The West

Back in the Fold with Ben
Ben Folds Five. Picture Supplied.

The three members of Ben Folds Five did not share a recording studio for 13 years but the Chapel Hill, North Carolina band has reunited and new album The Sound of the Life of the Mind proves it was worth the effort.

Despite being together for six years and three full-length albums after forming in 1994, the trio managed to make a grand impression with their piano-led symphonic indie-rock.

In particular, second album Whatever and Ever Amen, released in 1997, made serious inroads thanks to the hit ballad Brick - an anthem for the post-Nirvana 90s.

Third and final studio album The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner spawned the radio hit Army. The band agreed to call it a day in 2000.

Frontman Ben Folds continued to make music as a solo artist in the years that followed but it wasn't until 2008 that he reunited with the original members, bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee, for a one-off concert in their hometown.

"We always had chemistry as a band," Folds says as he steps out of a deli in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives, to take this call. "We have grown and matured but seem to have done it at a rate that is complementary to each other. There wasn't one of us who thought it would be a good idea to create an old record. We had already done that, those were already made and you can listen to those records anytime you want.

"We wanted to create something new that felt right in that moment."

The Sound of the Life of the Mind was paid for via US online crowd-funding platform PledgeMusic, which sees artists and fans work together with charities to create albums.

As a result, some of the proceeds of this record will assist a charity chosen by the band to help those in need with music education and therapy. "I don't like to brag about my albums when they come out," explains Folds, who lived in Adelaide with former wife Frally Hynes in the early 2000s.

The father of six-year-old twins says when the band reunited in 2008, the memebers soon started thinking about making music again.

"It really is a natural coming together and it felt right," Folds says. "We knew we wanted to do something back then but it could only happen when our schedules allowed for it. That meant it wasn't until 2012 that it could happen."

The new album begins with Erase Me, a song that hints at a relationship split - he's had his share, being four times married - while Draw Something is a light-hearted disco-funk number.

On Being Frank delivers a direct message. First single, Do It Anyway, comes with a positive message and a video co-starring the Fraggles.

"I don't think I could have made this album years ago. There's something that only happens when enough time passes," Folds says. "It was meant to be this way."

The Sound of the Life of the Mind is out today. Ben Folds Five play the Fremantle Arts Centre on November 14. Tickets from Oztix outlets.

The West Australian

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