Music News

Cody Qualls Plays Red Rocks 9/11 Stair Climb

Cody Qualls
Cody Qualls Scott Malonson
Cody Qualls has spent fifteen years writing and performing with Face Vocal Band, so his bandmates gave him a proper sendoff at the group’s August 13 performance at the Arvada Center. He considers his bandmates as brothers, so it was a big moment.

“They took all the music that I had written for the group and put it together on a compilation of originals for me and released that as a surprise tribute,” Qualls says. “It was really celebratory. It felt like a nice way to part ways.”

Qualls says the split was wholly amicable, and he left Face Vocal to focus on his growing family and solo project Cody Qualls and the Brand New Ancients, which performs at the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Sunday, September 11, at 10 a.m. The Brand New Ancients includes guitarist and producer Justin Long, bass player Adrienne Osborn, keyboardist Bryan Stax and drummer Greg Tan.

The band is a stylistic departure for Qualls, as it's not an a cappella vocal group like Face Vocal. He sees it as a return to his roots in rock bands, and plans to release an EP of mostly originals later this year.

“I came up in the early aughts in a rock band called Kindred,” he says. “We played hundreds of bars and venues before I’d even turned 21. The scene was way different back then. Brethren Fast was killing it, Opie Gone Bad. It was a whole different vibe.”

Kindred took its alternative-rock stylings to the Bluebird Theater, the Soiled Dove and Herman’s Hideaway. Following its demise, Qualls hooked up with Face Vocal Band, which has seen local and national success, including performances at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall.

The Brand New Ancients play pop infused with rock and hip-hop elements — Qualls was heavily influenced by the latter as a young man — and is writing originals and throwing in a healthy serving of “clever covers.”

“We do a pretty cool rendition of ‘Achy Breaky Heart,’” he says. “I know it’s hard for some people to believe that could ever be cool, but it’s a great song. It sticks in your head.”

Qualls says the band has been working with hip-hop dance choreographers to incorporate some dance elements into the live show. Overall, Qualls sees a Brand New Ancients show as a party with some “down-to-earth messaging that hopefully is forwarding toward community, connection and healing the human condition.”

He adds that when he says that, he’s not standing on a soapbox of morality and trying to steer anyone toward any agenda. The concerts are about coming together and trying to find community.

“It’s such a wild time right now, such a wild time in history,” Qualls says. “It’s just raw. It would be hard for me to believe there are truly people out there who don’t feel some sort of ripple from what we’ve been through the last several years. We're trying to bring people together to heal and connect.”

He adds that his time with Face Vocal taught him to connect more with audiences; it’s a skill set he is happy to have gleaned from watching his bandmates for fifteen years. He’s looking forward to taking those skills to fronting a more traditional rock band.

“I have my own space to just go wild,” he says. “I have a ton of music I’m writing and producing constantly, and that makes a little more room for that to come to the front.”

When he writes music, Qualls says, he thinks about the human experience — not just his own, but people in general. People are connected through a common ground of knowing something isn’t quite right, a collective pain and yearning for something more.

“What I aim to write about is hinting at more,” he says. “If people are feeling that way, they aren’t alone. I feel that way. Have you been through some shit? Have you gone through some stuff that’s helped you grow, but also you’ve got a wound? You’re not alone.”

He adds that he wants his music to have a purpose but still be fun to listen to.

“I try to put that into fun, upbeat songs,” he says. “I try to put that into deeper ballads. I put that in rock songs, in hip-hop songs. It’s not all heavy, but there’s definitely purpose and intention.”

The 9/11 Stair Climb begins at 8 a.m., Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison. Register for the event ($35) at
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