Phil Collins' Teenage Son Has a Band, and They're Taking on Miami

Drummer Nic Collins is 14 going on 15, and his rock band, What You Know, has already played on national television in Switzerland, jammed at the Fillmore Miami Beach, and performed at the American Airlines Arena during a Miami Heat game. But despite all of that experience under his belt, Collins admits he's nervous. This is the first interview he's ever done.

Talking to a reporter doesn't come as naturally to the South Florida high-schooler as drumming in front of thousands of strangers. Music, after all, is in his genes. His father is famed English musician Phil Collins, and since Nic was 5 years old, he has been getting drumming lessons from his rock-star dad.

"Music is everything I think about," Collins says, flanked by his teenage bandmates bassist Yannick Waingarten and guitarist Joey Rodriguez.

"We don't treat him as anything special except as a best friend."

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The band's manager, J.P. Espiritusanto, was responsible for the formation of What You Know. Espiritusanto was Collins' drum instructor. "Nic asked me what he could do to get better," Espiritusanto remembers. "I told him the best practice was playing with other people. They're starting from the ground up, learning to be a band by doing things themselves. For their age, that's the best thing."

What You Know's first gig was a bit more high-profile than most high-school bands are used to. Collins initially got the group — which also includes singer Nick Aquilino, not present for this interview — together to open for his dad at the Fillmore Miami Beach this past March 11.

"We thought it was going to be a one-time gig, but we decided to stay as a band," he says. The group took its name from the first song the guys played together, "What You Know" by Two Door Cinema Club. Other bands they cover onstage include the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stevie Ray Vaughan. What You Know also has a few original compositions and is working on writing others. But what about playing his dad's songs?

"We played 'Against all Odds' in the beginning," Collins says. But the apple, musically speaking, has fallen far from the tree. "As a band, we're a different style. We could probably play his Genesis stuff, but he's a little pop for our style."

Knowing how that quote could be misconstrued, he stops himself as soon as that thought leaves his mouth. He's a big fan of his dad's music, he wants to make clear, and is appreciative of how his father cheered him on in the audience at What You Know's recent hour-and-a-half show at Gramps in Wynwood.

If Nic Collins does make it big, he won't be the first son of a legendary drummer to do so. Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey has been a member of Oasis and the Who. John Bonham's son Jason Bonham played with Led Zeppelin for a couple of reunion shows. Collins lights up at the mention of Bonham. "I met Jason Bonham," he says. "He was great. We got to talk for a long time about his dad's killer riffs."

But it's a slippery slope following in your father's footsteps while trying to make your own name. His bandmates were cognizant of that challenge but also protective of Collins. Bassist Waingarten isn't nervous about his drummer's connection to music royalty. "We see Nic as himself," he says. "We don't treat him as anything special except as a best friend."

WYK. 8 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at Sloppy Joe's Bar, 201 Duval St., Key West; 305-294-5717; Admission is free. 

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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland