Collective Soul makes a fairly straightforward promise to its fans: to deliver loud, catchy rock 'n' roll music. The hard guitar riffs and charging vocals are a perfect fit for its live show, coming to Jackson Friday for the 2007 Miller Lite Crawfish Boil. In their JFP interview, lead singer-songwriter Ed Roland and bassist Will Turpin described their love of playing live and making music together. Most of the band members—rounding out the group are Roland's brother, Dean (guitar), and newcomers Joel Kosche (guitar) and Ryan Hoyle (drums)—grew up together in Stockbridge, Ga. After finding multi-platinum success in the 1990s with a succession of chart-topping albums, the band took a hiatus from 2001 until 2004 to spend time with their families. Since the release of 2004's "Youth," the band has resumed touring and writing new music, and a new studio album hits stores in August.
How did the band get started?
Will Turpin: It really started with hometown friends who were musicians that congregated toward each other. From about the age of 10, I've known the Roland brothers. My dad owned a recording studio in Stockbridge, Ga., where we grew up, and Ed was the head engineer there.
Where did the band name come from?
Ed Roland: I happened to be reading the book "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand at the time. We started out calling ourselves Marching Two-Step, and then after a couple years, when we got the line-up we liked, we decided to change to a name that would sound good in 20 years.
What were the band's major influences as you were getting together?
Turpin: We're all children of the '80s, so a lot of '80s bands were big influences on us, like REM, U2, The Cars and INXS. We're all really steeped in the classics like the Beatles, Elton John and Led Zeppelin.
You all have been around since 1993. How do you sustain success over that long a period of time?
Turpin: I think there are a lot of different variables that you can point to when you talk about bands. I don't think there's one road map you can go by where you say, "If you follow this you'll have longevity and success." It doesn't really work that way with music. I know what we try to do is not pay attention to the trends, or what's cool. We try to do musically what we think is cool as individuals, and then we feel like the rest is out of our control. We don't over-think it. If it feels right to us, we do it.
Roland: We're really grateful to be still around. We're very honest and sincere about what we do. I think that comes through not only in the recordings of the songs but also in the live shows. There's still a spark and a joy to be onstage, and I think the audience gets that and appreciates it.
Has the music changed or evolved from when you started playing to now?
Turpin: Yeah, I think it has. It's hard for me on the inside to point out how it's changed, but I think everything in life influences us and affects our music. Also, we're different. I'm no longer that 23-year-old that signed with Atlantic Records and hit the road. I think about things differently now, and I know that affects how we approach creating music. That being said, there is that thing at the core that's the same, that little "something" that we've always had when we play music together. We've definitely tried to experiment, tried to be different for each record.
Roland: I think with success comes confidence, so when you bundle those, you can open up with different sounds. We've started stretching the boundaries and not being so dependent on bass, drums and guitars. There were keyboards added, loops added, and from there it expands into the songwriting, and you learn to feel more comfortable stretching the songwriting and production ideas.
What was it like for you personally when you realized that you'd be able to make music your full-time lifestyle?
Turpin: It's still one of those things where you're only as good as your last record. Music was all I ever did. I was a music major in college when we got signed. From when I was 16 years old on, that's how I made money, whether it's playing cover tunes at the Valentine's Day dance in high school, to dee jaying with my band equipment on the weekends to make money or teaching lessons. Music was always how I was going to make my living. The fact that I'm a successful rock 'n' roll musician—I definitely wasn't sold on that being able to be a reality.
Roland: I remember being 14 and wanting to be involved with music. I guess it was when we got our first royalty check that it felt like we had a job. At first, we weren't getting paid much at gigs. Sometimes we'd just get paid by getting beer or food.
Did you ever have one moment that said "This is rock 'n' roll"?
Turpin: There have been these little watermarks along the way, that each time we make those, I'm like "Wow." I realized that radio's never going to quit playing Collective Soul songs, and we're going to be one of those bands that you're going to hear on the radio for the rest of our lives. That was something that I came to a realization about. You're going to always know certain songs were created by Collective Soul.
In the early days, I remember touring with Van Halen for three months, and professionally that was one of my highlights, and I learned a lot about how to be professional on that tour. Eddie Van Halen specifically taught me a lot about the music industry. The Woodstock show in 1994 was probably my first inkling of "Oh my God, we are a viable rock band in the world today." We played Friday night, and they estimated (that) between 300,000 and 400,000 people were there. I say I'll never forget the feeling, but at the same time, I don't think I'll ever be able to truly feel like that rookie again. I'll never forget it.
Roland: I think the Woodstock show would have definitely been it. When you're playing in front of a couple hundred thousand people, (and) the most you'd played for before in your career was whomever you were dating at the time, that definitely was the moment where we went, "Oh wow, people are actually paying attention here."
Do you have any advice to bands that are just starting out?
Turpin: I always tell people to just go with their intuition. Don't try to over-think what the population's going to think is cool. Use your own style, don't try to cop somebody else's stuff. Stick to your own thing that you've got, because that's what people will find interesting and will gravitate toward.
Roland: The best advice is just to gig. Especially with today's world, I would get in and start spreading it through MySpace, whatever avenues are out there for people to hear you. Nobody's going to come to you.
What is your tour schedule like these days?
Turpin: Starting in July through September, we'll be pretty rigorous, four to five nights a week touring with Counting Crows and Live, a multi-band evening. We've got two more days in studio, and by the end will have 11 songs, with a new Collective Soul record slated for release in early August.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Turpin: We congregate, have a few drinks and pass around the high fives a little bit before we go onstage. No group prayer or anything, although we could probably use it.
Do you think Internet distribution makes it less necessary to have a major label deal to get your record out there?
Turpin: No. I think anybody even in recent times who's busted out through the Internet without a major label went straight to a major label. The major label still plays a role in all factors. When you look at a list of things that are important to becoming successful, distribution, marketing to fans, publicity, radio, the old-school radio promotion is still what you want to spend most of your energy on. The radio promotions departments at record labels are really important.
What's it like to release your album independently?
Roland: It's a little bit more work, but it's worth it. We'd always wanted to be more involved. Even though we have major distribution, it's a boutique label we set up to have a little bit more control. We felt we deserved that. We're not dependent on the corporate schedule. When we feel like making a record, we make it with no expectations to meet.
What's your favorite song to play live?
Turpin: There's a song called "Energy" off the "Greatest Hits" album that I like playing. I like playing songs we don't play all the time because they're more fresh. Ultimately, I get on stage and play music for a living in front of people who want to hear me play. I try to have a killer time no matter what song we're doing. If I can't have a good time doing that, there's something wrong with me, man. I try to jam on everything.
When you eat crawfish, do you suck the heads?
Turpin: No. I do like crawfish, though.
Roland: I don't do crawfish, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to give it a try.
One of my favorite bands. Have always been impressed with the way they came back after their drummer died choking on someone else's vomit.