After reuniting the Ben Folds Five for three new songs on the upcoming compilation "The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective," Folds says a new album from the trio isn't guaranteed -- but is likely.
Folds, who's currently judging the just-launched third season of NBC's "The Sing-Off," tells Billboard.com that he, bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee will head into the studio in December to continue working on ideas they hatched during sessions that yielded their first new material in 11 years for the compilation. "We hit on about 15 ideas," Folds says, "so I'll be writing my ass off and we'll see where it stands. The nice thing about not being on the treadmill anymore as a band is if we go in and it's great, then great. If it's not great, we can check out and come back later."
But, he adds, "There is a little pressure now in that we're telling people we're doing it, so I suppose we'll get in there and feel a need to make it really great."
Folds says the trio came together earlier this year as "a bookend thing to do to make the (retrospective) more interesting, really." But their three days together were prolific, and the songs released on "The Best Imitation of Myself" -- "House," "Tell Me What I Did" and "Stumblin' Home Winter Blues" -- represent just a sample of what the Five was up to. "I just started throwing ideas out there, one after the other, and they were all coming together and sounding like something from another album, like an album in the future," Folds says. "Nothing we were recording or playing in the studio sounded like what we put on the retrospective record. It was too jarring. If they had been on the record, people would be like, 'That's the same band? That doesn't make sense.' So we did these (three) things, and now we're going to move forward. We really found ourselves very interested in making another sound."
Besides the three new Ben Folds Five tracks, "The Best Imitation of Myself," which comes out Oct. 11, spreads 71 songs over three CDs -- one a traditional best-of, a second of live material recorded between 1997-2011 and a third of rarities from 1991-2011, including demos, unreleased tracks, soundtrack contributions and radio performances. "It was really weird because I'm not a big-time looker backer," Folds says. "But the whole thing has a dynamic feel to it. To go through hundreds of hours of recordings...I got a lot of perspective from it, actually, as uncomfortable as it was sometimes. I look back and see that some of those decisions I made were really awesome, and some weren't so good, but it's great to have that clarity "
Folds is predicting "another really great" season for "The Sing-Off," and he's particularly enjoying his new judging partner, Sara Bareilles, along with Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman. "We're having a blast," Folds says. "The three of us are becoming way too naughty up there, like plying up at school. We've got to chill out so we don't have to keep watching our words. Sara is sitting on an electric blanket; they put her in little skirts and red dresses and it's cold as hell in there." Folds is also producing a new EP for Bareilles, which he says they were planning before she was hired for the show.
"She's totally on her game now, and she has no idea," Folds says. "I tell her, 'You're so on. These are great songs,' and she's like, 'Really?' This is going to be really good."