Sound Check

In 1976 a six-year-old Eric Knight begged his father to take him to a Kiss concert. Dad gave in, and 23 years later Knight is a rock 'n' roller himself. And he's never forgotten the value of inspiration. With that in mind, he and his new backup band -- lead guitarist Rick Valero, bassist David Poole, and drummer Jwani -- recently played a 20-minute set for career day at Sunset High School in Miami. The set was followed by 20 minutes of q and a on the music biz, with which Knight is more than familiar.

In the late '80s and early '90s, the Miami native sang lead with a popular local act named Vandal. Like many metal bands, Vandal was big on hair spray and outlandish outfits, and Knight was its voice. "You never really totally separate from early influences," he explains. "With Vandal my vocals were aggressive and in-your-face, whereas now I'm using softer tones with greater range."

Age'll do that to you -- make you mellow and a little more contemplative. And in Knight's case the demise of Vandal and a heartbreaking split with a former girlfriend were enough to get him off music for a while. Hence a three-year hiatus between 1995 and 1998. "After the failed relationships, I went into a depression for a while," Knight recalls. "When I hooked up with Rick and the guys, it was more like a new beginning, a new start."

That new start is reflected on the CD Near Life Experience, which features a mix of metal-influenced tunes as well as alternative rockers and ballads. Knight co-produced the CD with Keith Rose, who helped the singer-songwriter expand his vocal range.

Songs like "Look at This Time" and "Just Can't Wait" display a light touch, highlighted by acoustic guitars and reflective lyrics about love and life. Most of the material was actually written during Knight's troubles with his ex-girlfriend and Vandal.

The CD's first track, "Play on Words," which has received airtime on the Zeta Goes Local radio show (WZTA-FM 94.9), is more electric-guitar-oriented, offering catchy riffs and chorus. But as a whole the CD offers a range of styles, everything from guitar rock to orchestral string arrangements.

The Eric Knight Band will give an acoustic performance of songs from Near Life Experience at Borders in Boca Raton (9887 Glades Rd., 561-883-5854) Friday, March 26, and at Borders in Coral Springs April 3.

 
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