Better Than Ezra
A suicide, label bankruptcy and a couple of comebacks mark Better Than Ezra's lengthy career. The group formed in '88 with Louisiana State University students Kevin Griffin (vocals, guitar), Joel Rundell (guitar), Tom Drummond (bass), and Cary Bonnecaze (drums). Countless frat gigs and a cassette release put the group on the local map but tragedy struck when Rundell took his life on August 8th, 1990.
In the wake of Rundell's suicide the group went their separate ways. But they reformed as a trio later in the year and moved to L.A. Recording at a friend's home studio (how economical) the group released "Deluxe" in '03. The effort got them a contract with Elektra Records and "Deluxe" was released nationally with "Good" becoming a huge (and deserved) hit. Even with a platinum album under their belt things did not go smoothly. The following year Bonnecaze bailed and was replaced by New Orleans native Travis McNabb. Their next effort, the '96 release, "Friction, Baby," came and went quickly. Two years later the group returned to New Orleans to record "How Does Your Garden Grow?" It too suffered "Friction, Baby's" fate and the group was dropped by Elektra with the label releasing "greatest hits" and "rare tracks" compilations - a sure sign that they felt Better Than Ezra was done.
Despite what Elektra thought, the group continued and signed with indie label Beyond Music. Shortly after the release of "Closer" in '01, the label went bankrupt leaving Better Than Ezra hanging. In the interim, Griffin plied his songwriting skills. It's one thing to write songs for your group. It's another to have other performers request material. Among Griffin's efforts were "Testify" for Meatloaf and Blondie's international hit "Good Boys."
Finally signed by Artemis Records, Better Than Ezra holed up in New Orleans for two years working on their next effort. McNabb had a dream about a group called Before The Robots. When he told his bandmates about it, the phrase became the title of their '05 release.
From the album, the track "Juicy" was used in promos for the TV show Desperate Housewives and later, in spots for Applebee's Restaurants.
By this time, Sugarland, McNabb's roots Country side project, had become hugely popular. He'd been touring with the band for extended periods - when scheduling permitted. But now, it was time to fish or cut bait. McNabb announced his departure from Better Than Ezra in early '09 after 13 years with the band. "It's bittersweet," said Drummond at the time. "He's fantastic. We're still good friends, and there are no hard feelings. We'll miss him. But this is an opportunity he needed to take." Michael Jerome, another New Orleans based musician, stepped in to work on the band's seventh studio effort, "Paper Empire."
1996 Friction, Baby
1998 How Does Your Garden Grow?
2005 Before The Robots
2009 Paper Empire
2014 All Together Now
Better Than Erza's Alt. Rock with pop underpinnings has its appeal. Griffin is an accomplished songwriter with a knack for melody and a good story line. And he can effortlessly sound like a cross between Mick Jagger and Bono - not a bad combination. "Before The Robots" marks a welcome return as the group relies on power chords that flow rather than cut.