Better Than Ezra on Oschner BR: “Good”
Tom Drummond weighs in on Better Than Ezra’s benefit show for Oschner, LSU memories
By Christie MathernePosted May 23, 2012
When Better Than Ezra pops into Baton Rouge, there’s rarely an empty seat in the house. Yeah, they’re from New Orleans, but we know the truth: LSU is their alma mater, and they spent some of their formative years as a band roaming the outskirts of the same campus we pass every day.
So when Oschner decided to build a cancer center in Baton Rouge, Better Than Ezra was all over it – and they organized “Summertime Blues,” a benefit concert for Oschner starring Better Than Ezra, at the Varsity Theatre.
Dig got a chance to catch up with founding member Tom Drummond to talk about the show, their time at LSU, and the future of the band, among other things.
Dig: Do all of you still live in New Orleans?
TD: Two of us do – that was one of the biggest changes in the band, was after Katrina, everybody kinda had to do what they had to do. Kevin moved to La. He’s in Nashville now, actually, because he writes a lot of songs for other people, and so he really either needs to be in LA or Nashville for that. You know, New Orleans isn’t exactly the songwriting mecca.
Dig: Were y’all really affected by Katrina, as far as material possessions go?
TD: Not really, we all lived Uptown. Just really, a matter of being displaced for awhile. And [Kevin] had a young child then, and they couldn’t send him to school, you know…what are you gonna do? In that sense, from then on, that was the first time the band didn’t all live in the same city. That’s the major difference.
Dig: Is it hard to work on music when there’s distance?
TD: Not really, technology that we have today allows us to almost come pretty close to having a live session simultaneously, no matter where we are. I can work in my studio in New Orleans, and he can send me tracks, I can send ‘em right back. It’s pretty cool. We can almost do it in real-time.
Dig: About this benefit – what made you get involved with Oschner?
TD: You know, they have been big supporters of our foundation for many years. They’ve been one of our biggest sponsors for our event that we do every year – for the Better Than Ezra Foundation, we call it the Ezra Open. That night, we’ll have a big show and an auction, or that kind of thing – usually with Harrah’s in New Orleans. So it’s kind of an all-day deal, and Oschner has always been big supporters of the band, so we like to do things to help them out when we can.
They’re moving into the Baton Rouge market now – that’s why we’re doing this. They needed some help letting people know they were in Baton Rouge.
Dig: The location of the new Oschner here is actually a great one, because it’s in a place that easily serves both Denham Springs and that side of Baton Rouge.
TD: Our foundation is very important to us, and Oschner has done some very good things in New Orleans, so you know, they’ve been a really big help in getting all that done.
Dig: As far as details go, there are two price tiers for the tickets – you have a VIP ticket tier, which allows admission to a special acoustic set before the 8:30 performance.
TD: We are known to do special acoustic sets before a lot of our benefit events. It’s just something that we like to do, as kind of a ‘Thank you.’ We do the acoustic thing a lot. Ever since we’ve been doing the radio, which is since 1995, we’ve gotten really good at that. We call it our power hybrid set – there’ll still be real drum kit, but we’ll all be on acoustic instruments.
Dig: I always appreciate an intimate setting in a different way than a crowded venue.
TD: Yeah, I do too – if you can pull it off with acoustic instruments, then the song’s good. If you can’t, it probably sucks, you know? For real. That’s been part of us since day one, so we like to think we can pull most of our songs off acoustically. We’re known as the band who will come play in the control room of a radio station and do a good job at it.
Dig: In your time here in Baton Rouge, what was the best part of being here at LSU?
TD: Oh wow – LSU was a really fun place to go to. When I started, the drinking age was 18. I don’t know if that was a good thing or not, but I sure had a fun time at LSU. I worked at Murphy’s [owned by the owner of Fred’s in Tigerland]. We played there quite a few times over the years, but we’ve had lots of memorable shows at LSU.
Dig: Just out of curiosity, what did you study in college?
TD: Well, believe it or not, I had a national scholarship. They didn’t have Aerospace at LSU so I went into the next closest thing, which was Mechanical Engineering. While I was in school, I sort of ended up committing more and more time to the band. I tested out of a lot of classes as an incoming freshman – I went to a really good high school, so I was fortunate in that way. I found that a lot of my classes applied to Arts History, so I became an Art major. I shifted over to that when the band started becoming more and more prominent in my daily routine, and that’s kinda where I ended up – I was in Architecture for awhile, and just the combination of Mechanical Engineering and Architecture and the art classes were all applying to a fine arts degree. I never graduated though; I only lack one semester of classes.
Dig: You should just get it over with!
TD: Yeah, maybe I could get an honorary degree. Didn’t Shaquille do that?
Dig: He got an honorary doctorate!
TD: Aw, see I could do that. [Laughs] They used us in their Live Purple Love Gold thing – and hey, Shaq got it.
Dig: What’s in the future for Better Than Ezra?
TD: Well, we are currently sifting through a number of songs to figure out what the next album’s gonna be like, and we’re close to having enough to go in and start recording. And that’s the next step, to record some of these songs we’ve been working on for awhile. Hopefully it’ll be ready in the fall!
Two levels of access are available for the Better Than Ezra “Summertime Blues” Oschner benefit show on Thursday, May 24 at Varsity Theatre -- $125 earns VIP access, including an early acoustic set, food, and drinks starting at 6:30 p.m.; $40 for general admission to the show at 8:30 p.m.
Better Than Ezra has been known to sell out the Varsity Theatre pretty quickly, so get tickets early at www.VarsityTheatre.com, or at The Chimes Restaurant and Tap Room.