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?”
Ty Mayfield may have had some success behind the kit early in life”if you count a rousing rendition of Genesis’s In The Air Tonight for a high school talent show”but he really found his calling when he dropped the drumsticks and sidled up to the piano. Exhibit A: 19 to 2, a punchy piano melody with an airborne chorus that catapults your spirits. Mayfield’s charismatic crooning and gleeful piano playing are a straight shot of serotonin. From his cheerful professions of love on The One For Me to the high-speed swagger of The Curveball, the singer/pianist delivers mood-enhancing piano pop a la Gavin DeGraw or Ben Folds. For the most part, Mayfield sticks to piano and organ, but he’s not adverse to technology. Do What I Do is the most ambitious of his tracks, a percussive mélange of digital bleeps and blips that tapers into the slow coast of the chorus. Despite his youthful appearance, Mayfield’s a polished performer on the brink of success. You can feel it in the air.
“19-2” – Ty Mayfield
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about the show American Idol. Since the show’s start in 2002, it’s unbelievable success has created a series of stars”Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Kris Allen and most recently Scotty McCreery. But Idol‘s popularity is now on a whole new level, as evidenced by a crop of similar shows. The X-Factor, The Voice and The Sing-Off are just a few shows which focus on vocalists and their journey to become stars. But which of these programs, if any, actually completely focus on the singer and the importance of a voice above all else?
American Idol, despite its longevity and success, has never been focused on just the voice. While these artists obviously are judged on their singing, the competition is more of a popularity contest, rather than an in-depth examination in vocal technique. And while ex Idol judge Simon Cowell‘s The X-Factor has a different approach, the show is really about contestants with the whole package deal. Premiering earlier this fall, this show boasts a $5 million prize to the one person who can wow the judges with their X factor”the “thing” that makes someone a star.
Anyone who has seen OurStage artist Jukebox The Ghost perform can attest that the band puts on one hell of a show. Pianist Ben Thornewill rocks back and forth so wildly that he almost falls off his stool. Guitarist Tommy Siegel careens across the stage and drummer Jesse Kristin pounds away on the skins with a huge grin spread across his face. Their sonic output is so full it’s easy to forget they lack a bassist, the traditional fourth member of any rock band. That makes sense because Jukebox The Ghost is no ordinary rock band.
Combining dance beats, instrumental complexity and pop songwriting, the group stands out as a unique act in the crowded indie rock scene. Their supporting tours with Ben Folds and Barenaked Ladies haven’t hurt their cred either. For the past year, they’ve been riding a wave of positive reviews of their sophomore album Everything Under The Sun and will tour Europe this fall. While it isn’t exactly a homecoming for the Philly-based band, the group’s sound is deeply indebted to the European classical tradition. Specifically, the legacy of one Domenico Alberti.
When people list the most famous classical composers of all time, Alberti generally isn’t up there with Mozart and Beethoven. In fact, the majority of the piano sonatas and operas that he wrote are barely remembered and rarely performed. His one lasting contribution to classical music was the Alberti bass, a left-hand piano pattern that outlines the three notes of a triadic chord. For any three-note chord, the Alberti bass pattern arranges the notes in the order of lowest pitch, highest pitch, middle pitch, highest pitch, as shown in the video above.
High school bands are a funny thing. You either look back on them years later and cringe, or you become Silverchair or Paramore. Rigby Fawkes, from Little Rock, Arkansas, has the youthful exuberance and proliferate influences of a band in its early years. And though sometimes it’s hard to follow their musical train of thought, their eclecticism and adventurousness keeps things interesting. Flight To Fatigue starts off sounding almost like an emotive The Album Leaf track, but soon enough, the band jumps off into an ambitious, multi-rhythmic jam that sounds like System of a Down meets Ben Folds. There are many moments here, and none of them are dull. For a more cohesive sound, try Gloomy Rainbow where front man Daniel Moody loosens a croon on par with Muse’s Matthew Bellamy. It’s theatrical, percussive, sepulchral ¦ and excellent. Rigby Fawkes have lots of ideas and plenty of talent. Time and focus will only make them more incredible.
It seems that lately famous names, especially those with musical talent, are all about doing good. Musically inclined individuals are readily inspiring warm fuzzies. Maybe I wear rose-colored glasses when viewing icons responsible for my longtime love of audible bliss. No matter. I’m comfortable with this analysis, content to single out a handful of mention-ables for their meaningful efforts to make a difference for those less fortunate. Or, in some cases, their willingness to lend a hand (err, track) on behalf of the greater good by making their art both part of the conversation and solution no matter the cause.
Recently I had the great pleasure of attending the fourth installment of SPIN Magazine’s Liner Notes, a series that highlights the influence of literature on music, promotes literacy, fosters a love of reading among music fans and raises money for organizations. In this instance, Ben Folds and Nick Hornby shared the stage, co-headlining this special gig, where music and literature intersect. The two discussed their collaboration on recent release Lonely Avenue and performed select songs from the record”the audience couldn’t be more pleased by the intimate engagement. The event, held in New York, raised funds”and awareness”for Housing Works, a non-profit that strives to ensure homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS and their families have adequate housing, food, social support, drug treatment, health care and employment.
While neither singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist nor novelist touched much on the charitable basis of the benefit, their brand names brought fans that packed snugly into the Crosby Street bookstore and café. The sold-out event was attended by 250 people and raised over $10,000.
Producer (and so much more) Moby took a different approach by lending his tunes to a powerful documentary film that is sure to turn heads; Director Lucy Walker’s Waste Land is a transformative exploration of the human spirit. The movie chronicles the everyday lives of poor trash pickers who make their way collecting recyclable materials at the largest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.
Moby, who spoke about his participation in the film at the React to Film screening at SoHo House, said I’ve never been happier to have my music used than in this film. There [are] so many messages. His involvement piggybacks another way in which Moby is giving back. He told attendees, I started a Web site called MobyGratis.com, which gives free music to indie filmmakers. To anybody. He quipped, You can even lie and say you’re an indie filmmaker. He explained the simple process, What I’m particularly happy about [is] now, [when] someone submits a request for a license and we don’t get back to them within two days, it’s pre-approved. Which is great. Free music for everybody! So, while all independent projects may not align with an obvious cause, or multiple causes as Waste Land does, Moby is himself coming to the aid of struggling moviemakers attempting to convey meaning via art.
Moby’s not the only musical wunderkind with a soft spot for significant films. So too, it seems, is John Legend, who lent his vocal acumen to the soundtrack of Waiting For ˜Superman,‘ a film that explores corruption in America’s education system. Says Legend, I was really inspired by the film. I wrote a song for it. It’s the only original song on the new album. At the red carpet premiere at New York’s Lincoln Center a few weeks ago, Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, pointed out, John Legend has been really terrific about these kinds of issues. His voice in this is really important.
Musicians who speak out as, well, “spokesfolks” for important issues deserve recognition too. Take John Mayer for example. He attached himself to the Malaria No More campaign, specifically the Comedy Fights Malaria effort, which uses laughter-inducing videos with major celebrities (Aziz Ansari, Orlando Bloom, Jason Schwartzman) delivering hilarious lines and talking @#$% about the epidemic. In one of the videos, Mayer says, oh-so-seriously, Mosquitoes will tell you they don’t have malaria, but use a net anyway. It’s a clever viral tactic that aims to make an impact and garner attention”and funds”to help wipe the planet clean of this disease. One of Mayer’s songs, Why Georgia, also appears in one of the videos, entitled My Childhood. Prior to this enterprise, the organization released Indie Rocks! A Benefit Album for Malaria No More last year. This 14-track compilation included contributions from Peter Bjorn and John, Wild Light, The Walkmen and eleven others.
Whether through music or using their voices to speak up on behalf of a cause they believe in, be it animal rights (HERE, Paul McCartney) or civil rights (Beautiful Small Machines, Pink), education reform (Lil Mama, John Legend) or the environmental crisis (Green Day, KT Tunstall), curing diseases (Coldplay, John Mayer) or fighting poverty (Metric, Madonna), musicians are ready to be heard for more than just music. From the U2’s of the world right on down to more underground outfits like HERE, artists are making a difference globally and locally through the medium of music or the fame that comes with making great music. So much good is going on in the face of so much mayhem and dismay, it’s almost become a necessary step to success to get involved. At the very least it instills warm fuzzies.
By Nell Alk
Nell Alk is a culture and entertainment reporter based in New York. Her work has appeared in Paper Magazine, InterviewMagazine.com, Zink Magazine and BlackBookMag.com, among others. She also contributes to NBC’s Niteside blog.
Last weekend was the 9th year of The Disco Biscuits self-titled Camp Bisco, a festival heavy on “trancefusion” or “livetronica” music in upstate New York. But one of the great things about musical festivals is that with every passing day a new one starts in completely different areas of the country, catering to completely different genres. This weekend we turn our attention to the world premiere of HullabaLOU, a 3 day festival with 5 stages and over 65 acts held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. As such, the target audience and lineup is a smidge different than last weekend’s consciousness-expanding Camp Bisco.
As with most things, a contributing factor for festivals is location, location, location. Think the vast mountainous hills of Bonnaroo’s home in Manchester, TN, or the sweeping deserts of Indio, CA for Coachella. So it seems only fitting in choosing a Kentucky location for a festival that the famed Churchill Downs racetrack wins out. HullabaLOU goes further back than just trying to bring a festival to the music lovers of Kentucky. The good folks behind the festival, Churchill Downs Entertainment Group, hope to launch HullabaLOU into the Kentucky Derby of music festivals. While not a traditional concert venue, Churchill Downs hosted the Rolling Stones in 2006 and the Police the next year.
While introducing anything new in this economy in the hopes to turn profit is an tricky game, HullabaLOU has a couple cards in their deck that could help ease the transition from new kid on the block to festival mainstay. Specifically, they’re forgoing a the bill chock full of indie and emerging artists for a lineup made up of tried and true headliners, including Bon Jovi, Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews Band.
But where does one get the money to host such hot headliners? Easy. Churchill Downs isn’t simply a field in the middle of no where requiring millions upon millions of dollars of stage construction, equipment, amenities and manpower to carry it all out. HullabaLOU is taking place at a previously established venue that doesn’t require outrageous construction costs. And while most festivals operate on a revenue model of general admission tickets enhanced by VIP upgrades and amenities, Churchill Downs will take advantage of the draw resulted by these headliners by making money off of a huge number of reserved seats in the existing grandstand, supplemented by general admission seats on the infield. Production expenses for HullabaLOU will continue to be mitigated due to the recent installation of lights and electrical feeds at Churchill Downs, after the grounds began hosting racing 6 nights a week this year.
HullabaLOU kicks off tomorrow (July 23rd) with a performance by local veterans Brushfire starting at 1PM on the Bluegrass stage. Friday will also feature performances from Exile, Rick Bartlett’s Rockin’ Soul Revival, Sam Bush, Gloriana, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Colbie Caillat, Train, Gladys Knight, Doobie Bothers and Bon Jovi.
Saturday features artists include Relic, Joan Osborne, John Kay & Steppenwolf, Gov’t Mule, Ben Folds, Sara Evans, Al Green, Huey Lewis and the News, Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney.
Sunday wraps things up with OurStage artists Taddy Porter, Tonic, Justin Moore, The Avett Brothers, The Black Crowes, Loretta Lynn and a trifecta of guy-named bands”Zac Brown Band, Steve Miller Band and Dave Matthews Band.
Ticket prices and admission varies, so be sure to check out all the info on their site.