Better Than Ezra Biography
"We have never revealed it, even under duress," says front man Kevin Griffin. "We just said, 'Why don't we just keep it a secret, and that will be our one little publicity stunt.' As a result, there's a couple of books out there about the origin of band names. U2 or Rolling Stones will have a paragraph dedicated to them, and then there's like a page and a half on the origins of Better Than Ezra, which is just hilarious."
While the band name remains a well-kept secret for now, the seemingly mysterious title of Better Than Ezra's latest project, Paper Empire, speaks right to the heart of a world asking a lot of questions and ultimately discovering the things worth holding onto.
"I was drawn to that phrase "Paper Empire,' Kevin explains. "It seemed apropos given the current economic woes and where we are right now. Most of these institutions in your life -- whether it's love, relationships, your belief system, religious convictions, or politics -- are pretty fragile when it comes down to it. There's a really precarious nature to everything that you hold dear in your life. If you recognize that, you're more likely to do a better job taking care of it."
The future of Better Than Ezra may have seemed a bit precarious to their fans who've been waiting for new material from the band since 2005's Before the Robots. While that project spawned BTE's radio hits "A Lifetime" and "Juicy," the guys felt a need to recharge their creative batteries after the tour behind that album was finished. Lead singer Kevin Griffin took time to pen tunes for other artists including David Cook, Howie Day and Blondie while bassist Tom Drummond was busy producing other musicians in the band's native New Orleans. In late 2007, Kevin got the urge to fire up what he calls the "Better Than Ezra thing" and start recording his own material again.
"It happened really organically and when a song was good, it got recorded," Kevin explains. "We didn't feel that pressure to do it all in a two week blast. We took a year and a half. So, I think as a result, the songs on the album are the cream of the crop that stood the test of time in the editing process to make the album."
The fruit of that recording method is highlighted in Paper Empire's first single "Absolutely Still.” Marked with Kevin's knack for creating an infectious melody and a meaty lyric, the tune also encapsulates how fragile a love affair can really be.
"'Absolutely Still' is about when you're with someone, and you have those fleeting moments of clarity when everything is right between the two of you, and you can block out all the chaos and noise outside. You don't have to say anything and everything is understood. Before it all goes wrong, there are all those perfect moments of bliss."
While the driving, uptempo rhythm of "Absolutely Still" and the second-chance anthem "Just One Day" will cover familiar territory for BTE fans, Paper Empire contains a few musical detours most evident in the stoned childhood reflection of "Black Light" or the New Orleans gospel strains of "The Loveless."
"I think the reason we've been able to stick around as long as we have is that we're all bringing in new influences into the band. Whether I'm listening to a Friendly Fires album or MGMT or the new Raconteurs, you're gonna hear that in our music. The sound has always kind of changed as we've changed, but I think that's why we continue to have success and every album as a couple of songs that do well at radio. We stick around. It's gotta be interesting and challenging to us if we're gonna keep doing it."
Another vital influence to Better Than Ezra's ever-evolving sound is the group's newest member Michael Jerome on drums. Boasting a very accomplished resume (John Cale, Richard Thompson), Michael brings a nuanced yet powerful drumming style to the BTE sound.
"Some drummers are at the back of the beat, and really in the pocket and all about the feel. That's the way Michael is," Kevin says. "He's also a very muscular drummer as well. Being a three piece band, everybody's really gotta hold their own. Michael does that with aplomb."
Fans can witness Michael's drumming prowess when Better Than Ezra hits the road in support of Paper Empire. Bred in the southern college circuit that produced R.E.M. and The B-52's before them, BTE has made a point of putting on a surprising, high-energy live show every time they hit the stage.
"You can never accuse Better Than Ezra of being a shoegazer band. Our show is a lot of fun, and it's entertaining, whether we're getting people onstage to play our instruments or I'm using a digital sampler out in the crowd to sample phrases people are saying to me and then mix it into a song, There's usually something different that we're gonna do in addition to a different set list every night when you come and see us. That's our mantra -- we put on a great show."
Better Than Ezra Bio from Discogs
The band originally consisted of 4 members, vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Sadly the death of Joel Rundell, guitar, brought about a hiatus and from then on the band has only had three members.
Kevin Griffin - Vocals, Guitar
Tom Drummond - Bass, Backing Vocals
Michael Jerome - Drums (Since 2009)
Travis McNabb - Drums (1996-2009)
Cary Bonnecaze - Drums (1988-1995)
Joel Rundell - Rhythm, Lead Guitarist (1988-1990)