Better Than Ezra returns with new album and 25th anniversary reissue
Better Than Ezra (BTE) was faced with the challenge of finding a way to create a sound that is both familiar and fresh when the New Orleans-based rock trio decided to record latest release, All Together Now. The End Records project produced and mixed by Grammy-nominated producer Tony Hoffer (The Kooks, Beck, Foster the People) is the group’s eighth studio album, but first for the new label. “When you've been doing it for a while, you want to stay inspired,” singer Kevin Griffin tells CBS News. “But it's a challenge because you want to stay true to your sound, to your roots and also bring something new ... For us we've been doing it a while and so if we're going to put something out we want it to be different,” he says.
The collective energy that formed Better Than Ezra in 1988 came at the hands of Louisiana State University classmates Griffin (lead vocals, guitar), Tom Drummond (bass, backing vocals), Joel Rundell (guitar), and Cary Bonnecaze (drums). Rundell took his own life in 1990 and Bonnecaze left the group in 1996, leaving current drummer Michael Jerome to round out the group as a trio. BTE started working on its newest material in late 2012, hitting the studio last summer to perform the songs live and begin recording.
“It definitely was a different approach production-wise,” admits Griffin, who credits Hoffer with keeping the band more focused. “Tony's aesthetic is different than maybe ours -- production-wise. He wants to have less elements do more. Our default when we produce ... is like, 'We need more guitars,’ and Tony is like, 'No we're going to do one guitar and make it sound great and interesting.’”
The new approach is evident on tracks such as lead single, ‘Crazy Lucky,’ currently No. 40 on the Mediabase Hot AC radio airplay chart. The song is about the “serendipitous nature of a relationship—just how it's happenstance, how we meet people and the significant events over the course of our lives are so random,” explains Griffin during the CBS interview. The observation also ties in with the album title. “It feels like it's what the band's about, which is bringing people together and having fun,” adds Griffin.
After releasing Surprise as a self-made cassette in 1990—followed by Deluxe in 1993—major record labels began expressing an interest in the band. Next came two years of touring and building a loyal fan base called “Ezralites.” Better Than Ezra then signed with Elektra Records and re-released Deluxe in 1996 as the band’s major label debut. The album features the Top 40 single ‘Good,’ which topped the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and speared the album to platinum sales status.
“The timing of things is always so interesting because it took us seven years to get signed and then seven weeks to get to No. 1 on the charts,” muses Griffin in a bio posted on the band’s Facebook page. A 25th anniversary re-issue of Surprise precedes the release of All Together Now, the latter being Better Than Ezra’s first album since signing to The End Records in February. The new CD also marks the band’s first release since 2009's Paper Empire, which features singles ‘Absolutely Still’ and ‘Just One Day.’ Better Than Ezra is currently supporting its new music and fan favorites by touring major U.S. city venues through Nov. 23.
Watch the official music video for ‘Crazy Lucky,’ a new single by veteran rockers Better Than Ezra.
As A Matter of Fact…
* Better Than Ezra (BTE) is an alternative rock trio based in New Orleans that formed in 1988 at Louisiana State University. The band started out by touring in a van “playing for $50 and a pizza” for more than five years. BTE circulated a demo cassette tape in 1988 called Chimes Street Demo that became a favorite of fans and music collectors.
* In 1990, Better Than Ezra independently released a cassette-only album titled, Surprise. When original lead guitarist Joel Rundell committed suicide in August 1990, the band continued on as a trio, playing “house parties and fraternity shows” across the Southeast.
* Better Than Ezra self-released the album Deluxe in 1993 and caught the attention of Elektra Records. The band signed with the label in 1995 and re-released Deluxe as its major label debut in 1996, launching the band as a staple on the 1990s pop/rock scene.
* The success of No. 1 single ‘Good’ and subsequent albums Friction, Baby (1996) and How Does Your Garden Grow? (1998) led to additional early hit singles including ‘Desperately Wanting,’ ‘King of New Orleans, ’ and ‘At the Stars.’
* In 2001, Better Than Ezra released the critically acclaimed album Closer, followed by 2005’s Before the Robots. The latter album features the track ‘Juicy,’ which was licensed by several commercial brands and used in promos for the ABC television series Desperate Housewives.
* Drummer Travis McNabb left Better Than Ezra in 2009 to join country supergroup Sugarland. The group recruited Michael Jerome to take over as timekeeper in time to record the band’s seventh studio album, Paper Empire.
* Better Than Ezra’s BTE Foundation is committed to “funding renewal efforts to support the structural and cultural heritage of New Orleans and Southern Louisiana.” In 2011, the band also debuted its inaugural Krewe of Rocckus Mardi Gras Extravaganza. The project is hailed as a “fan-based vacation event” that provides the ultimate Mardi Gras experience.