StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11236943379473.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of www.selu.edu’, ‘Rockers Better Than Ezra take the Waterfront stage at 7 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 4.’);
Groups lead singer discusses his bands journey and invites Cheap Trick to join them on stage
Kevin Griffin, lead singer of rockers Better Than Ezra, could easily be mistaken for a Rockford resident. Hes an avid fan of Cheap Trick, and his never-say-die attitude is remarkably similar to the Forest Citys blue collar mentality.
Though Griffin calls New Orleans home, you might not guess that from the conversation he had with The Rock River Times last week. He reveals his secrets to musical longevity, talks about life in The Big Easy and even invites some hometown heroes to partyOn The Waterfront style.
The Rock River Times (TRRT): You guys are coming to Rockford for our On The Waterfront Festival. Its a big annual thing we do
KG: Oh, cool. Is it a one-day or is it a series?
TRRT: Its a three-day over Labor Day weekend.
KG: Oh, fun!
TRRT: And you guys are one of the big bands this year. What do you know or what have you heard about Rockford, Ill.?
KG: One thing I know is that Rockford is where Brad Wood is fromhes a producer (who) produced with Liz Phair and Smashing Pumpkins, and produced our 2001 album. So thats one thing I know. Cheap Trick is from there, right?
TRRT: Thats correct. And theyre playing that same festival with you guys actually.
KG: So thats all you need to know!
TRRT: Youre from New Orleans, but I know that for a while, you also called Los Angeles home. Which city has been more influential?
KG: We were only in L.A. maybe three years, but it was a great learning experience. Id say what influenced us the most is New Orleans, without a doubt. But L.A. did make us grow up much faster. We were just kind of naïve and green . And we quickly learned what people expect of bands and what level of performance you need to be at to be taken seriously.
TRRT: You guys were a band before, during and after the alternative movement. Why do you think you guys have been able to keep going when a lot of other bands have given up?
KG: It really comes down to that we just didnt quit. It sounds like a cliché, but to persevere in this business is key. Nothing has ever come easy to our band, really. It took us seven years before we got signed. And it was really because, like you said, we were there before commercial alternative rock became big and the Q101s of the world sprung up. We finally got signed when that was really big. I think its just that weve stuck around, and we continue to make good music. We did a show two years ago with Aerosmith and the interviewer talking to Steven Tyler said, What do you attribute your success over all these years to? And (Tyler) said: We didnt quit. We just kept playing. And theres so much truth to that. A lot of other bands that were as talented as or more talented than this band just quit playing or quit caring, or they got bitter or cynicaland thats the kiss of death in this business, when you start becoming jaded.
TRRT: Your original guitarist, Joel, committed suicide early on with the band, in 1990. How did that impact you then, and how has it affected you in the years since then?
KG: It affected me more on a personal level than a band level. It made me grow up a lot more and realize how fragile life is. It was actually kind of the reason I got out of town and went to L.A. I dont think about it on a daily basis, but it certainly made me value my friends and appreciate the precarious nature of life. But Ive had my time of mourning over that, so its better.
TRRT: Your band, and you specifically, have been through a lot. When you talk about losing Joel or later on, troubles with Elektra (Records)…
KG: Weve had deaths, weve been dropped, weve had lawsuitsits crazy! All the clichéd things of a rock band, and youre like, Wow! You think that nothings going to happen to us, then you start to reflect, and you realize weve pretty much been through all the things that are not supposed to happen to a band. People can tell you things like that are going to happen. But its just like having a little brother or a child: No matter how much you tell them these things are going to happen, they have to figure them out for themselves. And, hopefully, weve gained some perspective and character out of the whole thing and learned from them and not make the same mistakes.
TRRT: How do you keep your motivation high, though? Knowing all the turmoil youve dealt with, clichéd or notbands have broken up over less. Whats your motivation after 18 years?
KG: One thing you realize is that youre a musician and youre not doing it just to get signed, youre not doing it for platinum albums, and youre not doing it to be rich. Hopefully, you attain those things, but when those things are taken away, you realize Im a musician; Im going to do this regardless. And thats the motivation.
TRRT: On The Waterfront is coming up in a few weeks. Why should people come out and check out your live show?
KG: Honestly, we put on a great live show. Were not a band that just plays their hits and stands there. Theres banter and shtick and its a show. Its not just a band playing. I think people that have seen us before can attest to that. I think its the reason why were still around. People may not buy our new album, but they come because they know theyre going to be entertained, and the Waterfront show will be no exception.
TRRT: Is there anything that you wanted to add or anything I left out that you wanted to talk about?
KG: (long pause) Weve shared the stage with them before, but an open invite to any of the guys in Cheap Trick, if they want to come hang and jam with us on stage, theyre invited. Thats an example of a bandthey are career artists. Theyre just a great band. Theyre entertainers.
Better Than Ezra plays the Great Lawn Stage at this years On The Waterfront Festival at 7 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 4. Tickets are $24.50 in advance, or $31.50 at the gate. More info, visit www.onthewaterfront.com or www.betterthanezra.com.
From the Aug. 10-16, 2005, issue