It couldn’t get any better for Ed Roland. He and his Collective Soul band mates are releasing their fourth album in five years on Feb. 2, and just as sweet, his beloved Atlanta Falcons are in the Super Bowl.
A bit of luck, fate and divine intervention helped both causes, the lead singer-songwriter-guitarist says.
“A fourth Collective Soul album and the Falcons in the Super Bowl in the same year … my god, the apocalypse is happening or something, I don’t know,” Roland said recently, “but we always thought if we could be patient and do what we do, eventually we’ll have a body of work. That was our goal as a band all along.
“To me, the coolest thing in the world is 20 years from now, even if it ends now, I can go over there and say, ‘Hey, look, I did four CDs.’ Hopefully, that’s not where it ends, but not many bands can say that anymore. Not only do they not release that many, but they don’t release them with the same lineup. We’re still the same guys that started it, and we’re still here. That’s something we’re very proud of; it shows we’re real sincere and honest about what we do. Not that the other bands aren’t, it’s just something very special to me.”
Roland is riding a natural high from the Falcons’ impressive 30-27 overtime victory over the seemingly invincible Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 17. The win put the 33-year-old NFL franchise into the Super Bowl for the first time, squaring off against the defending champion Denver Broncos on Jan. 31.
Roland is no Johnny-come-lately Falcons follower. He has been a devoted fan since the early days of linebacker Tommy Nobis, long before Jamal Anderson’s “Dirty Bird” dance became the word. “I’ve been gambling on the Falcons for years,” Roland said with a rolling laugh.
“I think it’s going to come down to a field goal,” he said. “The Falcons will either win or lose by a field goal. I’m going with the Falcons that they’ll win by three points, like they did the other day. If we can stop Terrell (Davis), I think we have a chance.”
Roland will have better odds with Collective Soul’s latest and strongest album yet, “Dosage” (Atlantic). Roland and brother Dean (guitar), lead guitarist Ross Childress, bassist Will Turpin and drummer Shane Evans have concocted a potent mixture of tuneful rock (“Heavy,” “Tremble For My Beloved”) and string-drenched ballads (“Needs,” “Run”).
While it has its moments of frustration and disillusionment, “Dosage” for the most part is relaxed and amiable, far less angry than the band’s 1997 album, “Disciplined Breakdown.” It’s a result of the band coming to terms with its bitter, protracted split with manager Bill Richardson in 1996, Roland said.
“That’s all history,” he said. “With this album, we honestly wanted to enjoy the moment, because the last four years prior to that, it had been so hectic and a lot of crazy things happened. We just wanted to sit back and enjoy the process of making a record and, in turn, we thought that would really give us the rules we wanted to apply, which was: There are no rules.
“There’s moments where I’m a little pissy, but every song is not that way, whereas the last one it tended to be that way. (‘Disciplined Breakdown’) started off with me writing a lot of songs about betrayal, then we as a group said ‘We’re not going to hide that, that’s what we went through.’ That was the honest thing to do. This time, that wasn’t the main vibe going on in the band; that doesn’t mean we don’t get pissed off, but at the same time it’s not the running theme.”
Collective Soul set the tone for “Dosage” early on, devoting more time to the songs.
“We had time and tried to make each song their own little individual song,” Roland said. “Bands used to have time to do that. We’ve always been under a strict time; we only had so long to work on records, like six weeks to go in and finish it and mix it. That’s still a lot of time, but this time we had the luxury of tinkering around in the studio. It was fun, and it put everybody in the right frame of mind and it also helped it sound different than the last record, which is very important.
“Sonically, it’s bigger. The last one was recorded in a cabin; this one was recorded in a state-of-the-art studio. And we had time to do stuff like drum loops and used keyboards and had fun with that, whereas before we just didn’t have the time or the knowledge or the people around us who had the knowledge to do it. We abused it a little bit; there were some songs where we used the technology and just went way overboard. You know, you don’t know what the volume knob of 10 does till you turn it up to 10 and you go, ‘Okay, that’s enough,’ and you bring it back down to 3 or 4. You never know till you do it.”
Roland also dabbled in a personal passion: orchestral instrumentation.
“When I wrote ‘Run,’ I definitely knew what I was going to do there and also ‘Needs,’ ” he said. “We talked about using strings on a couple of other ones and recorded a few more that had some strings on it, but we didn’t use them. I tried not to get too carried away. I’m the one the guys have to watch because I’ll turn us into ELO in a minute, if they’re not careful. They’re like, ‘No, Ed, we’re not putting the strings on this one.’ ”
Roland is a workhorse. He wrote the songs, sang them, produced the album and played guitar, but he’s quick to dispel any notion that he’s the man and the others back him up.
“I know I write it,” he said, “but I also think if the other guys sat down and wrote, they would write pretty much close to the same. We’re going through the same things; we’re around each other all the time, even when we’re home. We’re friends. We go on tour and see each other for two years, then come home and we’ll take two days off and we’ll call each other and go, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I don’t know. What do you wanna do?’ ‘Let’s go do something.’ In today’s world, I think it’s a very strange but wonderful thing to have, that a band actually hangs out with each other.
“We knew each other growing up. The good thing is, we know when to be there for each other, we know when to slap each other around if we need to and to leave each other alone and give each other their space.”
There may come a day, Roland acknowledges, when he will want to try something on his own.
“Yeah, eventually, that would be fair for me and the guys would be very supportive of that,” he said. “The same thing with Ross. He wants to do something one day, but Collective Soul’s a full-time job right now. When it reaches a level where we can have a good year off, that’s when I’ll jump in and do something on my own. It may never happen, who knows.
“As long as these guys are in the band, I’m there too. If one person wanted to leave, that would probably be it for Collective Soul. I can’t imagine any one person being out and trying to replace him. It wouldn’t be the same.”
BWF (before we forget): The Collective Soul album discography – “Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid” (Atlantic, 1994); “Collective Soul” (1995), “Disciplined Breakdown” (1997); “Dosage” (1999).