The 1990s, the decade of the alternative rock explosion that in some ways feels like it was so long ago, yet still stays close to those who grew up with it. One of the leading bands of this golden age of rock and roll was Collective Soul. This Atlanta, Georgia quintet was (and continues to be) not only a great band, but also one of the most successful rock acts of the last fifteen years scoring a record number of seven number one hits in the ‘90s. And although many of their songs remain a great part of our youth, Collective Soul is still together and still going strong. The group’s latest release Afterwords came out at the end of summer 2007 and along with the new record, the band has been extensively touring North America and the world. The guys are currently on a Canadian tour and have shows scheduled in the U.S. at the beginning of the spring. Recently we caught up with the band’s lead guitarist and one of its founding members Dean Roland to talk about what’s going on with the band. Dean was very nice and it was a true pleasure to speak with such a huge part of the ‘90s rock scene. Here’s what he had to say.
Just to start off, Collective Soul has of course been a huge band now for close to fifteen years and the roots of the band actually go back to the late 1980s. Tell me, how does it feel to not only still be doing this today but still being successful at it?
Dean: It’s great. I mean you know, I guess we definitely wanted to be able to stick around and have a career and not just make one record, but it’s a good feeling to be able to be fifteen years into a career and see the things that we’ve accomplished and you know people have enjoyed the music and we’ve enjoyed making it so it’s a nice feeling.
You guys played a special New Year’s Eve gig in Chicago just last month at the House of Blues. How did the show go and did you do anything special or different in your set because of the occasion?
Dean: We had a blast, we had tons of fun. A lot of our friends and family came out and made the trip and Chicago’s a great city to celebrate New Year’s Eve in anyways. As far as doing anything different, as the New Year was ringing in, we stopped and celebrated with everyone for a few minutes and then started back the show and finished up. But it was awesome, we really had a great time.
Speaking of touring, you’re currently on a Canadian tour for the first half of February. How does it feel to be up in Canada during the worst of winter? Maybe you would have liked to do this tour a few months from now?
Dean: [laughs] We’ve done this before actually, coming through Canada in the winter time. It seems to be that a lot of times, that’s when people want us to come just because there’s not a whole lot going on so it just seems to work out that way. And you know, it doesn’t bother me, the cold, I guess we try not to stay in it too long but I don’t know, I enjoy my time up there.
Let’s talk a bit about your latest studio record Afterwords which came out at the end of August last year. You guys have built up such a vast catalog over the years but how do you feel Afterwords matches up with the rest of the Collective Soul discography?
Dean: You know obviously I’m going to tout it but I think personally, I think it’s probably our second best record, maybe just as good as my favorite record that we’ve done so far. And a lot of it comes from the creative process of you know, knowing that it was collaborative and we had a great time making it. We weren’t in a lot of pain making this record which was nice, a lot of times you know it’s such a struggle to find a groove or a flow and see what songs are going to work. This one didn’t have that element, it really didn’t, it felt good. As far as analyzing the sound of it, I think it has its own sound, I think it just takes a second to get outside of it because once you’re making it, you’re so inside of it and when you get outside of it, you want to listen and see how does it compare sonically to the other records and I’m not sure yet to be honest.
You worked with producer Anthony J. Resta on Afterwords who has worked with quite a diverse field of artists such as Satellite Party and Duran Duran. How did you first get in touch with Anthony and why did you decide to go with him?
Dean: We started working with Anthony in 1999 or 1998 when we recorded Dosage and we just met him through another friend of ours. And initially, he just came in to help us with some programming ideas and drum arrangements, he’s an amazing drummer and he’s got that natural rhythmic thing going on. So he came in there and helped us with some of those things and that relationship just grew into other things you know like ultimately co-producing and co-writing with us. He’s just a great soul, a great spirit to have around when you’re working and creating… he just inspires and I think when you’re working with other people, you need that to play off of each other so he’s great in that way.
I wasn’t aware you had worked with him that long; I thought it was just the last couple of albums…
Dean: It’s been on and off. I mean in some capacity he’s worked on every record since then but this one was more extensive.
With the internet and downloading, artists are continuously finding new and innovative ways of releasing their music and you’ve done a similar thing with Afterwords, making Target stores the record’s exclusive physical retailer for one year. How did this deal come about and why did you decide to release the album in this way?
Dean: Well they approached us with it. In the industry right now, I mean retail, there’s not that many places to buy music anymore, there’s only a handful, Target, Wal-Mart, I’m not exactly sure of the market up in Canada but I’m sure it’s similar. We just thought it was an opportunity to focus in one thing, the deal just made sense as far them giving us advertising and we were able to reach out to all of their customers. It just made sense from a marketing and just a basic financial perspective. The year time period is a little bit long, but you know, whatever….
The band has always been predominantly a guitar, bass and drums type of band but in 2006, you released a live CD and DVD of two performances you did with The Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. How did this opportunity come about and are you pleased with how it turned out?
Dean: Yeah, those two shows were really one of the highlights of our career. I mean the fact that it was with the youth symphony and you know it was just in our hometown of Atlanta…. The time and effort that went into it, like it wasn’t something that we could just throw together, we actually, you know, it took some work. We took a lot of songs that we really had never even played live before and that was a challenging part to it. In the end it was something that we are really proud of.
What’s the writing and recording like within the band? Is it mostly just yourself and Ed doing the writing or is it more of a collective effort?
Dean: No it’s the whole band. I mean Ed, creatively, is the initiator of the entire thing, I mean sometimes he’ll come in with a complete idea of a song that he’s already worked out. Most times he comes in with, you know, an idea and we work together in arranging it and everyone adds their own parts to it, but it’s a collaborative thing for sure. Lyrically, the lyrics are usually the last thing that comes after we recorded the music and then we sit down and finish the lyrics. On this last record, Joel our lead guitar player wrote and sang a song which was really cool, you know, that’s cool for everybody to have you know somebody else up there, just mixing it up a little.
Over the last thirteen years or so of releasing records, Collective Soul has released now seven studio albums. Is there one in particular that stands out in your mind as being your favorite of all?
Dean: I mean the second record, the one with “The World I Know,” “Gel” and “December,” I mean there was so much happening at that time, so there is some sort of effect towards that record based on the energy around it at that time. But just based on musically and the songs, probably Dosage would be my favorite. And even Youth the last record I really liked, there were some great songs on there as well. Um, I don’t know, it’s weird because I don’t really spend a lot of time, I don’t think any of us do, listening to our own music and going back and checking it out. I think it happens when we’re about to go on tour, we’ll listen to see what songs we maybe want to pull out and add to the set list. You know, I don’t know, I just kind of base it off of a gut feeling of what appeals to me right now.
The band has been so successful for so many years now. What are your future plans for the group? Could you see Collective Soul still making music and touring ten years from now?
Dean: Yeah, um, the only way to answer that question really is to just you know, deal with what is happening now and we’re genuinely having fun, playing shows and making music and as long as that stays intact, I don’t see why not. Traveling less, I mean at some point you have a family and you’re traveling two hundred days a year, that doesn’t really fit into that picture very well so probably less touring but always making music, I think that’s the true passion of this band and the people in it. So yeah, I hope so, sorry to be long winded, but yeah I hope we’re still doing it in ten years, I mean music is something that is youthful in spirit, you can be eighty years old but your spirit can be young and if you can still be making some cool music then why not?
Aside from the current Canadian tour, what else does the band have planned for the immediate future and the rest of 2008?
Dean: Yeah, we’re going to do the Canadian tour then we’ll do some international stuff, we’re going to South America and then a little bit of a breather. What we’re going to do is take some time off and maybe record some new music and see what comes out of that. I’m not sure when that might be released, but you know, we’re just kind of going to get in a headspace to go create again and we’ll see where that goes. And then there will be a summer tour and just more making music and playing it.
So you guys are already thinking about your next album?
Dean: Yeah, sort of thinking about it and getting some ideas together….