When they formed in 1988, rock band Better Than Ezra cut their teeth at LSU college bars like Murphy’s and Fred’s. Now, 35 years later, the member of Billboard’s “Greatest of All Time Alternative Artists” list is returning to Baton Rouge to perform a few miles up Nicholson Drive at L’Auberge Casino & Hotel.
The band’s Nov. 10 show is more than another stop on their three-week Return of the Legends Tour ahead of their March album release. For founding member, lead singer and guitarist Kevin Griffin, it’s an honorable homecoming.
“That’s our home,” Griffin shared with 225 while sitting on his patio in Tennessee. “We have so many roots, so much history.”
Griffin says he and his bandmates’ southern identity, including that of co-founder Tom Drummond, was and remains a tremendous influence on their more emotional, narrative-driven sound.
Griffin, a student of southern literature, says Ezra’s early songs from their 1993 platinum album Deluxe, like “The Killer Inside” and “Summer House,” purposefully paid homage to the Southern Noir aesthetic of works by William Faulkner and Kate Chopin.
“I love narratives, so the South definitely informs it,” he says.
Ezra is also a product of Baton Rouge and LSU’s culture, Griffin adds. When the band was first formed in the late ‘80s, college alt-rock bands were becoming popular across the country. Griffin cites the Pixies, which first formed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and R.E.M. from Athens, Georgia, as major influences. And listening to southern bands like Georgia-based Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ and North Carolina-based Let’s Active on KLSU helped form the band’s early sound.
“It was just this moment in time for us where we were the band” Griffin says.
After their early success in Baton Rouge, the band made a move to New Orleans and became synonymous with the region with songs like “King of New Orleans” and “Good,” the latter of which was a radio fixture in the mid-’90s and has since been incorporated into the Saints’ field goal traditions. But Ezra’s music was still tied to Baton Rouge.
Songs like “Roselia” off of Deluxe and 2001’s “State Street State of Mind” drew from Griffin and the rest of Ezra’s experience on the eponymous street near LSU. The band even released an EP of LSU fight songs in 2011.
“[Baton Rouge and LSU are] a mix of old and new. And that’s kind of Better Than Ezra,” he says. “You’re gonna get some old stuff but you’re also gonna hear new songs and everything in between.”
Griffin says it’s this ongoing connection and conversation with the city that makes the L’Auberge show special, adding that they always play some of their earlier, Baton Rouge-centric songs whenever they return.
“The show will definitely be different because it’s in Baton Rouge,” Griffin says.
Better Than Ezra will perform at The Lawn at L’Auberge Casino & Hotel on Friday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. L’Auberge is located at 777 L’Auberge Ave. Click here for tickets and more info.