When we posted a YouTube stream of “You Don’t Know Me,” Ben Folds’s sitcom-ready duet with Regina Spektor, we also linked to a paragraph at Wikipedia that mentioned the “leaked” version of Way To Normal floating around could, in fact, be “an elaborate joke” by Ben himself. This has now been confirmed by Folds in an interview with Rolling Stone. Short version: Six of the songs you heard aren’t real. Well, they exist, but they aren’t on the record. Unfortunately, “Hiroshima” wasn’t part of the gag:
Singer-songwriter Ben Folds responded to the inevitable leak of his forthcoming album Way To Normal in a unique way: he leaked it himself. Only the songs weren’t real — he spent eight hours recording “fake” versions of six tracks during a late-night Dublin, Ireland session in early July, then let friends work their magic on the Web.
“You see so many rock bands in the studio and it’s serious, serious business,” the 42-year-old singer-pianist tells Rolling Stone. “They got the making-of camera up their ass the whole time and they’re on the BlackBerry the other half of the time. I just think that we all need to remember how to have fun.”
The self-leak idea came during an early July flight to Europe with drummer Sam Smith and bassist Jared Reynolds (the trio were traveling as part of a year-long tour that includes 15 dates in the fall; Way To Normal hits stores September 30th). Folds says the group rented studio time with nine joke songs in eight hours as the goal. They finished six at the pace of Sixties studio musicians and had a blast.
“The word ‘fake’ came up when we started doing it and it takes all the responsibility out,” he explains. “You can just be free to write and let it go.” Some of the session went a little too well, though. Folds really likes “Bitch Went Nutz” — a song told from the narrative perspective of an ignorant ex-boyfriend — and is now hosting it on his MySpace page.
“They sound like roughs because they haven’t been worked over and ruined like everything else that gets released these days,” Folds says. “I figured a lot of people would get it and a lot of people wouldn’t, but that’s the way it is with my music in general.”
For the record the real singles are the aforementioned “Hiroshima” and “You Don’t Know Me” plus “a piano-and-orchestra version of real song ‘Cologne.'” Folds goes on to give a full-on track-by-track comparison of the real vs. the fake songs, with accompanying audio for both versions when applicable (“The album is called Way To Normal, there is no real song called that”) at RS. And, as mentioned in the above excerpt, you can listen to “Bitch Went Nutz” here. Remember when he spoke with Paste about one version of that track? Elaborate shenanigans, Ben.
Way To Normal is out 9/30 on Epic.