Ben Folds on the Demise of Ben Folds Five
We don’t do music much here, but I will always use an excuse to talk about Ben Folds, who is not only one of my favorite artists, but someone I always equate with this site: A place that’s probably (hopefully) gonna hum along at a low rumble for years, but that’s never gonna get big because we’re just not into the hit-song writing business.
Anyway, over on Uproxx — which is a huge site — pal Jason Tabrys had a chance to talk to Ben Folds about visiting Cuba and the legacy of Whatever And Ever Amen, the album that briefly made Ben Folds Five a popular 90’s band. Folds — who I frequently listen to on podcasts, even though he is a terrible podcast guest, because all he wants to do is talk about process — spoke candidly on the demise of Ben Folds Five, which may have actually been hastened by the success of “Brick.”
Here’s what Folds said when Jason asked him if he felt any pressure to follow up “Brick” with another “Brick.”
No, because we weren’t gonna do it. That was never a concern of mine. We weren’t gonna go, ‘Oh well, there’s a temptation to do that,’ because it didn’t matter. We knew we were letting a lot of people down when we made the next record when there was no “Brick” on it. We didn’t write one — it didn’t make sense.
Honestly, I don’t think we really cared. We felt both the critical and the commercial feedback of the next record, Reinhold Messner, and realized that we were gonna be that band who sold half the number of records every time out from then on, and that we were done. And it wasn’t nice to go out and tour under those circumstances and have that feeling and be leaving promoters bummed out because we were only half-selling sh*t.
We were doing the one hit thing, we were just like ‘F*ck that.’ That’s not really what we wanted to do, but it wouldn’t have occurred to us to go, ‘Oh, you know, we can avert this by writing ‘Brick: Part Two,” it actually didn’t even occur to us.
I remember, in hindsight, someone had said, ‘You should’ve put drums in the song ‘Magic,” which was a song that was on the Reinhold record. It kinda sounded like a hit afterwards and we just realized, this didn’t even occur to us. It wasn’t even like, ‘Oh, you know what, they want this and we can do that, and that would make it.’ It just never entered the brain. So I think collectively, as a trio, we were just a little half-life’d and it peaked on Whatever.
I dunno! I still think their first album was the best, and while I don’t think they needed to follow Whatever up with another album of “hits” to maintain their popularity, Messner was kind of a mess. It just didn’t connect; it felt contrarian. The irony is, much of — if not most — of Folds’ solo albums sound more like Whatever than Messner, which is to say: I think he could have avoided being half-life’d if they’d skipped Messner and jumped straight into Rockin’ the Suburbs as a trio, because that had another “Brick” on it (“The Luckiest”).
Bygones, I suppose, because it all turned out great for Darren (who is playing in an obscure (but good) band called “Hotel Lights”) and Robert, who is teaching music lessons in Chapel Hill.
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