After a 13-year hiatus, Ben Folds Five is back.
The indie rock trio - comprises frontman and keyboardist Ben Folds, bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee - formed in 1994 and worked its way up the charts with songs such as "Army" and the 1997 hit single "Brick." It released its last album, "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner," in 1999 and disbanded the following year.
"We went our separate ways because we all had so many things we wanted to do," Folds said in a behind-the-scenes video on the band's site.
In January 2012, Ben Folds Five assembled at Folds' studio and adopted a simple method of recording, with piano, bass, and drums all within 10 feet of each other in a big room. To allow for complete focus on the music, the band enlisted co-producer Joe Pisapia, who teamed with Folds' longtime studio collaborator, engineer and mixer Joe Costa, behind the board, according to the band's site.
"It felt really nice and organic and, you know, something that we really love to do, just to sort of sit around in this little triangle and play together and sort of improvise our way through song ideas and get really spontaneous kind of rhythm takes and stuff," Sledge said in the video. "And I think, on this album, it has this really sort of spontaneous feel between the three of us."
With the exception of "Hold That Thought," the band figured out much of its newest album, "The Sound of the Life of the Mind," as it went along.
"I come in with partially finished ideas, so we're constantly working on stuff that's theoretical until it's finished," Folds said.
Anyone who grew up listening to the band would recognize its work on its latest album, "The Sound of the Life of the Mind," which was released Sept. 18. The album was a result of a PledgeMusic campaign, a website that allows fans to pledge money toward a band's project. In exchange for pledges, fans receive exclusive content and a copy of the album on its release date and bands can choose to allocate a portion of the donations to charity. Ben Folds Five chose to donate some of its funding to music education and music therapy.
"I think all of us came into it with the assumption that it would take a lot of work to get back into the groove of things as a band and we just started playing and it sounded kind of perfect automatically and it really made us remember like, 'Oh, yeah, we play really well together," Sledge said in a Billboard.com video released on the day the album made its debut.
"It's almost like it wasn't a decision to get back together, it was just an evolution, it just happened, I don't know," he said. "When you do something new, when you're first starting, part of what is exciting and new and young about it is if you've never done it before. We didn't go into this record to sort of relive the magic and imitate in any way what we had done before."
"The Sound of the Life of the Mind" is seamlessly arranged, and each song has its own sound that draws from various genres. "Michael Praytor, Five Years Later" has some standout drumming, "Draw A Crowd" has a simple, catchy riff, "Thank You For Breaking My Heart" is a waltz and "Do It Anyway" showcases Ben Folds' energy on the ivories that fans expect.
"There's a robot on the front of the record. And this lyric, as I was writing the lyrics to this song, had robots all in it and at the last minute I took out the robots and it made it a lot more earnest and it didn't have to be a robot metaphor anymore because I hate robot metaphors," Folds said of "Thank You For Breaking My Heart." "They're so worn out. Especially in a love song."
Ben Folds Five will play the South Shore Room at Harrah's Lake Tahoe Saturday, Feb. 2, one of the band's last three tour stops in North America before it heads to Japan.