Better Than Ezra bandmates like to be better at having a life

August 20, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Better Than Ezra bassist Tom Drummond put it this way: People who are successful in life are those who are able to roll with the changes.

"I think we're pretty good at that," Drummond said.

With a new drummer, a new album and 20 years of history as an alt-pop band, Better Than Ezra is certainly no stranger to change.

BTE is headlining Brew & BBQ Backyard Bash, a charity concert at Hager Hall Conference & Event Center in Hagerstown on Sunday. Six bands are on the bill, including local acts Dimestore Profit and singer-songwriter Josh Morningstar.

BTE has been on tour, promoting its latest project, "Paper Empire," the band's first album in five years. Drummond said fatherhood and marriage have made the guys slow down. These days, when he's not touring or manning his home studio in New Orleans -- where BTE albums Nos. 3, 4 and 5 were produced -- he just might be doing "daddy day care."


"I guess in one sense being a dad is the greatest thing I've ever done," said Drummond, who, when he had a breathing moment while baby-sitting his 2-year-old daughter, chatted with The Herald-Mail about Ezra's upcoming show.

But instead of making fans wait for years, BTE is considering putting out three- or four-song EPs every six months on top of doing routine albums. They're also not going to stop touring.

"We'll have to sort of evolve," Drummond said. "This thing has been evolving. We've been around for 20-plus years. We've seen it all. But you know (change is) part of life."

BTE emerged as a four-man, alt-pop act that played the Southern college circuit in the 1990s. The band suffered an early tragedy when its original guitarist, Joel Rundell, committed suicide.

BTE came back as a trio and signed with Elektra Records, where its reissue of "Deluxe" went platinum in 1995.

But BTE split with Elektra and never attained that same level of success. Recently, BTE's drummer, Travis McNabb, left to join the country duo Sugarland. New Orleans-based musician Michael Jerome now fills the drum slot.

All the while, BTE has maintained a dedicated following of fans, who call themselves Ezralites. BTE's latest project, "Paper Empire," debuted at No. 7 on Billboard's Independent Albums chart in May.

About Better than Ezra

Genre: Alt-pop

Vocals: Kevin Griffin

Bassist: Tom Drummond

Drums: Michael Jerome

Next show: Sunday, Aug. 23, at Brew & BBQ Backyard Bash. Hager Hall Conference & Event Center, 901 Dual Highway, Hagerstown. Tickets cost $25. Gates open at 2 p.m. Go to or call 301-797-9004.

Q&A with Better Than Ezra bassist Tom Drummond

WEG: How has being a dad influenced your music making?


We just can't tour the way we used to. It's hard to be gone that long, if for no other reason than because of your significant other. I can attest to the fact of what it is to be with a child all day and not have any relaxation time. I certainly have an appreciation for stay-at-home moms. It's a full-time job, no question.

WEG: What has being a dad taught you about fatherhood?


I guess I never thought I could love something that much. Something changes in you when that happens and you get that smile back from your child. It's the greatest feeling in the world.

WEG: Do you think is it plausible to attain the same level of success if you're not touring as much?


I do, I do. When we started it was a very different music industry. Now you've got this universal way to get albums you're into. If you hear a song on the radio, shazam!, it's on your iPod. It's a lot more immediate.

But that's not to say you don't want to tour. The fact is, for us, to go out on tour is where we can make money -- doing shows, selling merch. It's one of the few things left, the live show, that can't really be digitized the way music can, the way movies can.

WEG: How was the process of recording "Paper Empire" different?

BTE: This one's a little unusual than the others. Some of the songs on this record were slated essentially to be a solo record for Kevin -- as in Kevin Griffin, lead vocalist. I think he had talked to some other singers from some other bands who had done that and had pretty much failed miserably. If you get along with your bandmates, it's silly to do a solo album, because it's going to cost you a lot of money, and it's just going to be hard. And even then, we've been away for a while. There's just a demand. We have a pretty hard-core fan base and they just really wanted a new album.

WEG: As far as other changes. You have a new drummer, Michael Jerome. Are you all still in contact with your old drummer, Travis McNabb?

BTE: In fact, I talked with him this morning, because he owes me Fantasy Football money. When he chose to go with Sugarland at the time, we weren't really sure what we were going to do. And it was just such a great opportunity for him. Sugarland's doing really well. He (Travis) loves to play and we (Tom and Kevin) both have kids and would like to play less and not have to be on the road. So for him (Travis), it made a lot of sense. Country acts tour a lot, especially in the summertime. I talk to him all the time. I think he misses us. We miss him. But what are you going to do? It's life. You move on. You evolve.

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