Ben Folds Five 4/26 “airplane blog”
5/4/12 Update: Ben Folds posted the 1st sneak peak (full track, free mp3 download) from the upcoming Ben Folds Five record… “Do It Anyway” http://bit.ly/IR7qg1
Ben Folds posted the following “airplane blog” last night on Facebook about the work they’ve done on the upcoming Ben Folds Five record… lots of news and insight…
I’m writing this on a plane. I tweeted that I wanted to blog and most responses were – blog about the new album. Fine, I’ll start there. I won’t correct grammar or spelling so hopefully we’ll all deal. I’m typing as fast as I can… and I type damn fast if I do say so myself. I just screw up a lot….
The album started in January. We just started playing and recorded shitloads of stuff.
A way that I often wrote for us was to just sit and imagine what kind of sound, song, sentiment, arrangement I’d like to hear us do. It’s easy to imagine because we have a very distinct style of playing together that was pretty much writ in stone from our first rehearsal on. There were a couple of breakthroughs back in the day… Eddie Walker was one. We figured out some tonal stuff – the floor tom ride with lots of AAAHS and fuzz bass on the chorus was a defining technique for instance.
On the new album we’ve discovered quite a few new things like that. We’re tonally a few steps into the future. I remember when bands all had a ‘sound’. I know that sounds like a total old man thing to say, but hey if the orthopedic shoe fits… You know, a band that just set up their shit, played in the corner and just had a fresh sound. I’m not saying there’s no style today, just that plugging in and working with what you have makes you work hard to find a sound… okay. I’m rambling but that’s what I promised to do in the blog.
So we played hours of stuff on tape and it was inspired. Quite insane. I got little sleep for weeks as I had idea after idea on how to make these sounds into songs. I’d spend the mornings at the piano and then the guys would come in. It was a burst. We began on Pro Tools with the idea of moving off when we started recording ‘for real’ but we saw no advantage of moving over as we were only using the Tools as a tape deck anyway and were enjoying the freedom of being able to record more than a fifteen minutes of music at a time.
We set up in my studio in the same room with a little baffling, but without the interest in separation. In other words, for engineers, we welcomed bleed.
Lyrically it began to take shape quickly and we were much richer in ideas and material than any of the albums we did together. We were supporting each other, trying each idea instead of poo poo-ing each other’s creativity. It was a pretty amazing experience. UNTIL…
We ran out of time because I had stuff to do, Darren had a Hotel Lights tour and Robert’s son is too young to leave for too long. So we stopped and that’s where we are.
The lyric stuff. Loss of ego. That emerged as a theme. Ways to lose the ego. Funny thing is that I didn’t realize that each of those ego losing songs would be failures. I mean, each character who aspired to do so only succeeds for a short time and then the ego comes back. I guess that’s the way it works in real life. Anyway… for instance…. Being Frank. That’s a song on the album. It’s kind of historical fiction in a way. Certainly when Frank Sinatra died, he had a tour manager and let’s say that tour manager was with him his whole career. Decades. When Frank passed the tour manager might have realized that he’d spent most of his adult life setting the thermostat for someone else, eating his leftovers, essentially trying to think like Frank to anticipate his needs. Frank’s death would have been a crisis but an exciting one. How to be yourself when someone you’re attached to is gone. What kind of coffee do you like, who are you really? But then I started to realize that that tour manager would have wanted to take some credit for Frank’s career. He suggested THAT lyric or that TV show etc. Frank was really being HIM. Loss of ego, failure.
Other songs titles… Erase Me. Do It Anyway. The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind (that’s Nick Hornby’s lyric and my music). Sky High (beautifully written Darren song). We really spent quite a bit of production time on Sky High. It warranted it. You know that 10cc trick where they looped vocals, unison AHHHs and assigned each note to a fader on the console? Then they play the console like it’s a keyboard using the faders. We did that. Nobody does that and they should. It’s not “copying” 10cc… it’s recognizing that they invented an instrument. We play that instrument on Sky High. I’ll put up video of that. It’s kinda interesting.
What else… I’ve had a chorus that goes “If you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on the wall” for quite a while. Since Reinhold era. It had different melodies, but I always liked the idea. When someone wants attention and they don’t get it, often we do something really stupid or even destructive. The song is Draw A Crowd. It’s partially silly and partially deep. Many will latch on to the silly part and give me shit for it and maybe when they grow up they’re get the other part. If not, oh well. It’s okay. I like Kesha songs and some people don’t.
We’ll get back together in June. We kinda fucked up. We meant to finish the album and then do gigs. But we’re doing a few festivals and will be paddling ferociously between those gigs to finish our album. That’s alright. Deadlines are good.
I suppose the album should come out in September and we do not want to release it traditionally at all. I’m all into traditional record releases but for this one… I want to avoid ass kissing. It’s not healthy. I think we’re going to pass on radio promo and on most advance press. No sending it out for reviews etc. We’ll just let you know through Twitter and Facebook that it’s coming out. That’s the idea, and we’ll see how that goes. Maybe we’ll adjust our thinking. Just seems like such a musical experience I hate to be in the position of selling it to people who don’t care. I’d rather spend my time telling people who DO care and save the money and time. Sell fewer records probably to those who want it. That leaves more time to make new records and tour. Less ass kissing, more music and life. A good theory… we’ll see… lemme know what you think of that theory.
What else can I tell you. If you’re a Robert fan, you’ll shit. He’s better than ever and we’ve grown into knowing how to put him up front and letting him do what he does. Darren is playing lyrically as ever, like a fine jazz drummer – cymbals are gorgeous and he doesn’t give a damn so every once in a while he just makes a mockery of every drum fill you’ve ever heard but does it twice as crazy and makes it mean something. It’s quite damn amazing. Look out for what he does on a song called Michael Praytor. That song comes from a ‘rock this bitch’ partially. I’d always liked the melody but it comes to life with Robert and Darren in a way I never expected. Its a song about how some people just come back and back into your life whether you like it or not. You don’t choose them, they just show up.
There you go. I’ll do another blog now. The record pops out of the speakers and I’m finding myself wondering if we should tone it down. Nope. I think it’ll be just fine.