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The Bens: Folds, Kweller, Lee Team Up For Side Project

The Donnas have nothing on the Bens.

The three members really are named Ben, and you may have heard of them: Ben Folds, Ben Kweller and Ben Lee.

The solo singers officially became a group, or at least a side project, when they recorded four songs together in Nashville last month.

“There’s some new wave on there, a piano ballad that Folds sings, a countryish song,” Kweller said Saturday backstage at Coachella. “It’s just all three of us writing songs; there’s not any one particular sound. It’s all three of us singing, big harmonies.”

After the three-day studio session, the trio spent a week touring together in Australia. The Bens will likely hit the road again this summer when the EP is released via their individual Web sites and indie record stores.

The group came together with the help of another solo singer – no, not another Ben, but Evan Dando. “The first time I met him, he said, ‘You have to meet my buddy Ben Lee, you guys are going to hit it off,'” Kweller said of Dando, who helped the former Radish singer launch a solo career. “So at [Dando’s] wedding, he had me sit next to him and it was sort of like a blind date. And then Ben Lee introduced me to Ben Folds later.”

For now the Bens project is just for fun, since Folds is recording his second post-Ben Folds Five studio album and Australia’s Lee is working on material with Dan “the Automator” Nakamura.

Kweller, in the meantime, is still busy promoting Sha Sha, his second solo effort and first for Dave Matthews’ ATO Records. After releasing the Weezer-like rock tunes “Wasted & Ready” and “How It Should Be (Sha Sha)” as the first two singles, he’s dropping the piano-pop song “Falling” to show another side of his album.

“A lot of those songs are really autobiographical, all about change and leaving your parents’ house for the first time and growing up in this, like, crazy city and being really scared and intimidated but at the same time being really inspired and looking forward to tomorrow,” Kweller said of New York-centric Sha Sha. ” ‘Falling’ was the epitome of what I was going through, sort of trying to convince yourself you’re not falling when you really are. It’s a really optimistic record, though. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but you don’t care. You just have to give it your best.”

Kweller, who left Monday for a Japanese tour but will return in time for June 13’s Bonnaroo Music Festival, has already written 16 songs for his next album, which he plans to record in August.

“I just sing what comes in my head, like stream of consciousness,” Kweller said. “It’s better when you don’t think about it, sort of like freestyling. The [songs] tell the future. It’s cool.”

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