I hate to pick favorites out of these interviews, but I think I had one of the most interesting and enjoyable conversations on the phone with Kevin Griffin, lead singer of 90’s alternative rockers Better Than Ezra, the other day. You never really know how our grab bag questions will be received, and while some artists don’t suffer the fools of such topics (ahem, Matisyahu), others are more than willing to share their extensive opinions. Obviously, this whole scenario works a lot smoother when the latter is happening, so when Griffin immediately started giving me his take on the swarming crowd at the Jo-Ann’s hobby shop he was currently in (“It’s hell on Earth, it’s packed with hobbyists getting ready for Christmas.”), I was already looking forward to throwing our questions at him.
Not only did we discuss the pitfalls of being in a store with Christmas shoppers and why he thinks Kobe Bryant is probably scared of Ron Artest, but I also found out the inside scoop on Better Than Ezra’s newest party venture, Krew of Rocckus, starting in February next year with Sister Hazel. As Griffin explained, “We’re from New Orleans and the French Quarter never closes, it’s always a party and has a Mardi Gras aspect. We wanted people to see what it’s really about: pageantry, food, dance, family, and friends. People come down and start with a brunch by a well known chef with a private viewing stance and open bar with food, there’s a second line parade for Krew of Rocckus members, a riverboat cruise. We created this three-day experience to experience Mardi Gras as an insider’s guide with us as your host.” Better Than Ezra is heading to House of Blues this Saturday with support from Papa Grows Funk, but if you’d like to see what makes Griffin such an entertaining character before the show, just check out his responses below.
FrontRow: What time do you usually go to sleep?
Kevin Griffin: I usually go to sleep at about 10:30 p.m. I’ve got three kids, a 13-year-old and four-year-old twin boys, so I have the morning shift and I wake up to get our seventh grader ready for school. When I’m on tour, especially the Vegas show, I’m up at 6:16, so not very rock and roll.
FR: If you could choose anyone to be leader of the free world, who would it be?
KG: I’d say Bill Clinton.
FR: What do you make of the commercialization of youth culture?
KG: It’s always been commercialized, really, since mass communication was a word or a thing, I guess, in the early 20th Century. Companies want to appeal to youth so it’s all about appealing to a demographic. It’s kind of crazy when you’re watching preschoolers and there’s already commercials getting them to get toys and stuff. I’m kind of like it is what is. It’s up to the parents to see all through the BS.
FR: If you could choose anyone in the world as your partner, who would it be and why?
KG: My wife. She’s the momma of my boys and we’ve been together for almost 20 years. She’s known me right out of college, she’s put up with all of my self-centeredness and fiscal-guy-in-a band stuff. We met in ’92.
FR: What instrument do you wish you played?
KG: (checking out at Jo-Ann’s) I wish I was an accomplished piano player. I’m not and I love the piano. I have several pianos and I can pluck away like a guitarist plays chords. But, as far as writing a great piece of music and dazzling everybody, I can’t.
FR: What do you hate most about performing?
KG: Probably waiting. It’s a day spent kind of waiting when you’re on the road. You just sit around. If it’s an interesting town like Dallas, I can check out the Museum of Arts, go to Stanley Korshak and check out some cool stuff. But, more often than not, you’re in a town you’d rather not be in. So, a lot of down time. But, we try to plan out our shows, like the Saints are playing in Dallas on the 23rd, so we thought, “Hey, we want to go to the game. Let’s play the night before the Saints will come to the game.” I’m playing a solo show this Saturday at Tribeca City Winery and booked it because Sunday is the Giants and Saints in New York. Coincidence? I think not.
FR: Who would you want to tour with most, who you’ve never toured with before?
KG: I’d love to be out with U2, but they’re always going to have My Morning Jacket and Coldplay. Anyone considerably cooler than Better Than Ezra. We just played a show with Train and I think they’d be a fun bill for people. Bono would just be like (in an Irish accent) “Who is that? Better Than Something?”
FR: If you weren’t playing music and had the talent and circumstances to do anything else, what would it be?
KG: I would be a professional basketball player. I’d play guard like Steve Nash. I’m 6’4” but I have no talent whatsoever, no grace for sport. I have such adoration for basketball players because they’re so gifted athletically and so graceful. I’d come back as a gifted professional basketball player, maybe like Metaworld Peace. I went and saw them in L.A. and they played the Nuggets and I had great seats behind the Lakers the bench, sitting with my manager. Those guys are just massive and right in front of me is Metaworld Peace. And apparently, Kobe Bryant rags on everybody but doesn’t say s*** to Artest. My manager’s wife manages Pao Gasol and some other people and word is no one wants to mess with Artest. He marches to the beat of his own dubstep music. Maybe Skrillex or Pretty Lights. I actually like Skrillex, I went to a show in Nashville and I thought Skrillex was great. Pretty Lights was boring cause he followed Skrillex. I like what they do sonically, being a producer and programming stuff on a much more stripped down level. It’s extremely extensive to do that stuff, those drops. That said, taking my boys to school and having to listen to Skrillex – about 20 minutes is all I can take. I haven’t been to a rave in so long man, but it’s all the same.
FR: How does the theory of evolution and natural selection make you feel?
KG: I’m a believer in evolution and natural selection. You see it all the time. You study Darwin and other progenitors or people who push. It’s the way of the world . It is survival of the fittest. You either step up or somebody else does. I accept that’s the way the world it is, so I live accordingly.
FR: If global warming melted the ice caps covering 90 percent of the known world with water, what city would you hope was spared so you could live there?
KG: New Orleans, for sure. That’s my favorite city, but the reality is it’d be one of the first to go. If somehow you could detach it from the Delta and pull it out of the muck, maybe.
FR: What is the best thing (food/substance/drink/thing) you ever put in your body?
KG: That’s a nebulous question. Probably humility, because, as someone said, humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. You can quote me on that, it’s one of my favorite quotes. I’m a dad, I’ve got responsibilities, it’s not about me all the time, and how can I help other people? It’s an ongoing process. It’s a willingness to change and learn.
FR: If immortality was achievable by downloading your consciousness into a database and spending eternity in a virtual reality, would you do it?
KG: Sure, I would. What a crazy journey. Hell, it may be some horrible hell I would never escape from but I’d be one of the first to do it. Maybe I could do something good. It’d be like the Matrix and I’d be the old woman who bakes cookies. That’s who Kevin Griffin would be online in the virtual afterlife. And hanging out with Bono.