Music News

Sound Check

Describing music as "something that I need to do to survive," and comparing its significance to such vital functions as breathing and eating, vocalist-guitarist Rene Alvarez of the Miami-based trio Sixo isn't ashamed to wear his heart on his sleeve.

On wait and see, the group's third CD in as many years, Alvarez's tales of heartbreak, longing, the downtrodden, and love target listeners' insecurities and force them to sympathize with him. The band, meanwhile, gets listeners through the trip with subtle bass lines and gentle drumming and guitar as Alvarez delivers his lyrics with a gritty, raked-over-the-coals-sounding voice.

Sixo's current lineup (which includes Debbie Duke on bass and Fernando Sanchez on drums) has been together for a couple years -- a mere drop in the bucket when you consider that Alvarez, age 31, began his musical career as a 16-year-old piano player. Later on, he admits, he was influenced by "cheesy '70s music and radio and Top 40 stuff." In the late '80s and early '90s, he even played in some cover bands.

But Sixo is his gig, and he took the band on a tour of smaller, neighborhood-style venues along the East Coast earlier this year and plans to do it again in September -- all in support of wait and see. "The touring's cool," Alvarez says. "It's important, and we all get along."

With more than 200 college-radio stations spinning cuts from wait, Sixo is poised for success. Just last week the single "Untie My Hands" was pitched to major rock radio stations courtesy of Sixo's Miami label, Dalin Records/Promotions. Word of mouth so far has been good, according to Dalin spokesperson Amanda Smida.

To hear Sixo's self-described "doomsday pop" for yourself, head to Tobacco Road in Miami Thursday, Power Studios in Miami next Tuesday, or turn to your favorite afternoon TV program or local radio station. Sixo's gloomy, guitar-fueled "Sit & Wonder" has been chosen to accompany Burdines' "Back to School '98" TV advertisements, while the peppier, drum-crazy "Untie My Hands" will accompany Alvarez's radio voice-overs for the department store.

Sixo information (CDs, tour dates, merchandise) can be found on the Internet at or

And if you're wondering if the name Sixo was taken from Toni Morrison's book Beloved, it was. Alvarez was so moved by the tragic character in that novel that he cites reading Beloved as a life-changing experience. His band's name is an homage to Morrison's work. (See, I told you he isn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve.)

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Brian Hyman