By Rebecca Luxford

Don't interview the Ben Folds Five when you're tired. If you do, drummer Darren Jessee grabs your tape recorder like Richard Dawson on angel dust and conducts a BFF Family Feud when asked of the band's origins, opening with a seemingly innocent, "Well, what happened was..."

And then he thrusts the mike into the face of bassist Robert Sledge, whose eyes are big as saucers, and he says, "Me and..."

Jessee: "Wrong"

Sledge attempts to continue. "What happened was, me and..."

Folds: "Wrong!"

Jessee: "Wrong!"

Sledge quivers as he continues. "Um...um...we were all skinny-dippin' in the same pool with a buncha chicks -- gimme this! [grabs tape recorder] Thanks," he says, like his mama taught him. "So-me-and-Ben-met-Darren-and-Ben-met-and-we-all-got-together-and-played. It was really, really, really cool, and...thuh end."

Folds who plays piano, looks askance at Sledge, insisting in a Gregory Peck-ish way, "Tell us the true story, Robert."

Sledge trembles, eyes darting. "I don't want to tell it," he whines. "Okay...um..." he says, continuing in a Ronald Reagan-ish voice, "Well! Ben was in New York, and he came down to North Carolina, had met Darren in Nashville, but then ran into Darren in North Carolina..."

Jessee: "...at a coffee shop or something like that..."

Sledge: "...where they got veggie pasta..."

Jessee: "...and I said, 'Hey, let's get together and jam.' And he said..."

Folds: "...'Um, yeah, okay, whatever.'"

Jessee: "So I called him several times a day for about..."

Folds (oblivious to stalking laws): "uh, two days."

"Two days," Jessee repeats. "And then finally we..."

Sledge: (sweating, eyes going in circles): "...um, jammed."

Jessee: "And then Robert came over to my house, although I had the flu, and then all three of us..."

Folds: "...got the flu."

Not the answer Jessee was looking for. "But before the, you know, the flu, we..." He shoves the recorded back into Sledge's face.

Folds: (sotto voice): "...jammed."

Sledge (now trembling): "...jammed?"

"Yes!" Jessee says resuming his Richard Dawson-ish demeanor. "And that was the beginning of what is now known to the world of Islam as Ben Folds Five.

And don't go see them, either, because there are only three of them, and they write hooky songs from audience suggestions, and your face will ache from a persistent, dung-eating grin.

And don't buy their CD, because you'll jump around the house and stuff will fall off your shelves and break.