Effortlessly, confidently, and immediately flowed that one-word answer from Rene Alvarez, Sixo frontman and mainframe. What brings you peace; that is the question that preceded. Maybe it was his admitted childhood habit of ten to fifteen Flintstones vitamins a day. More likely, it is that to not share his passion, to not make his depth and strength available to us is far more frustrating and unacceptable than the painstaking effort of doing so. Clearly, the ease with which he reveals these things to us, through a simple lyrical glance or a slightly askew chord perspective, is a testament to his experience and comfort in this transaction.
Sixo’s latest collection of proof, wait and see, is twelve selections to bring you closer to Rene’s intentions and yourself. Admitting his intentions, as well as the driving force behind his work, he describes them, “I’m a big fan of the pop song. I just want to write a pop song that people haven’t heard before. I think I consciously write lyrics that try to create other, newer clichés, and every once in a while just by trying, you do say something universal a little differently than people have heard it. I would love to get to a point where someone could listen to my song and know ‘that is something Rene would have written’ like I do when I listen to anything by Prince or Dylan or anyone that I admire.”
Make no mistake, many who have heard Sixo know their identifiable sonic styles, and the gripping familiarity and acceptance in Rene’s vocal delivery, both thriving through their three releases. A common response to each is that he is performing just to you, about something perhaps only the two of you understand so well. “Wait and see is more conversational, though not on purpose. I did try to write more stories, something that people will want to follow and see how it turns out. Like “A Warm Dry Place” or “Don’t Look At Me” or “Untie My Hands.” That’s something I haven’t done much before, maybe once or twice on Rescue.”
Maybe the way he can grab that personal pain and desperation and play it for you, something he gained a reputation for with his much darker and denser gothic metal band Forget The Name for several years into the early 90’s. Even Sixo started out sporting the heart-in-cheek tag of “doomsday pop.” Still, despite the desperation impression, it’s not too difficult to sense the satisfaction and growth within. “I don’t find that my music is sad. I don’t think that singing about sad things means you’re a sad person. I think at least for me there’s a lot of joy in all that stuff — to me it’s just day to day living. You take from it, and sometimes that’s a good thing.”
Some more good things are the rest of Sixo. Rene’s strong songwriting is paralleled by the group’s powerful performances with bandmates Debbie Duke and Fernando Sanchez. Both of them bring in their individual strengths seamlessly meshing into one unit, completely equipped for the demanding songs. Debbie played in the Ft. Lauderdale-based Robbie Gennett Band (former keyboardist for Saigon Kick, now with 7 Mary 3). She grew up playing classical via French horn, and picked up a bass after graduating. As we spoke she was immersed in the latest Liz Phair — “the songwriting is incredible.” She must know something about that, having helped to pen the first release from wait and see, “Untie My Hands” with Rene, garnering airplay on over 200 stations nationwide. Fernando also plays drums for another Miami band, the Inside.
Rene was also classically trained, on piano from age 6-15. But — “I wanted to play in a rock band. So first, I joined a band as keyboardist, but they couldn’t find a bass player so I ended up playing bass, and shifting from guitar to keyboards. By age 18 (thirteen years ago), he was playing in cheesy covers bands. “I didn’t play ‘Jesse’s Girl,’ though I wanted to. I played Night Ranger’s ‘We Can Still Rock in America,’ but some good stuff too, the Police, U2, the Cure, especially ‘In Between Days’.”
Perhaps you heard the annual round of Burdines’ back to school ads this year. As in the past few years, Sixo is in there with two of the new songs and some voice-over work by Rene.
Of course the best way to feel Sixo for yourself is to see them, and next best is one of their three CDs. Though united in theme and intensity, they each have their differences. Rene explains, “the three albums represent different experiments in recording because each time my resources were different. The first Sixo album (Sixo ) we had all the time in the world, it’s just that we were doing it all ourselves so it sounds kind of garage-ish. We learned the songs on the spot and recorded them the second time through. Then we tried to produce it as well as we could.”
Their second, Rescue, a six-song EP, made its mark in early ’97. “On the second one, I did the same thing, but I wanted to make it very straightforward, so we had one rehearsal one night, went into Criteria the next day, and just played the songs with barely any overdubs.”
For wait and see, our power trio enlisted a corral of complimentary players to enrich but not distract from their sound. “Production-wise it’s more polished, more produced as a result of more money and more time. This one we did a few rehearsals, brought in a lot of people to make the soundscape a lot deeper. It was one of the few times I actually enjoyed recording. I never really had a great love for it. I know it’s necessary, I guess it’s like proof.” Wait and see is definitely proof that no matter what the tools used, that Sixo signature still gleams and glooms through.