover of Steely Dan's "Barrytown" for the Me, Myself & Irene soundtrack. Following the worldwide tour in support of The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, the band "amicably" broke up in October 2000.
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