The first time fans listen to Better Than Ezra's third album, How Does Your Garden
Grow, there's a good chance they'll be double-checking the CD sleeve to make sure
they've got the right disc.
But being the cause of a little confusion doesn't bother singer/guitarist Kevin Griffin one
bit. In fact, he said this album is all about shaking things up a bit for the band.
"With this third album, we could have very easily done the safe thing, and that would
have been to make an album that sounded like our previous two," Griffin said of the LP,
which was released Aug. 25. "We really went out and explored some ideas that were
kind-of brewing on our other albums. We felt like we've gotten these rock songs out of us,
we've shown people we can use distortion and feedback, [now] let's explore another
area of music."
Recording for the first time in their own Fudge Studios in New Orleans freed the
power-pop trio to spend time experimenting with ideas; a luxury they may not have been
able to afford in a studio that was charging them by the hour, bassist Tom Drummond
Despite the new influences and directions, the trio maintains plenty of the distorted-guitar
sound that marked its previous two recordings, including its 1995 major-label debut,
Deluxe, with its hit
(RealAudio excerpt). The band's last album, friction, baby, was released in 1996,
and held closely to the musical ideals of its first recording.
"We've really been playing catch-up with the past records; some of the songs were
written years before they were recorded," Drummond said. "We finally got to a point
where we could do a little experimenting. We got our own recording studio and that
allowed us to follow a tangent if we wanted to."
However, there were times when the band opted for a more traditional approach, he
"We still love very simple, straightforward rock songs.
Foley'(RealAudio excerpt), 'Happy Day Ma Ma,' 'Under You' and even
'Everything in 2's' are very traditional Better Than Ezra songs," Drummond said. "That's
what we do best."
Enlisting the aid of producer Malcolm Burn (Patti Smith, Iggy Pop) and string arranger
and vibraphone player Karl Berger (Jeff Buckley, Art Blakey), and drawing inspiration
from records by artists as diverse as hip-hopper DJ Shadow, Brit-poppers Blur, eclectic
Icelandic singer Björk and Brazilian pop composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, the New
Orleans trio set about trying out new sounds on such songs as the Beatlesque
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Better_Than_Ezra/Je_Ne_M'en_Souviens_Pas.ra m">"Je ne m'en souviens pas"
m">"Je ne m'en souviens pas"(RealAudio excerpt).
"It's like a stream-of-consciousness thing about our friend, a French girl named Mona.
She came into the studio one day and told us about losing her keys, and I was kind-of
paraphrasing her," Griffin said. "There was this song from DJ Shadow's last album that I
loved. It had this keyboard line that goes through the whole song, and I loved the way it
sounded. It's this distorted B3 organ, and I came up with a variation of that sound."
As an example of how the band experimented with the songs before laying down the
final tracks, Drummond recalled how the electronic-lounge sounds of "One More Murder"
started out as a more typical Better Than Ezra song until he, Griffin and drummer Travis
McNabb decided to play with it.
" 'One More Murder' was originally a guitar-oriented track, but we weren't getting great
results," Drummond said. "Kevin started playing it on piano and that's how it evolved. We
just tried to do things different, but we didn't add sounds just to add sounds."