Oh, that Ben Folds. Always with the tomfoolery, shenanigans, shenanigoats, monkey business and melancholy ballads about death, heartbreak, abortion and the passage of time. The piano-pounding funster has done it again: a few short years after he produced and performed on William Shatner's shockingly well-received comeback album Folds is once again stretching creatively in a "is he for real?" kind of way by Executive-Producing an album of college students singing a ca pella versions of his songs.
The Office's Andy Bernard and Here Comes Treble are undoubtedly aquiver with anticipation over this development. The project, to be titled, Ben Folds Presents: University A Capella, will be released on April 28th. Some of the groups featured will open for Folds on tour. Astonishingly, this means that being part of a college a capella group might actually help people get laid for the first time in recorded history.
Here's the press release with the complete 411:
BEN FOLDS PRESENTS: UNIVERSITY A CAPPELLA! TO BE RELEASED APRIL 28th
Epic Records is excited to announce the release of BEN FOLDS PRESENTS: UNIVERSITY A CAPPELLA! on April 28, 2009. Amazed to discover the large amount of colleges that have very active a cappella groups on campus across the country (1,200 in the US alone), and, on top of this, how many of them love to cover his songs, Folds decided to A&R and produce a record gathering the best of these performances.
When word got out, the response was tremendous and resulted in 250 videos on YouTube. Folds would come off stage every night and spend hours pouring over these entries, ultimately choosing 15 groups to record. Ben, his wife Fleur, and his engineer Joe Costa packed up their equipment, and hopped on planes, trains and automobiles to record these groups. Over 2 months, they set up camp in dorm lounges, lecture halls and campus television studios. They even recorded in a Synagogue. Also wanting to involve students from other areas of campus life in these sessions, at each one Folds invited a student photographer and videographer to document the recording. After reviewing the footage captured, Ben then invited one of the student videographers - Jason Harper from Princeton University - to compile each school's footage into one documentary of the entire project.
No matter where the recording was to take place, the makeshift studio was simple: six area mics. It was a bold aesthetic choice for the project. In recent years, tools like Auto-Tune and overdub have become as prevalent in collegiate a cappella recording as on major label albums. But Folds wanted to capture what these groups actually sounded like in performance. The team allotted four hours for each session. Most groups nailed the recording in two.
Not to be outdone by the undergraduates, Folds recorded two of his own a cappella tracks: instrument-free versions of "Effington" (from his 2008 album "Way to Normal") and "Boxing," which originally appeared on the 1995 self-titled Ben Folds Five album. About recording his own two a cappella songs, Folds says, "It took f**king longer than four hours. I can tell you that much. I have a greater appreciation now for the university groups."
Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella! comes at an interesting time. After all, a cappella jokes have featured prominently on NBC's "The Office" and in big-budget movies like "The Break-Up," to name a few. Also, in May of 2008 Gotham Books published Pitch Perfect, a book written by GQ senior editor Mickey Rapkin that is a behind-the-scenes look at the bizarre, inspiring and hilarious world of competitive collegiate a cappella.
Summarizing the coast-to-coast endeavor, Folds stresses, "This is not a novelty. I consider this my new record. I'm incredibly proud of this. If this were Ben World, this would be my greatest hits album. I'd rather this be my greatest hits record than someone collecting my masters and slapping on a photo of me leaning against a piano. This is a better way. I'm a songwriter, and these are my songs."
Look for many of the a cappella groups to open up for Folds on many of his upcoming tour dates. A complete list of tour dates is posted at http://www.benfolds.com orhttp://www.myspace.com/benfolds.
BEN FOLDS PRESENTS: UNIVERSITY A CAPPELLA! - TRACKLISTING:
1. NOT THE SAME - The Spartones from Greensboro, NC.
Arranged by Chris Juengel / Recorded in Swain Hall (UNC - Chapel Hill)
2. JESUSLAND - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Loreleis
Arranged by Emily Riehl and Marianne Cheng / Recorded in Swain Hall (UNC - Chapel Hill)
3. BRICK -The Ohio University Leading Tones
Arranged by Brian Powers / Ohio University School of Music's Recital Hall
4. YOU DON'T KNOW ME - The University of Georgia's With Someone Else's Money
Arranged by Jonathan Sparks / Recorded in Ben's studio
5. STILL FIGHTING IT - Washington University in St. Louis's Mosaic Whispers
Arranged by: Mark Partridge / Recorded in the 560 Music Building - Recital Hall (Washington University)
6. BOXING - Ben Folds
Arranged by Ben Folds / Recorded in Ben's studio
7. SELFLESS, COLD, AND COMPOSED - The Sacramento State Jazz Singers
Arranged by Kerry Marsh / Recorded in Capistrano Hall, Jazz Rehearsal Room (Sacramento State)
8. MAGIC - The University of Chicago's Voices In Your Head
Arranged by Chris Rishel / Recorded in Chris Rishel's living room
9. LANDED - The University of Colorado Buffoons
Arranged by Misha Levental / Recorded at Coupe Studios
10. TIME - The Princeton Nassoons
Arranged by Jonathan Schwartz / Recorded in Mathey College Common Room (Princeton University)
11. EFFINGTON - Ben Folds
Arranged by Ben Folds / Recorded in Ben's studio
12. EVAPORATED - The Newtones from Newton, MA
Arranged by Joel Esher / Recorded in Wellesley Chapel (Wellesley College)
13. FRED JONES PART 2 - The West Chester University of Pennsylvania Gracenotes
Arranged by Courtney Park / Recorded in Mathey College Common Room (Princeton University)
14. ARMY - The University of Rochester Midnight Ramblers
Arranged by Brad Hartman & Dan Gross / Recorded in Havens Lounge, Wilson Commons (University of Rochester)
15. FAIR - University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire's Fifth Element
Arranged by Joe Holtan / Recorded in Masters Recording Institute's Studio A
16. THE LUCKIEST - The Washington University in St. Louis Amateurs
Arranged by: Joe Argus / Recorded in the 560 Building ballroom (Washington University)