In his youth, Collective Soul drummer Shane Evans often daydreamed about being in a band, tuning up for a show and playing to hundreds of fans, not at Madison Square Garden, but at his high school in Stockbridge, Ga.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Imagine his bewilderment today, where everything for Collective Soul is on a grand scale: three straight Top 20 albums, including the current smash “Disciplined Breakdown” (Atlantic), loads of hit songs, videos on MTV and appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Show.”
It didn’t even hit Evans that they had struck the big time until he and band mates Ross Childress (guitar), Will Turpin (bass) and brothers Ed (vocals, guitar) and Dean Roland (guitar) were driving in a minivan on their way to a gig in Orlando in 1994.
“We had this radio station on, WJR, and it was playing ‘Shine’,” Evans said recently. “We had to pull over to a rest stop; we were jumping around, acting like idiots. That’s when I realized there’s a big world out there, way beyond Stockbridge.”
From there, everything happened fast and furious for Collective Soul. What began as a three-week promo tour turned into a yearlong concert trek, spreading “Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid” from one end of the country to the other. All of which makes it odd to hear Evans say that the rock quintet didn’t feel like a real band when their debut album was released and, even after a second (“Collective Soul”) and third album, that they still are playing catch-up.
“I played on half of those tracks off ‘Hints,’ ” Evans said. “Those songs were never intended to be put on a record. They were basically Ed’s songwriting demos. The first record wasn’t a true ‘band’ record, and I think in a way it set us back on the image of Collective Soul and who we are, trying to put a face to the music.
“We seem to be in a constant mode of trying to catch up with ourselves and our songs. The image is still way back there somewhere. Even though we’re on MTV every day, people haven’t seen enough of us, which might work in our favor and create a mystique. All I know is, there’s this big question of ‘Who’s Collective Soul?’ “
Members of Collective Soul know who they are: Love them or hate them, they create solid songs with instantly graspable pop hooks.
“Maybe the public’s perception of who we are is lacking,” Evans said. “That’s something that’s totally out of our control. I don’t want to be a faceless band. That sounds terrible.”
“Disciplined Breakdown” not only puts a face on Collective Soul, it gives it character and dimension: A bitter split with manager Bill Richardson fueled the album’s emotionally charged songs. No one wants to talk about exactly what happened, but Evans said it’s nothing that other groups dealing with success haven’t experienced.
“It’s all been settled. It’s over and done,” he said, “but it’s something you can’t totally put out of your head. We feel as if we were done wrong.
“There were days when each of us would walk into the cabin where we were recording the album and we’d be like, ‘I don’t know if I can deal with this any longer.’ There’s this business side I hear that happens to so many bands; it’s really a pain.
“But fortunately, all of us being friends, we were there for each other. And it’s only made us stronger.”