Better Than Ezra hits town on Friday at the House of Blues. Sure, they'll play a usual set, but beforehand, they're hosting a casino night in the venue's Cambridge Room. There, you'll find an open table and buffet, casino games and an acoustic set by the band. It's a charity event for the Better Than Ezra Foundation, and some of the proceeds will go to Booker T. Washington school here in Dallas. The event is sponsored by L'Auberge Casino & Hotel Baton Rouge and L'Auberge Casino and Hotel Lake Charles and Raising Cane's. Tickets are $150 and on sale here. There's also a $175 package that includes entry to the show.
We caught up with bassist Tom Drummond about their foundation, the band's history, and what they're doing next.
Since the band will host a casino night before the show, I'm curious: who in the band is the worst at gambling?
[laughs] I don't think any of us are any good at it, to be honest. We're not going to quit our jobs to become professional gamblers any time soon. I think we all think we're pretty good at it, but I like to play roulette, so there you go. They say you're not supposed to play that, so I don't know.
Given that this is a charity event for the Better Than Ezra Foundation, tell me exactly what the foundation does.
We've had it for quite a while. We got serious about after [Hurricane] Katrina and have since done a lot of things here in New Orleans. Our most recent effort is we've adopted an elementary school called Bethune Elementary. It's not in a great neighborhood. A New Orleans school board member came to us and said, "If there's a school that you'd want to help, this would be the one." Some of these kids, the only time they get to eat is when they're at school, the only time their clothes get washed is when they're at school. That kind of situation. Yet, the principal and staff have managed to really get these kids in line and they're doing well on their testing. You know, hopefully a promising future for them. Sometimes, we've helped them with just paper and pencils, but starting this fall, we are installing an after-school program for them.
Your drummer, Michael, has ties to North Texas since he played in the Toadies, Course of Empire, and Pop Poppins, had Better Than Ezra toured with any of these bands in the 90s?
Those bands were coming up at the same time as we were. Both Dallas and Houston were regular stops for us before we had a record deal, so we'd always look in the Observer and see the ad listings for all the clubs. I think we played a few shows with the Toadies but not with Michael. Since Deluxe is now 20 years old, have you guys played the album in its entirety live?
We have done it. It actually came out in '93 self-released and then Elektra released in '95. The last few years of Mardi Gras, we've been holding an event called Rocckus, which is an all-inclusive thing with a hotel, two shows and we'd send you to other parties and other shows. During the first Rocckus, we played Deluxe front to back, the next year we did Friction, Baby and the last year we did How Does Your Garden Grow? I think we did Deluxe one other time in Toronto, I'm not sure why.
What's the status on the new album?
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We're about halfway through. Tony Hoffer is producing it. He's done Beck, Silversun Pickups, Fitz & the Tantrums. His pedigree is amazing. Every album we've ever done has been approached a little differently. One thing I'm really digging about this album is that we've played it all live. Whereas in the past, a couple of albums were done a little more piecemeal. Playing with the band, you get a different feel, and I'm excited about that. Feels like a band, even with the additional production.