British four-piece rock band Collateral are set to release their highly anticipated eponymous debut album on February 21st. The album is released through Roulette Media Records and distributed worldwide through Cargo. The band are looking to promote the album through several gigs in the near future, – touring with Jared James Nichols in February and March, then with Phil X of Bon Jovi throughout March, supporting Skid Row in Europe in May, then support H.E.A.T at the end of May before being lined up for several festivals throughout the summer.

So Velvet Thunder were delighted to be able to catch the band before all this fun and games! Front man and singer Angelo Tristan kindly made time to be quizzed on what makes him and the rest of the band tick, the other three being Todd Winger (guitar), Jack Bentley-Smith (bass) and Ben Atkinson (drums). I have to say Angelo comes over as a really nice guy and provides some really entertaining responses. It’s obvious the band are enjoying the whole “rock’n’roll” thing and are still slightly in awe of it whilst obviously having a clear collective plan for building on what they’ve achieved so far.

I start by asking Angelo about the album cover, which features a neat image of a “C” made from a rusty horseshoe. I ask whether they see that as a regular logo going forward, and whether it somehow illustrates their musical style. Angelo confirms the band was keen to have a punchy image/logo to use on promo material and reckons all bands rely on a good stage backdrop when playing live. They had been searching for something that hadn’t really been done before, and represented their overall influences of 80’s rock/cowboy – and came to the conclusion that the only thing not already snaffled by others was a horseshoe (first burst of sniggering at this point!)

I had the pleasure of reviewing the album a couple of months ago and make the point that it is notable for the wide variety of styles on it. The band are keen not to be too tightly labelled, given a wide variety of influences as individuals, but I still ask who have been their biggest influences collectively as a band. Angelo quotes the saying that your first album takes your whole life to write and says that’s exactly the case with this one. “The songs span from when I was 13 all the way to 25 and I wanted to keep the truth and integrity in each individual song from when they were written otherwise, they would have just been noise. I’m lucky enough to have found three other guys that have the same vision and same purpose and the same drive. And with the difference of influences it helps you look at things from different angles. Ones you wouldn’t have been able to see if everyone had the same influence. So, I think the biggest influence on this record has been the welcoming of many!” – a nice way of putting it!

Looking back at the development of the band, it’s clearly been one heck of a year. The band have only been together for little more than 18 months, releasing their debut EP in November 2018. They then played support to several folks for a couple of months before winning – not one but three! – “festival competitions” which gave them some impressive exposure, to then headlining their own gigs, and finally releasing the album. I ask whether it has been particularly difficult to get their heads round that rate of change, and Angelo says he’s loved it, “it’s the way I always wanted it to be. In some ways it doesn’t allow you to think about what your next move is, and I like living on the natural instinct part of life. My downfall is that I never stay long enough in the moment to really cherish it. I’m constantly thinking about what’s next and how to do the next thing bigger. But to answer your question I was always expecting things to move extremely fast if we got it right first time. I’m excited for things to hopefully be moving even faster now!”

Following this, two events really seem to stand out in all this – playing the Rising stage at the Ramblin’ Man Fair, where there were lots of “big names” around but the band still pulled in an amazing crowd, which must have been particularly pleasing. I get the strong feeling the band do have a clear idea of what they want to achieve, and Angelo confirms that Ramblin’ Man was something they wanted to do for a very long time individually before there was any Collateral. “It attracts amazing crowds and huge names, so we were very aware of what we were about to embark on. When you’re competing against the big, big names it can either make you fall by the wayside or make the performance better and in our case we wanted to make sure that the crowd gets their money’s worth and walk away knowing who you are. We got told afterwards that that was the biggest crowd on the Rising stage in the history of Ramblin’ Man. So, to know that we’ve left a very small mark in the history of one of the most prestigious new festivals in the UK is very humbling to say the least. And what’s more, I got to chill backstage with Foreigner and got to meet Living Colour which is pretty cool!”

The second highlight was supporting Jon Bon Jovi – on a Mediterranean cruise!? – I ask how on earth did that work out! “I don’t think I have a good enough answer to really describe how I felt and how I feel about how it all went! It was and still is a dream to me. Bon Jovi were the soundtrack of my life from an extremely early age and whilst worshipping the posters hung up on my wall I would stare at myself in the mirror with a tennis racket in my hand pretending to be Jon – dreaming of the day I’ll get to meet him. It happened but I have to be honest I cannot remember meeting him haha! – I was in a complete state of shock, and all I remember him saying was ” dude I checked you guys out and you are kicking ass!”. So yeah, I was that little kid looking in the mirror again, but this time a proper deer in the headlights!”

Getting back to the songs on the album, I highlight Midnight Queen and make the point that although it’s one of their earlier songs, it’s a really polished band sound, some great guitar licks supported by everything you could want from a solid rhythm section – and really highlights the band’s vocal harmonies as well. It certainly didn’t sound like a new band. Angelo appreciates the complement, and says that although they’ve been playing together for around one year and a half now, they’ve been together more than they’ve been apart. “So, I guess that helps – haha! – and the good thing is that we’re not sick of each other yet!”

I confess to Angelo that my personal favourite from the album is Get Back to You which, together with About This Boy are both quite slow ballads without being ‘soppy’, and they actually highlight how radio-friendly all their material is. Comparisons with the Eagles and Bryan Adams are obvious, and very merited. The two songs also feature compositions that feel very “mature” – perhaps a dodgy word to use for rock bands – but particularly impressive for a relatively new band. In response to me highlighting the both the quality of songwriting from the band, and also the benefit of a great production and mix from the “back room team”, Angelo is comfortable with the description, he says “there’s nothing wrong with using any of those words. I’m not going to sit here and tell you what to think about our music. That’s the magic of it! You think one thing and the next-door neighbour thinks the other. When the song comes out the studio, if we don’t like it trust me you won’t hear it – haha! The way I see it, the journey of a song is the most important in any bands career. If you put love and passion and write from a deep place within you, and pair that with a producer that believes in your stuff… then I’m in no doubt it’ll hit another person out there in the world”.

At the same time, there’s a good range of tempo across the selection of songs, and some really punchy classic rockers. The new single Merry-Go Round and Lullaby both exude pent-up frustration and energy, with some hard-hitting comments on people not being true to themselves, and I suggest it comes back to the danger of pigeon-holing folk? “Yeah, there’s a bit of anger on the album, haha!… But only in the way of some frustrated kids that want to make a name for themselves. Look, I think that there’s some real s*** out there in the music industry… But again, that’s just my opinion and in no way am I saying it’s wrong to be out there… I just like stirring things up a little. Wouldn’t be a rock and roll band if we didn’t – haha!”

Given the different musical influences of the four, I’m intrigued whether in terms of production etc, they had fun shortlisting what tracks got onto the album, and any squabbles over fair shares! Angelo again smiles “It was a lot of fun! It’s like writing a book for the first time and deciding what chapters go where. There has to be a beginning, middle and ending. We all knew the order and it was a pretty easy decision.” Following on from that, I guessed that some of their songs were written in late 2018, with another batch in early 2019, and a couple more recently, and ask whether Angelo is conscious of their style changing / evolving, and whether that was a natural evolution and / or as a result of regular live performances. Turns out some of these songs were written way further back – Angelo: “I’m talking when I was about 13, 14. “In It For Love” for example is a result of a kid that doesn’t know the rules of a song (haha!). And actually, I found that innocence worked incredibly well because it showed how music has no bounds. But yes, the style since then has changed incredibly… And sometimes not for the good because as you grow up you find you lose that sense of carelessness that can make a song so special. But don’t worry, I haven’t exactly grown up since then anyway! Haha!”

A colleague on the Velvet Thunder team has seen the band a couple of times on what he calls his home patch of Gravesend / Ramsgate, East Kent – it sounds like it’s quite a local hotbed of bands, and I ask Angelo whether it’s quite distinct from the rest of “South London” etc, and whether the local bands all keep in touch with each other. He agrees that they do in some ways “yes, we do have each other on social media and stuff. Todd and Ben tend to go out and watch other bands but I find it extremely hard to find any time at the moment to do anything like that. Once we get a badass manager to take the reins on that half of the business, I’ll get back out on the wagon haha!”

So, what’s next?! Given the band are touring in February and March to promote the album, and then have a short break before supporting H.E.A.T in May then other stuff , I’m intrigued whether the band reckoned on getting any time off. Angelo responds with another smile “so, we are touring with Jared James Nichols in February and March, then off the back of that we tour with Phil X of Bon Jovi in the UK throughout March. We’re back in the studio in April to start work on the second album. Then we fly over to Europe and support Skid Row in early May. Then support H.E.A.T at the end of May. We have some pretty big festivals lined up throughout the summer season that will be announced in the coming weeks. Then back out on the road in August, UK and Europe. We have another tour in October and November with some pretty big festivals in December. So, we’ll get Christmas off haha!”

I do get the distinct impression this band could’ve invented the expression “work hard, play hard” – Enjoy yourselves guys, I for one get the feeling you’ve got this whole rock’n’roll thing all worked out, and you’re going to have a lot of fun along the way! 🙂

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