Better Than Ezra Biography
Coming soon are biographies on the individual band members. Below is a listing of the major events that have shaped Better Than Ezra and its members into the popular modern-rock band that they are.
13-year-old singer/guitarist Kevin Griffin's high school rock outfit Aces Up wins a "battle of the bands" kind of affair. First prize: The band gets to record its own 45 ("Seek, Find, Destroy" b/w a cover of Kiss' "Cold Gin").
Playing music throughout his formative years, Kevin finds himself at LSU in Baton Rouge without a band. He meets up with Cary Bonnecaze, late of Reality Patio, a band that had achieved a modicum of local status by signing to 688 Records. The trio is rounded out by a bass player so awful they put off the formation of the band for a year.
Kevin and Cary are reunited when they go on a double date with twin sisters. 17-year-old Tom Drummond is the first to answer their "Bass Player Wanted" ad. They begin to "mold him into the rock star he is today."
Better Than Ezra
"It's a long story," Kevin says. "And one that always lets people down whenever we finally tell them what it means. Trust me, it's better left unsaid." One guess found on the band's web page: From p.78 of Hemingway's A Movable Feast: "Anything was better than Ezra learning to play the bassoon..." The band plays its first gig at Murphy's, a Baton Rouge club where Kevin was working at the time. He fabricates the band's name and identity to fill an open night on the club's calendar. Subsequently, the band is good enough that his boss doesn't fire him when he is inevitably found out on stage.
Armed with a five-song cassette and an almost completely fictitious bio/resume, Better Than Ezra heads up to Boston and proceeds to play every club in town. The band practices in its apartment, working on songs that eventually become its self-made-and-manufactured debut, Surprise.
Better Than Ezra returns to Louisiana. Makes money playing bars, parties, frat houses, etc... in any town in driving distance for any offer covering gas money. "There is no substitute for just getting in a van and going, playing night in/night out," says Griffin. "It's the only way to become a tight band."
Surprise cassette is "released," i.e. sold on consignment to stores in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Tennessee. 6,000 are initially manufactured and quickly sell out. Kevin graduates from LSU. Band hits the road full time.
Original rhythm guitar player Joel Rundell passes away. "When that happened, I just wanted to get out of Baton Rouge," Griffin recalls. "You're 20, you're out touring in a band, partying and suddenly you've lost a close friend. "I think we were intelligent enough to see that there was a plateau there, the possibility of stagnation. Bar band purgatory was just around the corner." Kevin moves to Santa Fe and Tom and Cary enroll at LSU as Better Than Ezra go on indefinite hiatus.
Kevin moves to Aspen, playing half-original/half-cover acoustic sets for a living. He continues to receive letters from Better Than Ezra's friends and fan club. Finally, in December, he, Cary and Tom are coaxed into reuniting. Better Than Ezra plays its first show as a three-piece at Murphy's that month.
The trio plays every so often. The songs that will become the Deluxe album begin to take shape.
"The thoughts that go through everyone's heads: Do I keep playing music? Get into the music business? Whatever..." Kevin relocates to Los Angeles. "A really miserable time." On a lark, he sends a 4-track tape of 12 songs to a local mag that surprisingly runs a review that even more surprisingly attracts calls from several records company types.
The other two Ezra's are convinced to make the move the LA. Cohabiting once more, they play a disastrous "showcase" ("the world yawned"), play considerably better shows at Cafe Largo in the Fairfax district, and start recording demos at friend Dan Rothchild's home studio. Kevin: "Due to the studio size we had to mic the guitar amps from our '82 Dodge van parked two stories below. I guess the sonic qualities of shag carpeting were such that we got these great guitar tones." The demos will become Deluxe.
Deluxe is released on Better Than Ezra's own Swell Records, complete with artwork by the band. Album release party is held at the Varsity in Baton Rouge.
The band plays Austin's South By South West music festival/convention. Deluxe has sold in excess of 12,000 CD's independently. Sales and radio numbers steadily increasing. Contracts are being waved.
Better Than Ezra plays the CMJ convention in New York City. Deluxe breaks 30,000. By year's end, deejays are going out and buying copies of Deluxe to satisfy requests.
Better Than Ezra strikes a deal with Elektra to "lease" Deluxe from the band's Swell Records. "Good" is a hit. Within six months, Deluxe goes from 50,000 to 500,000. "'Good's success had its downside," Griffin says. "People who didn't know our history thought we were just another pop hit band. Nothing could be further from the truth. In one article, we were called an 'MTV confection' and in another we were lumped in with a bunch of bands who'd 'never spent one day on the road in an unheated van.' The 'Good' video wasn't even made until after the song was a radio hit. The same thing happened with 'In The Blood,' which proved itself at radio before MTV ever played it."
Spring 1995 - Winter 1996
Better Than Ezra tours and tours and tours. Develops its own mailing list numbering more that 10,000 ("Ezra-lites"), sends out an exclusive Christmas tape to each fan on said list. Shortly thereafter the band replaces Cary. Kevin: "It was mutually agreed that in order to remain friends, we needed to part ways." Long time friend and New Orleans native, Travis McNabb joins the band. "He's just peachy," quips Tom Drummond.
Better Than Ezra records its major label debut, friction, baby. "We wanted to record a big overblown, self gratuitous album and I think we did. But we got more... a lot more."
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Better than ever | Reviewer: Rene Lester Loftin | 3/15/09
I am from a small town called Oak Grove, La. Knew this little kid named Keven Griffen. To make a story short, I was older and moved away to go to college and started my life. I heard of this Group BTZ, but I never really took the time( with raising kids and all) to listen.....Last night they were in Bossier and I went, and I was blown away..Kevin is an amazing singer and has a amazing talent. I haven't seen him in many years, but I knew him at first site. Still got the baby face..... My daughter has been telling me this for years...I am so glad I went and saw BTE!!!!! I will go back!!!!! Would love to see you you guys when the weather is a little more warm....frooze our ass off...
Whould you be willing to come to Moscow? | Reviewer: Luda Foresman | 2/16/08
Dear Kevin! My name is Luda Foresman, my husband is Bob Foresman. We do live in Moscow since 1999. The last time we were at your concert in Syracuse in December 1998, and of course, Bob wanted to see you after show, but I was a week away from giving birth to our son Alex (who was born as 10.10lb baby on December 20th), so I could not stay there that late. I feel very bad that we missed a chance back then to see you. I understand that it is not easy to see someone when you are busy up on stage... Since then our family grow a lot, and we have five children now. We love your music and a lot of my friends from different countries asking me for CDs, I play it in my car a lot. Bob and two of his other friends are planning relativly big party this September in Moscow. It would be incredible if you could come. What would it take for you to come? PLease, let me know. Thank you, Luda.
A band as unique as their hometown of New Orleans... | Reviewer: Bernie Halprin | 1/17/08
I have been a HUGE BTE fan for many years, dating back to my college days at LSU. BTE actually played an Acacia fraternity formal, which I mention to illustrate that these guys did not achieve stardom overnight. Quite the contrary, they persevered and paid their dues, which has subsequently rewarded them in a big way. Their music and lyrics are truly a work of art, with each song being the equivalent of an individual tapestry. A bonafide masterpiece. BTE's brilliance is evidenced by the fact that their songs don't all sound alike. Of course with Kevin Griffin's magically distinct vocals, when he wails you know you are listening to BTE. That aspect aside, the band's songlist runs the gamut from pure rock tracks like " Desperately Wanting" and " Good" to ballads such as " This Time of Year". When they really want to unleash their inner-hard rock side, the band will break into a track like " Pull". Being a New Orleanian is a huge advantage for a true BTE fan like myself, as they play several dates at the brilliant House of Blues each year, with each and every show a sell-out. The crowd enjoys a wonderful and somewhat intimate connection with this magnificent three-piece. Whenever Kevin, Tom and Travis take the stage at HOB in NOLA, the crowd breaks into a frenzy that will remain intact until the final song of the encore.
As if BTE's musical contributions are not enough, it turns out that these are three very nice guys. Good solid citizens. Their BTE Foundation hosts a charity golf tournament each year, with proceeds always pointed to worthwhile causes. Plus the guys are big-time LSU fans, which should underscore that they always love a good party.
BTE is one-of-a-kind. Their talents are extraordinary ( also the name of a hit track of theirs) so catch these guys live whenever you can. Take it from a true music fan like myself...you won't regret it!
BEST BAND EVER | Reviewer: vash | 7/6/07
From the first song i've heard to the last, i've liked every lyric. PLease, kevin create another album soon, i'm dying to hear a new album from you guys.
The songs CLOSER, LIKE IT LIKE THAT,DAYLIGHT, BREATHELESS, KING OF NO, SINCERELY ME, AMERICAN DREAM, EXTRAORDINARY, GET YOU IN, OUR LAST NIGHT and all of your songs are the best in the world.
PLEASE make more music.
they are just awesome | Reviewer: brittnay | 6/9/07
better than ezra has been my favorite band for a long time. I love how each song has a different feel to it. The guys work really well writing songs, I just wish that I was able to walk into a store and be able to buy their albums. I walked into the stores on the release date of Before the Robots, and asked if the store had any in stock and they said that they had never heard of the band.
Ezralite | Reviewer: jess | 12/7/05
I'm a huge fan of BTE. The songs are so easy to get into, and relate well to anyone who digs lyrics. There is a different sound to many of the songs, and there is no set "genre" for the guys to fit into.
Personally, I started with "how does your garden grow?", bought "closer" and then worked my way back through previous albums. I've got to say I haven't been disappointed by anything they've released (only that BTE doesn't release enough of their rare songs).
Again, I'm a huge fan.
strangely familiar | Reviewer: clare haeuser | 11/6/05
heyy my name is clare haeuser
I live in Covington Louisiana.
Better then Ezra became my favorite band when i was about 8 years old.
My uncle, bennett Murphy had given my mom a cd of all of his music, including some of yalls music, and i fell completely in love wiht it.
Then i started reading biogrophies on the band and i learned that yall had played yalls first gig at my uncles bar, and i almost fell of my chair. I also remember at last years mardi gras, i was walking along a parade route when i saw yall atop a float, so ofcourse i went to go catch something, and i came back wiht a bead that says BTE on it. i still have it too this day. i just wanted to let you know that i am a big fann of your music, and that i know people who knew you. If that makes any sense at all. i dont know.
loads of luck and love
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