10 Questions with ... Better Than Ezra
November 17, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Kevin Griffin: Guitar & Vocals
- Tom Drummond: Bass
- Drums: Michael Jerome
- James Arthur Payne: Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals (Touring Member)
Better than Ezra formed in New Orleans, LA while the members were attending college at Louisiana State University. They self-released their debut album "Deluxe" on their own "Swell" label in 1993, and were eventually signed to Elektra Records in 1995. Their debut single "Good" reached #1 at Modern Rock which resulted in "Deluxe" eventually going platinum.
Better Than Ezra recently released their eighth album "All Together Now." In addition to "Good," the band has had a string of hits that includes the singles "Rosealia," "In The Blood," "Desperately Wanting," "The King Of New Orleans," "One More Murder," "At The Stars," "Extra Ordinary," "A Lifetime," "Breathless," "Absolutely Still," "Juicy," "Our Last Night," "Just One Day," "Crazy Lucky," and their current release "Gonna Get Better."
1) Please tell us about how you started Better Than Ezra? How did you come up with the name "Better Than Ezra?"
I answered an ad in the LSU newspaper, the Daily Reveille that Kevin and our original drummer had placed looking for a bass player. It was my first semester at college, and I had been in successful bands all through high school. I was really missing being in a band, and I knew after our first rehearsal that this felt different, that it was something special.
We actually had a gig before we had a band name, so it was sorta like, "Hurry up, we gotta come up with something to put on the bill." We chose Better Than Ezra and it strangely stuck. The true meaning is lack luster, and we have found that keeping it hush hush has had far more staying power.
2) How has the band grown since you started?
I think we've all grown as people. I was barely 18 when I joined. Hard to believe now, but I've been in BTE longer than I haven't. I think like anything, as you grow older, hopefully you grow wiser. I think that we've all become better musicians, songwriters and producers. Life happens and it all gets mixed in to the heartbeat of the band.
3) Please tell us what is was like coming up in the New Orleans music scene, and how the music of this city influenced your musical style?
There are not a lot of rock bands considered to be from New Orleans, but there is no doubt that the culture of the city has crept into our music. Music is everywhere here, and you can't help but be influenced by it. What's cool is that mostly it's not rock music, so it gives a cool perspective to those of us who are in more of a rock genre.
4) Please tell us about the thrill of seeing your first single "Good" from your debut album "Deluxe" break through at radio?
What I remember about that time was how busy we were on the road. We were playing 5-7 nights a week. We'd get calls from our friends telling us how MTV was blowing up the video and we hadn't even seen it. I think that initial touring really fortified our fan base and that is the reason why we are still selling out shows nationwide today.
5) What is your favorite Better Than Ezra song to perform and why?
I think that probably changes nightly, but I will say I really do like playing the songs from the new record. I think the band is as tight as it's ever been, and I think the songs and production are as good on this album as they've ever been. So I would probably say "Gonna Get Better" or maybe "Sunflowers."
6) For the hardcore 'Ezralites' who have followed the band for the past 26 years, what is different or surprising about your newest and eighth studio album, "All Together Now?"
For the most part it's tracked live, which is a different approach than the last couple. I feel you get a different thing when you're in a room tracking together knowing every take counts.
7) What are some of the band's favorite artists? What music has been inspiring you through the years? Are there any artists that you would love to work with?
I love more left of center stuff like The Flaming Lips, Cage the Elephant, Bjork. I'd love to work with any one of them just to see what their process is.
8) One of your more unusual recordings was your version of "Conjunction Junction" which you contributed to "Schoolhouse Rock Rocks." How did that come about? Are you ever tempted to play it at shows?
This came hot off our "Deluxe" album's success. They needed a band to cover the lead track and approached us. We jumped at the chance, and it was actually our second drummer, Travis McNabb's first work with us.
9) Thus far, what is a favorite memory that has taken place with the band (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
We've played for President Clinton and Al Gore a couple of times. That was pretty cool. Chelsea and the Gore sisters as well, with a lot of secret service involved which is a bit strange.
10) What are some songs on this album that you are most proud of and excited for people to hear?
I love the vibe of, "The Great Unknown", and I love the raw-ness of "Sunflowers."
I also think "Before You" might be the best ballad Kevin has written.
What has been one of your most-memorable moments during your time with Better Than Ezra?
Playing RFK stadium in Washington DC for HFEST! 70,000 kids rocking out to BTE, quite a rush!