Atlantic Band Displays Its Latest Mix Of Genres On 5th Set NEW YORK–Ed Roland of Collective Soul is talking on a cell phone while being driven around Los Angeles. He’s preparing to shoot a video for “Why Pt. 2,” the first single from the band’s fifth Atlantic album, “Blender,” due Oct. 10. He’s doing lots of interviews. And he’s having fun.
“I think it shows maturity, and I think it’s a little bit more of a fun record for it, maybe ’cause that was the attitude we had making it,” he says of the set he co-produced with Anthony J. Resta. “When I look back on it, [I’ll] think that the band was in a good mind space. Ten years from now I’ll look back at this record and think, ‘That was a fun time.'”
No one can begrudge Roland for enjoying what he and brother Dean Roland (rhythm guitar), Ross Childress (lead guitar), Will Turpin (bass), and Shane Evans (drums) have–and continue to–achieve. They’ve only been in the limelight for six years, but their collective resume reads like every aspiring rock star’s dream.
The Georgia act’s two-times platinum debut, “Hints Allegations And Things Left Unsaid,” launched its career in 1994 with “Shine,” a No. 1 Mainstream Rock Tracks chart hit for eight weeks. Its sophomore effort, “Collective Soul,” went triple-platinum and scored three more No. l’s. It indicated the band’s crossover appeal when “The World I Know” reached the summit of the triple-A chart in Billboard sister publication Airplay Monitor.
The band’s next two albums both contained two more chart-toppers. The gold “Disciplined Breakdown” had “Precious Declaration” and “Listen,” and 1998’s platinum “Dosage” yielded “Heavy” (the band’s biggest hit yet, with 15 weeks on Mainstream Rock Tracks) and “Run,” another triple-A triumph on the Airplay Monitor chart. It has also earned the honor of having Billboard’s No. 1 album rock track two years in a row–“Shine” in 1994 and “December” in 1995.
“I think Ed Roland can teach a lot of people how to write rock songs with pop sensibilities that just stick in your head and don’t leave,” says Steve Davis, senior VP of artist development at Atlantic, who performed A&R duties for “Blender.” “Ed Roland writes one-listen songs with amazing guitar hooks and great choruses,” Davis continues. “You hear it one time and you cannot get it out of your head. He writes great guitar hooks that are apparently his the second you hear the song start.”
The video for “Why Pt. 2,” which went to radio Sept.12, is being directed by Marcos Siega of P.O.D. and Papa Roach fame. “I think it’s going to be the most expensive party ever given,” Roland says of the video. “It’s just a way to reintroduce the band, and [it will] have youth and energy and all that fun stuff.
“The whole concept of this record in making it was, there was no concept,” he admits, laughing. “We did pre-production, writing, and recording all at once in our rehearsal studio [Crossover Studios] in Atlanta, where we recorded it. There was no set schedule, and if a song came to me, we recorded it. We weren’t as meticulous as we were [with] the last record. I think there were two we knew we were gonna record before we went in there, but other than that, when [a song] was written, we recorded it that day.”
“Blender” aptly describes an act that combines pop and rock with choice elements from such genres as soul and punk, resulting in music that pulses with energy without sounding angst-driven. The spontaneity Roland refers to yielded 11 songs that, although created off the cuff, still reflect his band’s unique style. “Why Pt. 2” contains Collective Soul’s trademark distorted but simple guitar licks, a head-nodding tempo, and a chorus vaguely reminiscent of the Cars’ early-’80s hit “Shake It Up.”
Strong radio contenders are “Skin,” with its infectious, animated rhythm; “Vent,” a dance-friendly tune; “Turn Around,” an easygoing song featuring gentle acoustic guitar work; and the melancholy “After All.” The free-form approach to songwriting could account for the ethereal intro to “Perfect Day,” another likely hit featuring the unmistakable vocals and piano of Elton John. Roland–who calls John “my musical hero”–is thrilled his longtime idol contributed to the project.
“He’s a part-time Atlanta resident, so we’ve known each other now for five years,” Roland explains. “He’s been very supportive of this band and very good to us. At dinner one night, [I asked,] ‘You mind singing on a song?’ He said, ‘I’d love to, as long as you let me play piano, too.’ I was like, ‘That was an easy deal.’ And he came in, played the piano in two takes, and sang it in two takes. It was just amazing.”
“Blender’s” other musical guests are Shawn Mullins, Butch Walker and Jayce Fincher of Marvelous 3, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, and Jeff Lanahan. Roland’s son, toddler Lindsey Kris, makes a two-second recording debut.
Fans put their two cents into the project earlier this year when modern rock WNNX (99X) Atlanta hosted the Collective Selection contest. The station invited listeners to suggest names for the album via its Web site. The band picked five possibilities from more than 12,000 entries for listeners to vote on. The winner was announced during Music Midtown 2000, a three-day music festival in Atlanta. Seventeen-year-old K.C. Smith received an album credit for submitting the winning title.
“The great thing about Collective Soul is you can play them next to everyone,” says WNNX PD Leslie Fram. “They fit the modern rock and the rock format and I believe top 40 as well. I would love to see the band get more crossover play on other formats, ’cause I really believe their music transcends more than the rock format.”
“We probably have six or seven singles on this record,” predicts Davis. “There are certain songs that are going to unequivocally work at rock radio, maybe not at pop–but I think there are songs that are going to be tremendous at pop radio, maybe not at rock. To me, that means we’re just going to end up reaching a wider audience and continue to grow the band’s career.”
On Sept. 22 in Sacramento, Calif., the band began touring with Creed to support “Blender.” At press time, 16 dates were confirmed through Oct. 17, including ones in Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. These will be immediately followed by several weeks of touring in Canada. Collective Soul will also host a VH1 special, “Best Of VH1 Hard Rock Live,” set to air after Thanksgiving.
“We’re hoping to do some TV [appearances] around the holidays to really drive home that the record’s there, but not for the initial release,” says Atlantic senior director of product development Jeff Dandurand. “This band is such a strong band at radio and always has been. That’s really been one of our strongest areas where we can get out the word that the record’s here.
“We’re going after the base we’ve always had, because it’s important that the fans they’ve had since day one are aware of the record,” Dandurand adds. “I think once that’s accomplished, that’s when we move out to that other audience we know is there for them and really start courting them and getting them aware of the project–hopefully through video and different radio formats that [Collective Soul] haven’t really gone to before.”
According to Dandurand, “Why Pt. 2” was the No. 1 most-added song at alternative and modern rock radio upon release. “When we tell radio we have a new track, I feel really fortunate that we’re always able to land No. 1 most-added at both [rock and alternative] formats right away,” he says.
“Blender” will be advertised in such magazines as Rolling Stone, Spin, Maxim, and Yahoo! Life. Atlantic is negotiating contests with radio stations that will give listeners chances to win the album before street date.
Dandurand says Collective Soul is one of Atlantic’s first acts to offer digital downloads of singles–“Why Pt. 2” and a live version of “Shine”–from atlantic-records.com starting Oct. 31. The band will be a featured act of the month on America Online (AOL) and will participate in online chats. Streaming singles are being made available from AOL, spinner.com, and winamp.com. A relaunch of the official Collective Soul Web site (collectivesoul.net) is planned, and a promotion is being coordinated with the Internet service provider EarthLink for 2001.
“[With] the last record, we did a lot of promotions with Earthlink, which was then MindSpring.com,” Dandurand says. “They’re based in Atlanta, and they’re enormous fans of the band. We’re going to be doing some promotions with them probably in January. Last time, when Earthlink released some new software, we included some music and stuff and gave away CDs at retail. We’ll probably do something similar to that.”
Collective Soul is managed by Farshid/Arshid Entertainment, booked through Creative Artists Agency, and published by Warner/Chappel Music.