Interview: Better Than Ezra 25 Year Anniversary “Surprise”

Better Than Ezra is an alternative rock band formed in 1988 from Louisiana, although they have had different band mates through the years they are still going strong today. Even though, it was seven years after Better Than Ezra started; they became a household name in ’95 with their single Good off the album Deluxe which became an overnight success. Original members were Kevin Griffin (Vocalist), Joel Rundell (Lead Guitarist), Tom Drummond (bassist), and Cary Bonnecaze (drummer). Currently, the band is Tom Drummond, Kevin Griffin and Michael Jerome. I recently had a chance to sit down with one of the founding members of Better Than Ezra, Cary Bonnecaze to discuss the origins of the band and the importance of the remastered version of Suprise to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Better-Than-Ezra-2014

Debra Heather (DH): As one of the founding members of the band, can you tell me how Better Than Ezra came to be?

Cary Bonnecaze (CB): Kevin Griffin and I were first introduced by a mutual friend back in 1987. After talking we decided to start a band, but after about half a dozen practices it somewhat fell apart. We reconnected about ten months later on a double date with sisters. Neither one of us knew who the other guy would be on the date, so we were really surprised. We spent more time talking with each other than we did our dates. It was then we decided to form a real band. Kevin had a high school friend, Joel Rundell, who also played guitar and was living in their hometown of Monroe at the time. He convinced him to move to Baton Rouge. So all that was left was a bass player. I put a wanted ad in the Reveille (the LSU campus newspaper) and Tom Drummond responded. I believe he may have been the only one to respond, but the band was formed.

Better than Ezra at Live 105.3's BFD 1995

DH: Out of all the places you have played over the years what is your favorite Better Than Ezra song to perform and venue to play?

CB: Good question (pun intended). There really are a number of songs I enjoyed playing. Probably Know You Better, And We’re Fine and Porcelain are among my favorites. As far as my favorite places to play, I would say for smaller venues CBGB’s, The Varsity Theater (in Baton Rouge) and the Howling Wolf (in New Orleans). For a large venue probably Jazz Fest. But I’ve always preferred smaller clubs. There just more intimate.

DH: What has been one of your most-memorable moments during your time with Better Than Ezra?

CB: One of my most-memorable moments was after playing a show in London I was told in our dressing room by our manager at the time that Martin Chambers from The Pretenders was waiting outside and wanted to meet me. Tom and I ended up going out on the town with him. It was crazy. I remember him speeding headed towards oncoming traffic, on the wrong side of the road, in his BMW Mini Cooper. Then to top it off, when I got back to my hotel room I had a huge bouquet of flowers from The Catherine Wheel (a British band) welcoming us to London. They were also my favorite band at the time. So that was a pretty good day.

DH: On August 19th, the 25th anniversary of Better than Ezra’s first-studio album Surprise comes out digitally remastered, what made you guys decide to reissue Surprise opposed to the many other albums the band has done?
The family of Joel Rundell (our original guitarist who passed away in 1990) and I own the original recording, and we thought that with 2014 being the 25th anniversary of its original release, it would be a good time to release it. We’ve had fans throughout the years ask for its release, so here it is. The re-mastering did wonders for it. Having only been previously available on cassette and in limited quantities, it is amazing how much fuller it sounds. It’s something definitely to be proud of. The re-release of Surprise is dedicated to Joel.

DH: Any famous last words for Montreal Rampage readers?

CB: Bien sur ! Je me souviens que nous avons joué à Montréal à plusieurs reprises et nous avons apprécié les fans toujours. Je vous remercie beaucoup de votre intérêt pour notre album Surprise et j’espère que vous l’apprécierez!

Better than Ezra’s reissue of Surprise comes out on August 19.

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