Dean and Ed Roland are the brothers behind Collective Soul, a Georgia-based rock band that will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of its debut album, Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, over the course of the next year. That record opened with “Shine,” a track that announced to the world that Ed’s voice was going to lead the way from grunge into post-grunge ‘90s rock. It somehow managed to be what both things were. Over the course of the next decade, the band managed to slowly evolve, relying on Ed’s unique voice and crunching guitar riffs, and remain a modern rock radio fixture when mid- and late-‘90s peers would come and go.
Birmingham was a big market for the band. Before their return, Dean talks about why it was, about “Why (Part 1),” and becoming one of a select few Southern ‘90s rock bands to achieve national success.
You, Ed, and Will [Turping, bassist] are sort of the band’s core at this point, and the three of you have been there from the beginning. How did you arrive at this new version of the band?
Johnny Rabb, our drummer, is a name in his own right. In the drum world, he’s highly regarded. Will is a drummer himself, or he comes from that world, and he had some connections, reached out, and he was available. It was like, “Whoa. He can come play for us?” It was an opportunity for us, so we jumped on it.
Jesse [Triplett, lead guitarist] was playing with Ed’s other project, The Sweet Tea Project. Jesse just came in and played some stuff. He filled in on a Collective Soul show once before, and it was really a matter of him being available. We took advantage and grabbed him. It’s a good fit for us right now. The band is as good or better than it’s ever been. We’re having fun with it all.
The three of you have been together for over 25 years at this point. To what do you attribute that kind of continuity with no real breaks?
[The breaks that we had] were really just a little time away from ourselves to go do some other projects, just to get the creative juices flowing — because otherwise, you get kind of boxed in your own corner. That’s just the way it works.
At the end of the day, passion for the music is the focus of what we do. We’re fortunate to be able to do it for a living — and we like each other. We have fun. We’ve all been through some ups and downs, you can’t avoid that in any kind of lengthy relationship. But for the most part, we’ve had a pretty cool run.
When you and Ed were jamming together in your parents’ basement, did you ever imagine this would become a huge thing?
No, you’re a little naïve to it all at that point. But you’re hopeful, and you have dreams of wanting to be a musician and a songwriter and all of those things that we did. It starts to unfold — for me, I was really young. I was 21 at the time. Ed’s 10 years older than I am. But for me, it was like, “Oh that was easy! You start doing something and it happens!” [laughs] Obviously, it’s not always like that.
Ed had been struggling for years, with different bands and different configurations. I didn’t start playing with him until ’92. So I came late, but then things started clicking for all of us.
There were so many bands in that time period that became huge, regional successes across the South, but for whatever reason, most of them didn’t get over the hump. How were you able to get over that hump and become a national act?
That’s a great question. We never really had a regional following. We played and we did our thing, but our success came out of radio success. We weren’t one of those bands that got in a van and — we did tour, we played shows — but we didn’t have that kind of following. We were a studio-, songwriting-driven kind of thing. Then we had success at radio and that kind of spawned a broader reach.
How impactful was Birmingham as a market —and more specifically 107.7 The X — early in your career?
It was a big deal for us. Absolutely. Birmingham was a little bit of a second home; we’re from Atlanta. It was a huge component. That station played great music. Atlanta had 99X, and that was a similar formula. It was a good time for music.
I’ve heard we may see new music from you guys as early as February of next year. Is that still on track?
Yeah. It should be. The release will be dependent on when the music is finished and can coincide with the tour. Next year is our 25th anniversary, so we’ll probably acknowledge that. If the new record isn’t out by February, I’d say spring or early summer.
Was there never a “Why (Part 1)?”
Oh there was, yeah. It was a song that we recorded before we ever got signed to Atlantic. I want to say we put it as a B-side on something, but I may be wrong. It didn’t go on an official release, but we recorded it.
But yeah, there’s a “Why (Part 1).” The only thing about that’s similar about the two songs is the name; the rest of it is a totally different song. [Laughs]
You’re bringing 3 Doors Down and Soul Asylum out on this tour. How did you choose those guys?
We’ve known the 3 Doors guys and played shows with them for years; just good buddies. When you’re going out on the road for three months to play music, that part is a huge component — making sure everybody gets along.
The Soul Asylum thing, I don’t know how they came on, but I’m excited. I remember Ed and I saw those guys just before we began the Collective Soul thing in Athens, Georgia. They played and Goo Goo Dolls were opening for them in a small little club. Life comes full circle sometimes; it’s a trip.
Collective Soul, 3 Doors Down and Soul Asylum come to Oak Mountain Amphitheater on the Rock and Roll Express tour on Friday, July 13. The show begins at 7 p.m. and tickets are available through Ticketmaster beginning at $35. For more information, visit theoakmountainamphitheater.com.