The Knight Owls – From left to right: John Check, Matt Check, Ron Wagenhoffer and Manny Pena (Photo credit: Stephanie Takavchin)
WOODBRIDGE– For over 100 years, the third Sunday in June has been set aside as a time for families to celebrate all that it means to be called ‘Dad’. Often, the day is filled with celebrations of fatherhood and paternal bonds, especially the one between father and son.
This Father’s Day, aside from the holiday’s usual festivities, John Check and his son Matt will set aside time for something special to them; writing and performing original music. The father and son duo are members of The Knight Owls, a four-piece blues-and-rock band based in Fords.
“When people hear that there is a John Check in my band they often think that’s my brother,” Matt says. “When I tell them he is my father, I do get some confused looks but people are quick to realize how awesome that actually is and how great my father and I have it.”
In addition to John (lead vocals/guitar,) and Matt (guitar/backup vocals), the band includes Manny Pena (bass) and Ron Wagenhoffer (drums/percussion).
“Once I realized how good my son was getting,” John says, “I started to see we were going to have a relationship playing together. In the end, I’m always going to help out my son; this is what he wants to do and if he needs me to be the lead singer, I’m going do it for him.”
Originally, The Knight Owls were the brain-child of John’s son Matt, currently a student at Woodbridge High School, whom had already been jamming with Pena on bass for some time. However, the budding band found themselves at a loss without a lead singer. It wasn’t until the younger Check approached his father for help that The Knight Owls finally found their voice.
“We started putting these really awesome songs together, but we couldn’t find that kind of voice we needed,” Matt says. “Then, it hit me; we already knew where to look. My father had always been a fan of the type of music we were looking to play and could hit the notes we needed. My Dad has been a musician for most of his life.”
Since releasing their first album Who Gives a Hoot in November of last year, The Knight Owls have continued to share their original music with the New Jersey local music scene, performing at such venues as Architekt Music in Butler, The Court Tavern in New Brunswick, The Crossroads in Garwood and The Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
In addition to those shows, the band recently performed during the 2011 Arthritis Foundation Walk at Middlesex County College on May 22, and donated half of the proceeds from their merchandise sales to the charity.
As The Knight Owls pieced their debut album together, which was recorded at Studios 522 in Fords, John and his son shared most of the writing duties.
“I think he (Matt) is a brilliant composer,” John says. “But like any father and son, we butt heads. I like to improvise a little more than he does, and add some fatigue to the mix but Matt, he likes to play precisely by the book.”
Despite their creative differences, according to John’s son, both he and his father, as well as the rest of the band, are pleased with the album they’ve created.
“We really don’t think it could have come out any better,” says Check. “I can’t tell you what you’ll take away from the music on our album because everyone is supposed to interpret it differently. But no matter how it’s taken, it is supposed to mean something.”
With their undeniable talent and original take on two of music’s most popular genres, The Knight Owls provide fans of music’s oldest sounds an opportunity to hear something new. The history of blues, as well as rock-and-roll music, is rich with some of music’s biggest names. For The Knight Owls, the band credits the likes of The Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Muddy Waters and Neil Young as some of their biggest influences.
Music runs deep in the Checks’ blood. Prior to The Knight Owls, John had been in-and-out of bands for the last 30 years, most notably with The Holy Smokes, a popular Garden State cover band. For Matt, music has been something he’s known since childhood.
“I believe our family’s history with music changes our dynamic,” Matt says. “But in a good way. I know it only feels natural to have a guitar in my hand.”
When asked about Mrs. Check, both Matt and John smile.
“My wife is great,” John says. “Often she just goes about her business and let’s us do our thing.”
For those interested in catching The Knight Owls live, the band’s next performance will be on Thursday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. at The Crossroads in Garwood. To hear several tracks off their debut album, log on to http://reverbnation.com/theknightowls.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!