Cult Heroes No. 10: Collective Soul
This week we take a trip down south (that’s the US state of Georgia – not Brighton!) as Xavier Russell celebrates Collective Soul as Classic Rock‘s latest Cult Heroes. Catch up on all our Cult Heroes so far.
Words: Xavier Russell
Rising through the grunge movement in the early 1990s came a hatful of wannabes threatend to poach Nirvana’s crown. One band who stood out
head and shoulders above the rest were Atlanta’s Collective Soul.
Originally from Stockbridge, Georgia, the Soul first burst onto the scene in 1993 with their barnstorming debut album, Hints, Allegations And Things Left Unsaid, basically a collection of Ed Roland (guitarist and co-founder) demos. This went on to to become a triple-platinum debut seller in America (ie. shifting over three million copies) and stayed on the Billboard charts for a staggering 76 weeks, thanks mainly to the monster hit single Shine, a delightful song with a catchy chorus, delicious hooks and a dirty guitar sound.
Simply, Collective Soul took the best of what grunge had to offer, and took it one stage further. But just what is the right genre for Collective Soul’s music? That’s a question for guitarist Joel Kosche.
”Well, I see in the Wikipedia dicitionary we have been labelled alternative rock, hard rock and post grunge. I hate labels in music. I still don’t know
what alternative rock actually means. I guess we do have a bit of post-grunge about us, and we definitely play hard rock. Ed [Roland] has always said, ‘Why should there be labels on music?’ That’s why I have always respected bands like AC/DC. They don’t have a label. You know what you’re gonna get when you hear a band like that.”
Kosche’s introduction into the Collective Soul family was in 1996, as a tour tech (posh term for roadie). He was finally offered the guitar spot full-time, replacing Ross Childress in 2001. Joel’s musical background makes fascinating reading. Originally trained on classical guitar, his rise up the rock tree was a slow one. After the usual college-band roster, his first serious group was Atlanta-based Rhapsody, which then merged into Jovian Storm, a prog-rock outftit heavily influenced by the likes of Queen, Kansas and Yes. They released one album Magic Show (long since deleted), with tracks clocking in at over 10 minutes.
The reaction was very mixed. Rolling Stone called it ‘bold and beautiful’ while Blender magazine summed it up in a two-word review – ‘magic shit’. A live bootleg, Magic Smiths, is still doing the rounds! A second Jovian Storm album was on the cards, but Joel quit to set up Steep, where he was also on lead vocals; the sound was a leaner, more straightahead rock sound. Steep never really caught on because Collective Soul came calling.
Collective Soul’s album output has been pretty impressive. The years on Atlantic Records saw the aforementioned Hints, Allegations And Things Left Unsaid (1993), Collective Soul (1995), Disciplined Breakdown (1997), Dosage (1999) and Blender (2000). After leaving Atlantic, the band cleverly set up their own label, El Music Group, and subsequently released Youth (2004), From The Ground Up (2005) , Home (live with Atlanta Youth Orchestra, 2006). In 2007, Collective Soul recorded Afterwards (their seventh studio album) and did an exclusive deal with all Target stores in the US, similar to the one that AC/DC, Kiss and Foreigner have done with Wal-Mart in the States. The album peaked at number five on the Billboard Internet chart – Collective Soul had now reached the Digital Age!
So… what about collaborating with the aforementioned orchestra on Home? How did that happen? Joel picks up the story:
”Yeah, a lot of people have asked that question. We had heard a lot about The Atlanta Youth Orchestra and how good they were, and thought it would add
another dimension and layer to the Collective Soul sound. I remember we were touring at the time of the recording, and didn’t actually have that much time to rehearse with the orchestra. In the end, we literally rehearsed with them in one afternoon, but I remember being very impressed with their professionalism.
“We recorded the album over two nights in Atlanta. And everything just clicked into place on the second night. We’re still very proud of that recording.” (All 94 minutes and 43seconds of it!)
But moving back to the present, Collective Soul are now signed to Roadrunner/Loud & Proud in America, and last year released their eighth studio album. Self-titled, it’s also known as The Rabbit Album (check the cover, and you’ll see why). I personally think it’s their best record since Dosage. Simply, this is chock full of instant Soul-like classics, such as the radio hit Staring Down, with its smoochy chorus and catchy hooks. Elsewhere, there’s the witty Fuzzy, complete with hysterical whistling and grungy guitars. Other highlights include Lighten Up, which has a funky feel, and Love, which is just… well, er, quirky! But the big surprise is Hymn For My Father, a soft, sad ballad and very unlike anything Collective Soul have penned before. What was the inspiration behind this beautiful song?
“That’s a very personal song that Ed wrote, and is a tribute to Ed and Dean’s father [Dean being rhythm guitarist Dean Roland], who died four years ago. Ed grew up singing hymns, so it seemed only natural that he should write a song about it. After all, his father helped develop his early musical career and really encouraged him to take that path artistically.
“I personally love the sad piano on that song. We were also surprised by the success of the single Staring Down. We weren’t sure that this was the right thing to release as the first single but the record company have proved us wrong and it certainly picked up a lot of airplay; the more I hear it, the more I can understand why it was chosen. It’s very infectious!”
Another reason for Collective Soul’s continued popularity is their ongoing appearances on movie soundtracks. They first popped up on Wes Craven’s horror spoof Scream 2 in 1997, with She Said. More recently, they were on the vampire teen sensation Twilight (2008) with Tremble For My Beloved (from Dosage). So how did Collective Soul come to end up on the soundtrack for such a mega movie?
”We have always been interested in soundtracks and would definitely like to do more. Hell, I think it would be great to score a whole movie we could really experiment with all sorts of weird sounds. How we ended up on Twilight was partly down to the screenwriter, Stephanie Meyer. She has always been a fan of Collective Soul, and I think that helped get us on to the screen. Also, having our music up on the big screens gives us a whole new audience. And we seem to be attracting new fans to our shows, people who would normally have by passed us.”
On September 1, 2009 Collective Soul were finally inducted into The Georgia Music Hall of Fame, joining such legends as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Atlanta Rhythm Section, The Allman Brothers and REM.
This year sees Collective Soul solidly touring to promote The Rabbit Album. They have just been confirmed to play at The Chicago Dow Live Earth Run For Water gig on April 18, the largest global water initiative in history working to combat the worldwide water crisis (find out more at www.liveearth.org). The band will then tour the U.S and Canada throughout the summer. So… any chance of UK dates any time soon?
”Well, we’ve recently changed management, and they are seriously looking at getting us back over there. I think 2006 was the last time we were over
in Europe, and we’re all keen to go back. The main thing that holds us back is the cost! But we’re working on it’.”
And when not bending the strings with Collective Soul, Joel Kosche has been keeping himself busy recording his first solo album, to be released later this year. Titled Fight Years, he’s very pleased with the way the album has turned out.
”I am really excited about it, and this is due to be released later in 2010. It’s quite a bit different to Collective Soul. It’s got a real hard rock feel to it. No keyboards, but having said that there is a melodic edge to it in places. But generally it rocks!”
As so do Collective Soul.
For more information on the band, check out the following websites:
Tags: AC/DC, Allman Brothers, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Atlanta Youth Orchestra, Collective Soul, Cult Heroes, Dean Roland, Ed Roland, Foreigner, Joel Kosche, Jovian Storm, Kansas, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nirvana, Queen, REM, Rhapsody, Ross Childress, Steep, Yes