Bands change over time, but for Better Than Ezra, a band that formed more than 20 years ago, something that’s remained the same is a love of coming home.
In an exclusive interview with DIG Magazine, bass player and founding member Tom Drummond elaborated on what it feels like to return home for a concert, but also what’s it like to still love performing after 20 years.
“For us, we’re just grateful that we can do this 20-something years in,” Drummond said. “We know that there are people in the audience, who…we’re their favorite band, and some of those people have driven miles and from other cities, and they’re coming to see us because, again, we’re their favorite band. So it’s very easy for us to give 100 percent every night when we know that type of thing.”
Better Than Ezra will play a show in Baton Rouge on Sept. 16 at L’Auberge Casino-Hotel.
The band, composed of members Kevin Griffin, Michael Jerome and Drummond never fails to entertain, especially when in the band’s birthplace of Baton Rouge. Throughout their career, Better Than Ezra shows have been labeled for their high, non-stop energy, which has continued through the years.
“Part of that is we really enjoy performing live,” Drummond said. “It’s just something we have a lot of fun with. Every show is different, we try to keep the audience involved as much as we can, and we just like being entertainers and having a good time…I’m 47, but we still jump around the stage, and we’ll definitely entertain you. I think you’ll probably be surprised with that and probably be surprised also to know we kind of rock harder live than we do on the album.”
What is special for the band, especially today, is that there are now generations of Better Than Ezra fans among the crowd.
“People are bringing their kids now; it’s like a whole new generation,” Drummond said. “So it’s really fun for us. We just plan on bringing it. It should be a really fun night.”
The band first formed in 1988, and unveiled their debut album Deluxe independently in 1993 and then again via Elektra Records in 1995. Since then, Better Than Ezra has been a mainstay of ‘90s rock and has shown no signs of stopping since they first played the Southern club circuit.
“When you first start a band you just hope you have some sort of longevity like this,” Drummond said. “The average lifespan of a band is supposed to be like five years. So the fact that we’re still doing this 25 years later is amazing, and we’re really grateful for that.”
A career for over 20 years is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and the band has proved it can adapt while also remaining faithful to its home roots. According to Drummond, from the very beginning, the band has been consistent with strong songwriting and also with providing fun, entertaining live performances. A big part of that has to do with where they come from.
“I think part of that was growing up in Baton Rouge,” Drummond said. “There’s something a little different in the water there, and in Louisiana in general. People like to have a good life and have a good time, and I think we’ve been kind of a part of that. There’s certainly aspects of our songs that are related to living in the South, there’s no question about that. I guess also it’s kind of like our neighborhood. We know these cities like the back of our hand, and that makes it good for us.”
According to Drummond, there are still a lot of old ties in Baton Rouge, which makes the stop in Baton Rouge one they don’t want to miss.
“Sometimes we see friends in Baton Rouge that we don’t see at any other time of the year so that’s always cool,” Drummond said. “We can play songs that are a little deeper from our repertoire just because people are more aware of them. Being that we really started in Baton Rouge, I mean we can go way back with some of our songs, which is fun. We also get to play songs from anywhere else so that’s kind of fun too.”
Speaking of football, the band always gets “fired up” when they play in the fall, because it’s usually on a Friday night before a football game.
“And we’re Tiger fans, most of us went to LSU, so that’s exciting for us,” Drummond said. “It’s almost like a mini pep rally on a Friday night before the game.”
Over the last 20 years, the band has produced a wide variety of albums that still resonate with their original sound. While they will be playing a lot of their old hits, Drummond assures there will definitely be another album coming soon.
“We haven’t started anything new yet, but will probably start working on something next year,” Drummond said. “I have no idea what it will be like or who we will work on it with, but that’s what is exciting about it.”
According to Drummond, it’s very difficult, especially in the music business to continue for more than two decades.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a banker or a car salesperson,” Drummond said. “You do anything for 20 years; you deserve respect. It’s cool, because young bands are now looking up to us wondering how we keep doing it for this long. It’s very challenging. It’s almost easier to get there than to stay there.”
For those young bands looking to follow in Better Than Ezra’s footsteps, Drummond has words of advice.
“First of all, you gotta start with good songwriting,” Drummond said. “We’re not gimmicky, it’s just all about really good songs, and your live performance has got to be really good. And don’t rely on anybody else to do the work that needs to be done. [You’ve] got to take matters into your own hands and make sure you stay on top of everything.”
As hardworking musicians, Better Than Ezra has shown they are also hardworking philanthropists in the form of the Better Than Ezra Foundation. The foundation was created in response to Hurricane Katrina, and allows the band to give back to their native New Orleans with charity ventures. Currently, the band has focused the charity to Bethune Elementary in New Orleans to provide students with an after-school program.
“We run an after-school program for them, and we deliver school goods for them,” Drummond said. “We have about 100 kids we’re responsible for now. It keeps the kids motivated.”
For more information about the band, visit betterthanezra.com.
Photo courtesy of Greg Miles.