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INTERVIEW: Rebeca Qualls of Recovery Council, December 2012

| 13 December 2012 | Reply

I was offered the chance to interview relative new-comers, Recovery Council, and was honored that founder and lead vocalist Rebeca Qualls was willing to answer our questions.

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ToddStar: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for 100% Rock.  If it is okay, I would love to jump right into discussing your newest release, Plan-Do-Check-Act.  I find myself intrigued the more I read about it.  What can you briefly tell us about that disc, that most people may not know on the surface?

Rebeca: Thank you!  Well, there may be a good bit that people may not know on the surface, but probably the most prevalent – and pretty nerdy – thing is the album title.  Plan-Do-Check-Act is actually a process improvement cycle that is popular in quality engineering.  But it’s not as stuffy as it sounds.  It can apply to any undertaking that can be executed and improved upon and can really keep things honest.  To me, it’s a lot about self-discovery through the journey of continuous improvement – not just as a musician or a writer but as a person.  It’s about living and accomplishing goals, with which comes growth, assessment and reassessment, highs and lows – and hopefully as a result some lessons learned to keep making things better moving forward.  This is where some may roll their eyes or say “wow, that’s pretty cool” – but I’d rather act on the things I want to and am fortunate enough to do than sit around and wonder “what if”.  This album hopefully reflects that spirit.

ToddStar: Will the new disc have any of the same basic components as your earlier releases?  In your opinion, in what ways does it vary from earlier releases?  What elements from other discs did you intentionally carry over to this effort?

Rebeca: Wow – where to begin on that!  Recovery Council has evolved so much since the first release, Advent 619, which was just me writing geeky lo-fi space rock and just getting acquainted with the recording process.  So while a lot has changed, I think the use of technical imagery in the lyrics has been a constant, along with an element of darkness that comes through in different degrees on different songs, but still is also a thread through each album.

I did purposely carry over the heavier guitar-oriented components of Gentle Stories to the new album.  I grew up listening to a lot of metal and progressive rock, along with what was considered the “alternative” music of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and later on expanding into jazz and other types of music.  I wanted to create music that combined something from all those influences – heaviness and intricacy with an interesting twist.  But in more of a solo capacity I didn’t feel like I was equipped to fully convey that organically.  By Gentle Stories I got to build a little more on what I envisioned having as a band with the guitar songs, and with Plan-Do-Check-Act I’ve been able to sharpen that focus a bit more.

But the most prevalent concept I think we’ve brought over from Gentle Stories to Plan-Do-Check-Act is the very rhythm-driven nature of the music.  The bass and drums are such a dominant unit of it, and that is totally by design – I was originally and primarily a bass player, and would always write songs that played a lot with rhythm while focusing on the bass as more of a lead instrument.  Sid’s bass playing and Jeff’s drumming work so well within this construct.  They run a very tight ship in the rhythm department, and that complements my style as a guitarist because I like to create an atmosphere with guitar that lays over a solid rhythm foundation, while also intertwining with it, kind of like a glue element.  Then the vocal melodies have room to sail over top of the music and it all just fits together.

ToddStar: How do you describe the difference in sound, sonically, in the band between your three releases?

Rebeca: Each release is definitely its own animal and represents a separate phase of development for Recovery Council.  For instance, Advent 619 is mostly acoustic and clean guitars interlaced with Moog noises, string synths, and electronic drums – it was very much a lo-fi, dreamy, dark atmospheric rock album with a lot of sonic and production limitations.

For Gentle Stories I had learned a lot more about recording and really started applying what I knew.  I still used the string-synths and other keyboards on that album, but I had also started working with Jeff, who provided the acoustic drums on the album.  As a result I lessened the use of electronic drums and started writing and recording more organic, guitar-driven songs.  So in a lot of ways, Gentle Stories is like a sonic bridge between Advent 619 and Plan-Do-Check-Act with the piano and keyboard-laden songs coexisting alongside the heavier songs.

Plan-Do-Check-Act is wholly focused on heavier guitar songs and has given a definitive shape to our sound as a band.  I think of it as also a baseline of sorts from which we will move forward together.  That’s not to say we’ll never use keyboards again, but if we decide to incorporate them in the future they will be more of an accessory to our sound than a defining element.

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ToddStar: What types of writing, production, and studio experiences that you learned while making previous discs did you know you wanted to carry over to this disc?  Which did you know to scrap and move on?

Rebeca: Writing and production between each of the three discs has been a building and growing process, all part of a larger journey in defining and refining the hallmarks of Recovery Council’s sound.  Because the evolution has been a bit drastic and so much has happened since the first album, I think it was hard to find something to carry over in writing, production, or recording until during and after Gentle Stories.

If anything I learned a lot from the recording of Gentle Stories.  Where I had not let the vocals stand out enough on it, I tried increasing their presence on Plan-Do-Check-Act.  Additionally, I used what I learned from Gentle Stories to improve upon the sound engineering aspect of the process this time around; on this album I really tried to make the recording more dynamic by allowing each instrument to have more space in the mix.

ToddStar: Of the tracks recorded for the disc, are there any favorites of yours that you find yourself going back to?  Any you wish came out sounding different?

Rebeca: I’ve found myself going back to “Reform” and “Recourse” – both songs have their own intensity.  “Reform” is a little more subtle and introspective, while “Recourse” is right in your face.  I’m not sure though if there are any I would have wanted to come out sounding differently – I think that the way the songs came out represents a particular point in time that I couldn’t go back and change.

ToddStar: Regarding Plan-Do-Check-Act, were any of the songs easier to write than others?  You often hear about an artist that sat down to write a song and that essentially the song wrote itself.  Were any of the songs difficult to get out?  If so, which?

Rebeca: The songwriting process for me always begins introspectively and abstractly – this big whirlwind of thoughts and feelings stirs up what eventually becomes a melody, a rhythm, a chorus, a bass line, a guitar riff…and these become building blocks for a song.  Sometimes there are bigger blocks, sometimes smaller.  In the end it all gets whittled down into an end product that I think conveys the idea.  I don’t know if one song is harder to write than another, but some have taken more rework than others.  The songs on this release were relatively easy because the ideas kept flowing, and some had already existed.  For instance, “Reform” came out of the ashes of a song I wrote years ago but never found a place for.  One song I did struggle a little with was “Always Sunny” – I couldn’t find a way I wanted to take it out of the second chorus, and I kept going over it with different ideas, but I persevered until the right thing stuck.

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ToddStar: Having been at this for a couple years, do you still feel and hear the growth in this band?

Rebeca: Absolutely.  Beyond the evolution of Recovery Council as an entity, I think that both as individual musicians and as a band we have already grown a lot in a short period of time.  But I’m also excited about the potential that remains yet to be tapped into, and as we play and grow more together, I feel we will continue to reach further into that area.  I’m really fortunate to play with such great musicians, and personally I am of the mindset that I can always learn more and improve.

ToddStar: If you had to describe the sound of Recovery Council to someone who had never heard of you, how would you do that?

Rebeca: I think of us as heavy rock with bits of grunge, progressive, and metal thrown in – we’re not completely any, kind of like an alloy of them.  Others have described us as part Pixies, part Smashing Pumpkins, part Helmet, part Rush.  I’m not sure I totally agree since there are some giant shoes to fill in those names, but it’s not totally off the mark.

ToddStar: When performing live, do you find that you mix the material evenly from your earlier albums, or do you tend to play more of the newer material?  Are there any songs from your earlier releases that you feel will always be a part of your live show?

Rebeca: Although our focus for 2013 is to play material from the new release, we always throw some of the older material in to mix things up.  The more guitar-oriented songs from Gentle Stories will probably always make their way into the set, and from the first album we’ve hung on to “Mean Time Between Failures”.  It’s much better since we’ve heavied it up.

ToddStar: If you had to pick possible pairings for an ideal tour, what other bands would you like to see Recovery Council out on the road with?

Rebeca: Wow, I have to admit that realistically I haven’t thought about who I’d like us to tour with as much as us just getting together a reasonable tour ourselves!  We’ve done a few of what I call nano- or pico-tours, but I think we would do well with heavy grunge or crossover/experimental metal bands.  We’ve gotten positive responses from the metal audiences we’ve played in front of, so that kind of combination could work well.

ToddStar: Do you find any of the other arts affect your music or the way you approach writing, recording, or playing live with Recovery Council?

Rebeca: I guess this is where geek meets freak, so to speak (and I totally didn’t intend the rhyme!).  I find influences and inspiration in both art and science.  I am pretty evenly divided between the two – I actually have an academic background in science and technology, and I get a lot of inspiration from engineering concepts.  I also love to read, and not surprisingly, sometimes the books I read can become influences for a song.  As for recording and playing live, I’d have to say the same inspirations apply since recording and playing live are extensions of writing.

ToddStar: Are there any bands that are currently releasing music or touring that influence you personally or professionally?  What is the last CD/mp3 album you listened to?

Rebeca: One band I really got into over the past couple of years is Intronaut – I got hooked on Valley of Smoke. They are a breath of fresh air in progressive metal and I’m looking forward to their 2013 release – hopefully I’ll get to see them this time around.

As for the last album I’ve listened to, I admittedly haven’t gotten into much newer stuff lately – the absolute last album I listened to was Hold Your Fire by Rush – and that’s when I was running this morning.

ToddStar: If there were one piece of music in the history of time that you wish you had written, what would it be and why?

Rebeca: Since I don’t have forever to contemplate this one, sometimes I think I would have loved to have written the song “Wichita Lineman”.  Then I could have actually written and arranged the parts that were supposed to sound like Morse code in real Morse code.

ToddStar: What is the meaning of life?

Rebeca: If I said “42” that would be the biggest cliché ever.  I’m now going to quietly retreat with my face in my palm.

ToddStar: Other than making sure everyone checks out your website (http://www.recoverycouncilmusic.com) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/recoverycouncil), are there any other current projects or sites you would like to promote?

Rebeca: Besides @recoverycouncil on Twitter, I think you have it all covered there – we try to keep things relatively simple!

ToddStar: Thanks again for taking the time and we look forward to 2013 and more Recovery Council!!!

Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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