Collective Soul: Rocking On With Limitless Passion

Collective Soul: Rocking On With Limitless Passion

Written by Ray Chelstowski

Collective Soul burst on to the rock scene in 1993 with the single “Shine” from their debut album Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid. It was a remarkable record from a band that had only formed a year earlier. They were soon compared to acts like Pearl Jam and artists like David Bowie. But across their 30-year career they have built as loyal a following as can be found in the world of rock. This has been fueled by a body of music that is cohesive, with limitless energy, and appropriate amounts of attitude.

While they have seen turnover in the lead guitar and drum roles, Ed Roland (vocals/guitar), Dean Roland (rhythm guitar), and Will Turpin (bass/background vocals) have formed the backbone of the band since day one. Jesse Triplett (lead guitar/background vocals) and Johnny Rabb (drums/background vocals) round out the band and have been in their respective roles for almost ten years. Together this fivesome sounds like they have been together since the beginning – especially on their latest release, Vibrating, the band’s 11th studio recording. The first single, “All Our Pieces,” is about as perfect as any hard rock song can be. It’s no wonder that the record is already charting, a remarkable feat at a time when mainstream rock has become almost invisible.


We caught up with founding member Dean Roland about how the band continues to beat the odds and create music that seems as timeless as their biggest hits; what they have seen being back on the road after a long hiatus; and how he and his brother Ed have avoided the rivalry and feuding that has unraveled so many sibling acts like Oasis, The Kinks, the Beach Boys, the Black Crowes, and more.

Ray Chelstowski: For the last three years you have been charting again, which is a rarity in the world of rock. How does it feel?

Dean Roland: We’ll take a step back and reflect every so often, but for the most part we take it in stride, being really grateful for what we are able to do for a living.

RC: For those who say rock is dead you give us hope.

DR: I don’t know. Trends come and go. My take has always been that rock and roll is something that is steady. Our approach has never adhered to trendy stuff. We make music that we feel good about and we try to be as authentic as possible.

RC: The previous album, Blood, was originally going to be a double. Instead, you decided to split the list of songs in two.  How did you pick what song would go where?

DR: That’s a great question. Initially Blood was going to be a double album. One disc was going to be guitar-driven, while the other was going to have arrangements that were more melancholy and vibey. But when we did Blood we decided that we had too many songs and we didn’t want to over-inundate ourselves or our fans with material. So, we just went with what worked together. It’s just a feel. It really is.

RC: When did you know that this record would do as well as it has?

DR: You go in to the studio and you follow each idea to what you think is its fulfilled concept. Some end up good, others don’t work for you. We really felt like we had some good stuff on this one. We really have felt great about everything for the last few years. Ed’s been writing some really great words and that approach is just working.


Collective Soul, Vibrating, album cover.

Collective Soul, Vibrating, album cover.


RC: Ed writes most of the songs. How do you all help shape what he has written?

DR: We don’t put any barriers in place. Sometimes Ed comes in and he has very clear ideas about how the song will work out, both lyrically and melodically, and we just add our fairy dust. And other times we can be in rehearsal and we just start jamming on a drum groove. So we really try to not put ourselves in a box because you want that creative spark to light whenever it’s offered.

RC: Your entire catalog definitely ties together sonically. Do you enter the studio with that in mind?

DR: We’ve never taken that approach. Selfishly it’s been about what we are happy expressing. We never chase an appeal or an appraisal. Hopefully people hear it and like it; I say that with the utmost gratitude for people who do like it.

RC: You have often been compared to Bowie and I can hear that on “Back Again,” but the back half of the record has a real Paul Weller feel to it with songs like “A Conversation With” and “Just Looking Around.” Do you have people in mind when you start recording?

DR: I’ll take that as a compliment! When you go into the studio you can acknowledge the influences that arrive from everywhere. But I’ve never heard that one and that’s a cool reference. Thank you!

RC: I saw you last at Irving Plaza in October of 2015. King Washington opened the show and their guitarist George Krikes was a real prodigy at the time. Is there anyone similar opening for you on this tour?

DR: Well right now we are touring with Switchblade, and they don’t need any introduction. They’re an amazing band in their own right. Then there’s Jay Jackson, a solo artist with a gorgeous voice, whose talents are to be celebrated.

RC: At that Irving Plaza show the audience was completely engaged in the music. Who is the “Collective Soul fan?”

DR: It’s hard for me to describe it. But I hope that it’s someone who appreciates good music (laughs). If I were to sum it up they are “song-oriented folks.” It’s people who appreciate what we do and there’s an emotional connection that ties the songs into their lives. It could be that they are going through a difficult time, or a happy time like meeting their wife or having their first child. It just comes down to the song.


RC: Is there any special gear that you are bringing out on this tour?

DR: I did just get a Gretsch Penguin seafoam sparkly blue/green guitar and I love it. But most of my setup is what I have been doing for so long. I’ve been playing the same Les Paul for almost 30 years. That’s my workhorse and I just love that thing. It feels like my buddy when we get on stage and we have fun.

RC: You are well into your current tour. Any particular highlight you’d love to mention?

DR: We spent two years where our industry was in complete lockdown. It’s just good to be back out seeing people laughing and singing. That’s where our head and heart is right now.

RC: You have had very little turnover in the band. What’s the key to that success?

DR: Well, I think you have to have a passion for music along with a gratitude for being in the position we’re in. You also have to respect each other, and each other’s space and talents. It’s simple to say but relatively difficult to apply. Once you find that groove it’s just about the music.

RC: So few bands with brothers seem to be able to avoid clashes and feuds. How have you and Ed avoided that?

DR: We still have to answer to our mother (laughs). We just respect each other’s role. We obviously butt heads here and there but we realized a long time ago that we have this common goal, and two different approaches. Sometimes we fight it out, but not really. It’s about love and respect. Ed’s my buddy, my friend, so we’re locked in on that level.


Header image courtesy of David Abbott.

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