May 18, 2020, 8 months ago

By Aaron Small

feature hard rock collateral


Imagine the Sunset Strip and Piccadilly Circus converging upon the Jersey Turnpike. Geography doesn’t usually go hand in hand with guitars and amplifiers, but in this case, it seemed an appropriate way to describe the sound of Collateral – an energetic, up-and-coming rock band from Kent in South East England. Furthermore, California’s influence goes beyond Collateral’s musical stylings as Hollywood was essential to the naming of the group; a Tom Cruise blockbuster from 2004 proved to be the Muse.  

“Yeah, when you’re coming up with a band name, it tends to be the least worst one. You can never find the best band name, because there just isn’t one,” says Collateral frontman Angelo Tristan. “You can sit there for days and days, you just never have any luck. Me and my bass player Jack (Bentley-Smith) were in my living room… we were just about to release our first single ‘Midnight Queen’, we needed to come up with a proper name, cause at that point it was The Angelo Tristan Band, and it just didn’t flow. I was looking at a few Tom Cruise films, and Collateral came up. I thought that was kind of different, it sounds good. We saw what the meaning was in the Old English Dictionary – you’re related, but not by blood, which struck well with us. We’re a band, we’re very close to each other; it was relevant to what we were doing, being brothers in what we want to do. So, we kind of stumbled upon it quite nicely.”

Thus far, Collateral has released a four-song EP, appropriately named 4 Shots! which came out in November 2018. That was followed by their self-titled, full-length debut album, which landed earlier this year in February 2020 via Roulette Records. The aforementioned “Midnight Queen” appears on both 4 Shots! and Collateral, Angelo explains why this song got a second chance. “For me, it was giving it what it deserved. It was the first song we released, and a lot of people took it upon themselves to make it their own, and a lot of people got affected by it. It hasn’t run its course of its true potential; it’s kind of the national anthem of the band. That’s what people want to hear and expect to hear.”

The very first line in “Midnight Queen” is “Standing on the edge of a broken heart”, which instantly brings Vixen to mind as they had a hit single in 1988 called “Edge Of A Broken Heart”. “Well, the song actually started because I could hear my girlfriend listening to that song in the bathroom as I was walking past. I was like, okay, I kind of like that. So, I just started a song with it really; you hit it dead on,” reveals Angelo. “Music’s music. You get inspired and that’s what happens. It’s very hard now to… obviously don’t copy a song word for word, note for note, and chord for chord, but turn something into something else.”

Quite surprisingly, two completely different videos were filmed for “Midnight Queen”. “Well, we had it remixed by a known producer in The UK (Romesh Dodangoda) to get it onto Planet Rock. We felt like it needed an extra push with the new remix; that’s why we did the second video. We also wanted to have more of an inside approach with that music video, to see what happens in the studio. You can see us just having fun.” When a lot of rock fans hear the word remix, they think the song has been drastically changed, as was the case on Rob Zombie’s American Made Music To Strip By, and Mondo Sex Head albums. But that’s not the case here. “No, it’s just produced more for rock radio. Maybe a bit more of a grittier guitar, a bit more of a hard-hitting snare. Sometimes the details are so small; it was simply to get on a major radio station here. That’s sometimes what you have to do to work your way in, as annoying as it is. That’s basically the only reason. And it went straight in at Top Five in The UK, which is pretty awesome.”

There’s another element to “Midnight Queen” that brings listeners back to the ‘80s, namely the dialogue contained within the song as it’s completely reminiscent of Vince Neil and Tommy Lee in “Girls, Girls, Girls”. “Oh, really! That’s actually the first time anyone’s brought that to my attention. Yeah, you’re right,” admits Angelo. “I think it’s mainly done unintentionally. I knew there was something niggling in my brain, and you’ve just done it; I didn’t even realize that. Me and my bass player did that, and it did remind me of something, and you’ve completely made my brain settle – thank you.”

‘80s hair metal seems to be a big influence for Collateral, specifically Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Skid Row – who Collateral were supposed to open for on their European tour, which is unfortunately postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s wonderful that Angelo and his bandmates aren’t afraid to embrace that. “You have to. You can’t hide away from it in such a public industry. You have to embrace it, definitely. And if you don’t, then you’re just going to come out on that stage looking like a turtle, instead of a lion. Embrace what you love, and people will find the truth and happiness in that. We seem to have stumbled across a very, very loyal fanbase that’s continuously growing; we wouldn’t change a thing.”

Speaking of Bon Jovi, Collateral really achieved something remarkable by performing on the Runaway To Paradise, Jon Bon Jovi Mediterranean Cruise in August 2019. Over 200,000 bands tried to get that spot on the boat! “Yeah, it still hasn’t hit me to this day, quite frankly. It was one of those things where when we heard that we got put into the voting system, it was pretty cool. When we got the call that we made it to the last ten, it was a bit more real. I still had my doubts. Then we found out that we got into the top five. Basically, when you’re in the top five, it’s only the people on the cruise that vote for you. One morning I woke up with my guitarist (Todd Winger) screaming down the phone saying, ‘Have you seen it?’ I’m half awake and half asleep at this point, and he tells me that we won it. I never quite woke up from that sleep I don’t think.”

Collateral played three times on the Bon Jovi cruise, “And the crowd on that boat was insane! Everyone made us feel bigger than Bon Jovi. It was awesome! And I think we’ve made quite a good friendship within the Bon Jovi group, which is pretty cool. It’s crazy to think that 15 years ago I was a kid with posters on my wall and all the albums, and then actually being there in front of him, being able to speak to him was… I can’t even remember, that’s how shocked I was. I remember walking into a room, and he was there, then my mind just went blank. It’s pretty fan-boy stuff.”

Angelo recently wrote and recorded a second verse for “Do What You Can”, Jon Bon Jovi’s COVID-19 song, check out the clip below. “That spiraled quite nicely as well.” In fact, Angelo included the line ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in his lyrics; a tip of the hat to Bon Jovi’s #1 smash hit single from 1986. “Yeah, well I saw loads of versions of what people were doing, and it’s like what Jon says, you have to write your own story. I think a lot of people took it upon themselves to either do very serious stuff – which is absolutely fine, especially in this sort of thing. But I kind of wanted to go down more of the, try and bring in a bit of light-heartedness to it and escapism in something that people could relate to. And my girlfriend said something about ‘hear my prayer.’ I turned round and went, ‘I’ve got it. I’ve got the exact lyric.’ Then there was no looking back.”

Rockin’ the open waters proved to be addictive for Collateral, and there just might be another ocean liner in the band’s future. “It was an experience of a lifetime! We don’t know yet, but we should be hearing back, if the KISS Kruise goes on in November, there’s a possibility we might be able to do that. It’s all still up in the air obviously because of this pandemic. So, we’re waiting on the call for the KISS Kruise, that’d be pretty cool!”

Getting back to music videos, Collateral effectively utilizes what for many has become a forgotten or lost art form. MTV and MuchMusic don’t play videos anymore, focusing instead on reality-based programming. That being said, Collateral put out high quality clips for “Mr. Big Shot”, “Merry Go Round” and “Lullaby”, all of which required a substantial financial investment. “Yeah, unfortunately we’re in an industry where you have to spend money to get anywhere. It’s a very big world filled with a lot of people that are looking just for money. The radio industry these days isn’t like what it used to be. We’re very lucky to have a record label that’s willing to put their hands in their pocket to help us out. They trust in what our vision is, and what my vision is; so far everything’s worked out. Also, people are paying money to see stuff and listen to stuff, and to come to see us. We want to give them their money’s worth in everything that we do. And I just love watching it myself as well.” 

On the positive side, fans don’t have to wait for a video channel to air their favourite song, they can simply go on YouTube and see it whenever they want, and as many times as they want. “It’s a very digital world these days, which is probably one of the downfalls of the music industry, because like you said, people can just stick on YouTube and watch whatever they want, basically for free. Back in the day, you’d have to wait up at a certain time to watch it on the TV for the first time. After that, you weren’t able to go onto the Internet and watch the video again. There’s an element of importance within music videos which is kind of lost now. It makes it a lot harder. A lot more work is needed on the band to do a lot of the social stuff and get fans. It’s a completely different industry but even so, we want to do everything to the highest of what we can to make sure it looks good at the end of the day. We’re a pretty-faced young rock band, we can’t be looking like Twisted Sister.”

As mentioned, “Lullaby” is one of Collateral’s videos, and that song totally tricks you. By definition, a lullaby is a song used to lull a child to sleep; the expectation is something soft and tender. Oh no, it’s a full-out rocker with a catchy chorus, and some great double-bass fills. “In terms of the song, we didn’t mean it to be so contradicting or ironic. We came up with a riff, and the lyrics kind of fell into place. It wasn’t until my sound guy said, ‘When you introduce this song, come out on stage and say something like, we’re going to wake you up a little bit more with this lullaby.’ I was like, oh yeah, shit! This is the thing, I can write a few songs, and I can play a few chords, but sometimes I’m so focused on doing what I need to do in the present time; I look and sound stupid everywhere else. It’s funny how things work out.”

There’s another side of Collateral that acts like a double-edged sword. It could certainly attract some fans who may not have been interested otherwise, conversely it could alienate some fans who stick exclusively to hard rock; that side is Angelo’s country music influence which comes through loud and clear on “About This Boy”, and to a lesser extent on “Midnight Queen” as well. “My Mom used to play country music in the house when I was much younger; she’s a single mom. She would play country when she was doing stuff - cooking, and whatever. Without me knowing, it kind of ingrained in me and built a characteristic inside me. I was out and about somewhere and I heard The Eagles; it just pricked my ear up. There’s something about this music that hits well with me. If it wasn’t for my Mom just continuously playing different country music, without me really realizing it, I came to absolutely love it, things like The Dixie Chicks and Brad Paisley. I just can’t get enough of that. I wouldn’t want Collateral to be an all-out country band, but I think it’s got a big place within the industry still; also, it works within rock. Look at ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ by Bon Jovi, or ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ by Poison, things like that, that’s as nice as we’ll go. ‘About This Boy’ is the most that we’ll go country. There’ll definitely be other influences of country coming in and out of albums to come.”

Years down the road, or maybe even not that far, Angelo foresees himself doing an all-country solo album. “Yeah, you took the words right out of my mouth. I’ve already spoken to people about that. I’d very much like to do that at some point, probably after the third or fourth Collateral album. But we’ve all seen how the lead singer goes downhill when he does a solo album, it all goes a bit wrong. So, I’ve got to make sure it’s the right time, and I don’t look like I’m in a mid-life crisis. It’ll be all good.”

The country influence sort of comes through in the album cover as well with the horseshoe. “Yes, the horseshoe is something that, I wanted to come up with a visual logo; every band’s got that visual logo they can reference to. It’s something a bit different, but really simple. The whole thing with luck, and the country side of stuff. Also, a horseshoe tilted on its side is quite bad ass when you think of playing with luck. It’s like, no, I don’t need this luck, fuck off. And it’s a C, which I didn’t even realize until afterwards. Again, another thing that just happened.”

Although the debut album just came out, Collateral is already looking ahead to their second album. With this quarantine and self-isolation, there really hasn’t been much to do but write new songs. “Yeah, to a certain level. It’s hard with creativity because you can’t just sit there and say, ‘I’m going to write a song now.’ At least I find it hard to put it on. A lot of my creativity comes out when I’m touring because you’re always surrounded by like-minded people. But this has got me to write a few songs. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my family, and so has the whole band. I found that to be really important because when you tour, your life is just the band, constantly. You get back home and you’re thinking about when the next tour’s happening. It’s very hard to balance it out, especially when you’re a new, young rock band and all you want to do is go out on the road. But being forced to stay home has been good for us in so many ways; mainly just focusing on other stuff, rather than the band has been really, really healthy. The good thing is that everything that was booked this year, has been rescheduled. Nothing that we were going to do has been cancelled. In a weird way, this whole thing has actually worked quite well for us. 2021 seems to be one hell of a big year! There’s a silver lining so to speak.”

(Photos by Rob Nankivell)

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