Collective Soul: New Album BLOOD Tests Positive During 25th Anniversary Tour
It’s often said the only things you can count on in life are death and taxes. In truth, you can add COLLECTIVE SOUL to that list.
For 25 years, this close knit band of brothers from tiny Stockbridge, Georgia has continued to deliver their own uniquely-crafted rock-and-roll hybrid – a sound fused with a positive spiritual universality that has continued to resonate with rock fans around the world. From the multi-platinum success of their 1993 release Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid right through to their 2019 release, BLOOD, the band has turned their magic Georgia-brewed elixir into an endless catalogue of high-potency hits: “December,” “The World I Know,” “Gel,” “Precious Declaration,” “Where the River Flows,” “Heaven Let Your Light Shine Down,” “Smashing Young Man,” “Heavy,” and “Run.”
Although band members have come and gone, and radio has proven fickle on occasion – especially given the erroneous labelling of Collective Soul as some kind of covert group of Christian missionaries – the current line-up of long-time members Ed Roland (vocals, guitars), Dean Roland (rhythm guitar), Will Turpin (bass, backup vocals) plus lead guitarist Jesse Triplett and drummer Johnny Rabb, continue to keep the light shining as they celebrate the quarter-century milestone together.
With two shows scheduled for this week at the Fallsview’s Avalon Ballroom, bassist Will Turpin took time to chat with GoBE Weekly about where the new album ranks amongst their best work, the rumoured death of rock and the recent conversion of Yeezus to Jesus.
GoBE: In the press materials for the tour there are quotes from Ed saying the new record “is the best we’ve ever done.” Applying the word “best” to music is always subjective for so many reasons. But for you, the co-creator of the music, what is it about BLOOD that inspires you to believe in that statement?
WILL: I’m not big on picking favourites when it comes to art. I understand where his statement is coming from. Not only is it subjective, but it’s subjective to a place and time. Depending on where you are in life there is always going to be music that’s “the best.” The word “blood” in general to us is used in relation to family, in relation to our brotherhood, in relation to going out and doing it together and sweating and pouring our heart and soul into the whole thing. As well, the whole maturity thing over the past 25 years, and being at a point where you can let stuff sink in. A lot of the songs, I think Ed lyrically took this one to another level. Each song is so intense lyrically. The record top to bottom is just extremely strong. I would definitely say in my mind, the album deserves to stand out on its own and belongs to be considered as one of the best of our career. How do you compare it to the first album, or even Dosage? It’s all relative, it’s all subjective. It definitely one of the albums I’m most proud of.
GoBE: To be fair, listening to the album start to finish, it really is incredibly solid. At what stage do you first get a sense that an album is on the right track?
WILL: That’s a good question. Collective Soul is not known for filler. We’re not known for bad songs. Before we get in the studio, I’m always excited about these songs. To me, I feel like we’ve always put out quality music, quality songs. We hit one of those vibes, those waves, where it’s bigger than the rhythm, it’s bigger than the hand on your fret board. When you boil it down, it’s about emotion. It’s not a key signature, it’s not a rhythm, it’s emotion. Somewhere early on in the recording, we were really on the same page about drawing the emotion out in this music and these songs. Definitely, in the studio there was that kind of feeling, like ‘I think we nailed that one, we did the right thing for the music.
GoBE: When it was released June 21 it was instantly Top 5 on the Billboard alt charts and rock charts. What kind of validation was that 25 years into your career?
WILL: As far as that goes, that’s gotten surreal, especially with the early records where we needed validation, we needed to watch the charts, the spins on radio. It was stuff we were concerned with. Now, it’s not that we’re not concerned with it. It’s just now, we’ve been given some kind of validation that makes us feel way more confident in what we do. We can’t really control what people think about it. We understand that there’s a fan base we’ve tapped into and tried to cultivate, and we just try to take care of it the whole time.
GoBE: That confidence is certainly justified given the band’s history of success. When you look back to the release of the debut and the string of #1 songs it produced, did you have any ‘one and done’ fears? Do you ever remember being worried that the initial success may have set the bar too high to match – we’ll call it Hootie and the Blowfish syndrome?
WILL: Yea, that’s another good question. No, when we were younger, we kind of knew we had a lot to offer to the world. It was definitely not being cocky. We were putting our heads to the grind, and we knew we had to put the work in. Nothing was guaranteed. When I look back, for the most part, it wasn’t like we knew we were going to be successful, but we had so much to offer. We just wanted to eat it up and keep putting it out there. As soon as we were finished one record and were ready to go on tour, we were also ready to be recording another one. We were too busy to even contemplate that. We wanted people to hear all these ideas we had in our head, and what we wanted Collective Soul to be known as, biting at the bit to go at it again. The first four records were released in five years. From ’94 from when we released the first record to late ’98, we released five records.
GoBE: That’s old school production, 1971 Black Sabbath-level output.
WILL: That’s exactly what we were thinking (laughing).
GoBE: You’ve had the luxury of change I’ll call it, because change is good. You’ve had four drummers, not quite Spinal Tap numbers but still up there, a few guitarists as well. How have changes inspired the band as you went into the process of producing new music? Does change always feel right? Does it make you feel you have to prove yourselves all over again, or is it more a positive injection?
WILL: The injection thing is what I use when I talk about Johnny (Rabb, new drummer) and Jess (Triplett, lead guitar), because everything is so strong with them. It’s like new blood that actually pushed me and Ed and Dean. And it feels right. Those guys open their ears first. It’s not about what you put out. It’s about what you take in and how you use that information. So that feels really right with us. Again, with me, Ed and Dean, we all grew up close to each other, we’ve know each other our whole lives. Ed grew up in my father’s studio. We always feel like the songs are there, and the strength of the songs are there. As far as the guitarists, I’ve enjoyed all my time with Joel (Kosche), who’s no longer with us. And with the original guys, we’re still tight. We’re all from the same small town. Some of it’s bittersweet why things happen, and some of it’s just natural progression. I miss Ryan (Hoyle) deeply. He didn’t like touring, and we’re still amazing friends.
GoBE: That foundation you’ve all built is probably the core reason for your survival the past 25 years. When you hear the rumblings that rock is dead, and here you are surviving 25 years in an industry that eats and spits out lesser bands, how do you address that notion?
WILL: I say as long as we’re still breathing and our hearts are still pumping, rock and roll is not dead. That’s good enough to me.
GoBE: The thing I’ve always loved about Collective Soul, especially through the 90s when grunge was often bleak and depressing, is that your band has always been spiritually inspiring as an underlying theme in the songs. Spiritual awareness has never been a core pillar of rock, but Collective Soul has always woven that thread into the music. What are your thoughts when an artist like Kanye West takes a left turn and decides to release something like his latest, Jesus Is King?
WILL: Look, he’s Kanye West. He’s doing it for his own profile. It’s kind of a joke to me. My son showed me the record and we listened to a couple songs. For me, no, it’s a joke, he’s just doing that for money and marketing purposes. For us, the spirituality is real. Some of our biggest influences helped us along that way. I’ll mention U2. It’s not ‘hey, come bow down to the alter of Jesus.’ It’s spiritual, it’s kind of bigger than that. Which is kind of the message I thought Jesus was trying to say, but it’s kind of been high jacked a little bit. In the same breath, we always wanted to be non-exclusive. We wanted Hindus, Muslims, Jewish people, we wanted all people to connect to the emotion in the music. Yea, we grew up in the church, we’re all Christians and we do have a foundation there. But we are certainly not exclusive nor do we keep our beliefs exclusive. Some of it lines up with today’s Christian faith, some of it doesn’t.
GoBE: What is the defining song to you on Blood that best represents the band that Collective Soul is today? For me, it’s “Now’s The Time,” which instantly drew me into the album. But I do love “Over Me,” with those punky rock riffs juxtaposed against those big harmonies.
WILL: I think as far as rock songs, and this goes back to what I’ve always heard over the years, that Collective Soul is hard to pin down because we have so many different styles. Yea, we’re rock and roll, but the Beatles were rock and roll too. They had “Helter Skelter,” one of the first metal tunes, and they also had “Long and Winding Road,” one of the sappiest slow tunes you could ever write. “Observation of Thoughts” is kind of our main theme, but I’ll go with you and say “Over Me.” That was definitely the rock term that I thought, ‘this is sick, this is a really good Collective Soul song.’ And it starts with a bass riff, so why not.
GoBE: You’re coming up to Niagara Falls for a couple shows, what can fans expect from this 25th anniversary tour?
WILL: We’ve got two nights in a row. We’ll try to play deeper cuts on the different nights. For us, we kind of use the term ‘celebration of life.’ We’re going to celebrate the days, we’re going to celebrate the memories, we’re going to do it through music, and we’re going to do it the best we can with a bunch of high energy.
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