Ben Folds Five have announced that September 18 will be the official release date of their first full“length album since 1999’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. A lot has changed since the group called it quits at the turn of the millennium, but Folds, bassist Robert Sledge, and drummer Darren Jessee haven’t missed a beat. Taking advantage of the new surge in crowdfunding popularized by sites like Kickstarter, the band has financed their entire new record, The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind, through PledgeMusic.com.
A few months ago, we got the chance to talk to Folds about the making of the album and the funding process, and we’re excited to see the project finally complete. Folds’ close friend Amanda Palmer also recently made headlines for her massively successful fundraising project on Kickstarter. Last week, Folds took to Facebook to share his thoughts on her upcoming album, Theatre Is Evil, which is also due for release in September.
Listen to “Do It Anyway,” the first single from the new album, below.
With record labels in a precarious spot, many up-and-coming bands have been turning to crowd funding as a way to raise money for touring, recording, merch production and more. Major artists have taken note, with acts like Secondhand Serenade and The Voice‘s Nakia using the “rewards for pledges” model through sites like Kickstarter, ArtistShare and more.
Shortly after their long-awaited reunion, Ben Folds Five decided to test out this innovative new platform to help fund their first record in thirteen years. In exchange for donations, the band is not only offering prizes like signed vinyls and t-shirts, but they’re also helping to promote the music, art, videos of their fans. They’ve even offered to call each fan who downloads their new song “Do It Anyway” or makes a pledge a Vice President of Promotions for their de facto record label, encouraging them to add “#ImaDamVP” on the end of their promotional tweets. We caught up with Ben to discuss the progress of the campaign, Kickstarter goddess Amanda Palmer and why we should help fight for continued arts funding.
OS: How is the record progressing? Can you estimate a release date at this point?
BF: I think we should be doing this in early September. Sometimes we’re late, but I think that should do it!
OS: Why did you choose to use a pledge model for funding this record?
BF: Looking at all our options, we had spoken to PledgeMusic a couple months ago. We thought that no matter how we do it, we may include that route, somehow. Last weekend, we started realizing, “Well, we’re going out on tour and it would be fun to put out something we recorded,” because we’re excited about what we’ve recorded, but we’re not on any kind of label or anything. We put it out free on a couple fan sites, which crashed pretty immediately. The next day, there were about 100,000 downloads out there. We thought, “Oh shit, we gotta put the record on sale.” You can’t be promoting it and then not pre-selling it too. The industry’s already screwed up enough as it is without shooting yourself in your own foot. We scrambled the next day to get it up and Pledge had been someone we’d been talking to, and we just did it.
OS: What made you choose PledgeMusic over other services, like Kickstarter or ArtistShare?
BF: I don’t know much about all of them, so I’m not good about shopping around. But what was compelling to me was that, in our position, I didn’t think it was really necessary to flash the sales number. That’s the way Kickstarter does it, Amanda [Palmer] did it that way and it’s been really great.But I play these things by feel, and that didn’t feel right to me. I likened it to sitting in a restaurant where, next to the food, the tally is turning over while you’re eating to see how much money is going to the restaurant…it’s not necessary to know that. But I think it’s really interesting, especially with Amanda Palmer’s campaign…it gives people an insight.
Let’s face it, sometimes the past should stay dead. But when an awesome artist fades from popularity, their fans later wonder, Where are they now? You may not know it, but many artists you’ve loved in the past are still hard at work writing new albums or preparing to tour once more. Fortunately, you now have Second Coming to reintroduce some of your favorite acts of the last few decades and give you the scoop on what you can expect from them in the future.
THEN: As we know, the early 90’s saw an alt rock explosion. Singer-songwriter Ben Folds jumped into the fray with a band of his own, Ben Folds Five. An indication of Folds’ off-kilter humor, the band was actually a trio (an in-joke unsurprising to anyone who knew that Folds’ first band, Majosha, released an EP called Five Songs About Jesus, which included four secular tunes). The band’s self-titled debut LP garnered them a significant amount of buzz upon its release in 1995, but it was their sophomore effort, Whatever and Ever Amen, that spawned the hit “Brick.” Though they went on to record a third record (and most of a fourth), but decided to “amicably” split up in 2000. Folds, of course, went on to rock the suburbs with a successful solo career, but it seemed as though the world had seen the last of the Five.
NOW: In 2011, Ben Folds Five reunited once more to record three tracks for Folds’ compilation album, The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. A few months later, Folds announced via Twitter that they would be writing and recording a brand new album: “It’s happening fo sho – Day 1 in studio with Robert and Darren through March #NewBenFoldsFiveRecord.” Looking ahead to the rest of 2012, BFF are slated to headline New York’s Mountain Jam, as well as perform a set at the legendary Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. The new record’s title and release date are still TBA, but we’re excited to hear what they sound like thirteen years after their last album.
Who could forget the wild video for “Underground?”