Interview: The Knight Owls (2014)

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The Knight Owls were hatched from the young, creative mind of singer/guitarist Matt Check. Back in 2011, Check was in high school, a budding guitar prodigy, who through happenstance and the alignment of the stars formed a band with a bunch of musicians much older than him. Yet, age didn’t stop Check and The Knight Owls from churning out two well-received local records and garnering the respect of the sometimes tough to crack Jersey rock scene.

The Knight Owls went into hibernation for a year and tonight, April 2nd, will be making their triumphant return to Moby Dick’s in Sewaren, New Jersey. Pop-Break recently caught up with Check to talk about the band’s evolution and maturation since we first spoke with them three years go.

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Pop-Break: We first spoke with The Knight Owls back in 2011. How has the band evolved from a sonic standpoint from three years ago? Also, how would you say, you personally has evolved as an artist and as a member within this band.

Matt Check: There has been a lot of change in this band since we first began with our debut album and jumped into the live scene. Personally, I have become very much involved with philosophies and ideas of transcendentalism since the band first broke out, and for me that carries through to the music I write. Because I am fixated upon achieving a state of higher consciousness for all that listen to what we create, the band’s music is definitely something of a more therapeutic nature now more than it has ever been. The guys simply go with the flow and bring what they have to the table as always. Naturally, it makes for an eclectic sound; which I believe is something we have always had. It is not long after that we, as much as those listening, just enjoy the ride and see where it takes us.

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PB: You added a new member to the band, Chris Bruno. How did he come to join the band and what does he add to the band?

MC: Chris is very special to us. He joined us back when we first encountered his original band, Sophomore. Peacock, at a gig down in Trenton, N.J. After we had heard the group and all the great vibes that they carried on their shoulders, we knew we had to get in contact again to make sure our paths crossed again in the future. So we did. Due to some conflicting schedules amongst their band members, we unfortunately never got to play with the Sophomore. Peacock Collective again. We did however join forces with Chris again for a couple shows here and there. Before I could even comprehend what had happened, he was a part of the band. Chris Bruno is such an asset to The Knight Owls that it would have been complete asinine to not welcome him with open arms (which we certainly did!). As he puts it, he’s the sprinkles on the cupcake. To me I feel there is something even more than that he contributes to the sound that is The Knight Owls. I am confident that others in time will soon experience this sound and feel the same way.

PB: There’s new music on the horizon for The Knight Owls. When can we expect a new, finished record?

MC: There is most definitely new music on the way. Personally, I never stop writing. As a group, we never stop experimenting. Though I am hesitant to put a time limit as to when we will be releasing new material, I’d like to say that we will be releasing this next album before the end of this year.

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PB: How would you say this new record will differ from the album we first heard back in 2011?

MC: What we are currently calling Madness in my opinion will simply just come to be be the next chapter in regard to who we are as a band; nothing more, nothing less. After working on an album that was complete psychedelic experimentation, and at the same time having a more conventional first album accounted for, I’d say the next album is an average of both that precede it. Though our sound is ever-changing and always evolving, I can take solace in coming to the conclusion at the moment that we have reached a fair balance between what we have done in the past and what we are now doing musically. Those that are listening can expect heavy stories/experiences and concepts in the songs that we are orchestrating, along with melodic elements that are sure to perk up the ears of those who listen. We’re really having a ball in the studio with some of these pieces, frankly…I personally can’t wait until we can begin to share what we have started to create. It’s magnificent.

PB: You guys were out of the live, performing scene for nearly a year and you’re returning tomorrow night to Moby Dicks for your first performance. Why the long absence? Are there any butterflies? Did you really miss playing out live?

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MC: Yes, we were. It wasn’t something we wanted to do…but it was something that needed to be done. The time that we took off was primarily to figure out the answer to the question “where do we go from here?” and I can proudly say that we’ve found a direction that suites us appropriately. Naturally, we took much time to write, compose, and record new music. In a way, this was our vacation from having to deal the petty matters of the live scene, which I won’t lie about…it was nice. The time that we’ve taken over the last year when it comes down to it will only benefit us evermore in the time to come. The songs that have been written, rhythms that have been explored…they’re all very powerful. We couldn’t be more proud of the way that we have used our time in the shadows away from the limelight.

PB: For those who are going to make it out, can you detail the Knight Owls’ live experience?

MC: Our live performances from here on out will be that much more of an experience. [This] is something that we know and would like to definitely publicize. We have always wanted to play a different show at every gig we’ve played since the beginning. Now, we finally have the opportunity…especially when you account for all the material we’ve gathered. Regardless though of the title, key, or time signature of the songs we play, abundantly, we want those who come to see us to be able to shut their eyes and feel better. We’re striding to make those who listen to us feel blissful, whether it be live or on record.

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PB: When 2014 ends — where would you like to see The Knight Owls from an artistic and career standpoint?

MC: In my frame of mind, there is no real difference between the two standpoints. I know that as the leading member of The Knight Owls my main goal is to do all I can to make those who listen to our music feel right and joyous, as well as provide a sophisticated narrative for those who listen. We are really just storytellers at the end of the day…storytellers who want to do all we can to get those to transcend above whatever barriers that hold them back currently. Whether we are playing in Madison Square Garden or the Stone Pony, we still will be striding at that same objective. It’s a never-ending process. It’s a trip…and I’m damn well proud to be a part of it.

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Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites