Blood Brothers
Collective Soul Celebrates a Quarter Century of Solid Musicianship

By Lee Valentine Smith

Bassist Will Turpin describes Collective Soul as "just five guys from Stockbridge doing what we thought was cool." That simple formula has served them well. This month, the Atlanta-based quartet is celebrating twenty-five years since Atlantic Records re-released their self-produced debut Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid.

Singer-songwriter Ed (or E as he prefers to be credited) Roland, along with his brother, rhythm guitarist Dean Roland and bassist Will Turpin remain the core of the group, along with drummer Johnny Rabb and guitarist Jesse Triplett. Unlike many of their peers from the '90s, the band continues to release new and challenging music and Blood, their latest, is a strong addition to their considerable catalog.

Several new tracks from the record - including "Right As Rain" and "Big Sky" - equal and often best the quality of proven hits "Shine" and "December," standing as some of their very best work of an impressive career. As they ride a wave of sonic craftsmanship and an intuitive brotherhood, a documentary film about their history is also in production.

Turpin recently checked in with INsite as the Collective Soul camp prepares to close out a successful year with two homecoming shows this month at the Roxy.

Last year, we featured Collective Soul before the Rock and Roll Express tour with 3 Doors Down and Soul Asylum. At that point, Blood was just a collection of mostly recorded tracks. Now it's been out for six months.

Yeah man, time flies. That tour was fun, too. Collective Soul can go out with 3 Doors Down, but you know, if somebody like Sammy Hagar calls and wants us to play with him, well then awesome! We can do it.
Let's talk about the process for Blood.

At one time, you were planning it to be released as a deluxe, two-record set.

Yeah that was the plan at first. Then we started talking to our partners at ADA, our label. We're not really signed to a label but it's partnerships. We just decided that, since Collective Soul isn't known for filler, it was just too many good songs to release all at once. So we came up with a better idea. The idea then became to release it in a sort of a part one and part two deal. So now we'll have a new album that should be out by around late April or early May of 2020.

Less than a year apart is a pretty fast turnaround for any band these days. You're churning out albums now like The Beatles.

(laughs) Yeah well, I don't know about that! But see, they stopped touring. That's how they could do two records a year. But is frickin' crazy that Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper's came out in the same year. The Beatles - and especially McCartney - take the cake for me.

I knew you were a big Beatle fan but does the British Invasion inform your sound? There's a definite McCartney vibe at times.

Yeah and I've been listening to Ram over and over and even Flowers In The Dirt. You can take it for granted just because there was so much material, but like, every song on Ram, I love. Paul did those solo records and then he came out with Wings, what was it, six months later? So yeah, McCartney is an influence and I guess Randy Newman gets brought up a lot, too. So for me, it's a cross of all of that.

What makes Collective Soul distinctive is there's a define, cohesive band sound as well. Some groups never quite find it, but you guys managed to nail it at the very beginning.

Yeah, Ed's vocal is definitely recognizable. But the thing is, we just didn't overanalyze it. We were just ourselves. We didn't have a lot of the same ways of creating music that other people did. We just did it our own way and sure enough, I think it turned out to be one of the reasons why we're successful, because nobody sound like Collective Soul and we don't really sound like anybody but us.

You were also lucky in that the band worked on their own terms.

That was definitely a part of it. We didn't have that label guy, or that producer guy, telling us what to do. Because, you know, Hints and Allegations was an independent release at first. We'd already sold 30,000 copies, and by the time Atlantic had signed us, "Shine" was just a snowball going downhill. They just repackaged the record. Then it sold a million records that first year - and now it's sold over two million. So we'd established that we had the creative side covered and they didn't try to stick their head in there.

There's a solid core of the band and that obviously helps the cohesiveness.

Yeah, me, Dean and Ed, we pretty much grew up next to each other. I really want this documentary to get out. We're currently collecting material and content and we're working on that. We haven't really settled on a production company yet. But when it's done, people can really see how close we were and how close we still are. A lot of people probably don't realize it but in my and Dean's earliest memories, we knew each other. Ed was a little older but he knew me. I was probably six or seven years old, going to their father's church. Let's see, he is seven years older than me, so he was 13 or 14 years old. One of Ed's best friends was a guitar student of my dad's and so Ed grew up in my dad's studio, learning his craft. Sometimes people can't understand how small-town it really was and how well we know each other. And that becomes another part of our strengths, going back to the original five of us. We've lost some certain members over the years but there were reasons for that, but now we're still really strong. It's a bond closer than a marriage. Our wives don't even know us as well as we do.

It's a family.

Definitely. We're all brothers, absolutely. When we connect all the dots for people, I think it'll be a very captivating story.

Obviously as the lineup changes, the band dynamic shifts a bit.

Yeah but we're as strong now as ever. Johnny Rabb, I can't even think of how many ways to say that he's a great drummer and a friend. Then Jess joined in 2014 and the vibe and the artistry is just great.

Since the bond is so tight, songwriting must be just intuitive at this point.

Yeah and a good example of that is probably the song "Right As Rain." Did you notice how we recorded the acoustic guitars? That was a nod, a sport of a tip of the hat, to Tom Petty who has always been a big influence on all of us. It just flew out of us. It took no effort to know how to propagate those emotions - and, as you said, to make it sound like Collective Soul.

You mentioned that the new album has no filler. But that's a hallmark of all of Collective Soul records. I can't think of any obvious tracks to skip when you play the albums from start to finish.

Well it comes from being buddies. We focus on what we want and Ed is an amazing songwriter. He can write a tune and then we get together and it sound like us. It comes down to this: you get one chance to be new and fresh. Then after that, if your quality isn't really high, it doesn't work. For your first record, you get the time to spend on your sound and really develop it. Then for the second one, sometimes you just have six-months to do it in. Some people do struggle with that pressure. If the band isn't tight, that record just won't be as good. But I think Blood really is as good as the rest of our stuff. I think it might be in the top five. Not that the others weren't as good, but I'm just really proud of this one.

So what better way to celebrate a good album than with a big, end-of-the-year homecoming show, right?

Definitely. We're celebrating twenty-five, well really more than twenty-five years, but we're just celebrating it all - with the home crowd. I know people are flying in for it because it's a real celebration. I think it's gonna be emotional. Tears will be shed. Even now, after all this time, it's been an unbelievable life. It's surreal when I think about all that we've done. So we'll have a lot to say and a lot of songs to play. We're just gonna wrap up 2019 at home and then we'll get ready for 2020.

Collective Soul plays the Coca-Cola Roxy Friday, November 29 and Saturday, November 30. Like Machines open. For more information, please visit collectivesoul.com.

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