“Everybody knows New York City. But there is a part of the city thatnot all outsiders are familiar with. WAY downtown, bordering on the well-known East Village, is the neighborhood known as the Lower East Side.This section of NYC is not filled with skyscrapers, but rather with five-story tenement buildings, at times struggling to remain standing, since they were built in the late 1800's. While the East Village (specifically St. Mark's Place) is known as virtually "ground-zero" for the birth of punk-rock, the Lower East Side is known as it's dirtier, rougher, noisier, and scarier (to most people) cousin. Here, in the Lower East Side, the true artists come searching for the messed-up place where they belong. This is where Howie Statland would wind up. This is where Howie would set up shop.


A virtuoso musician since childhood on both guitars and piano, Howie ran screaming from his kind parents and idyllic hometown outside of Chicago, as soon as he could figure out how to get away. He could not exist in this lovely world where he had been brought up. Growing up to the sounds of Lou Reed, and The Who, and soaking in their twisted messages and tales of hardcore urban experiences, Howie knew that the dirty boulevard was where he belonged, so he went there. And it damn near killed him. But a few years after sinking to the depths of depravity in his new hometown of New York, Howie made a miraculous discovery. He had spent many sleepless nights with his demons. But he awoke from the nightmare that he had needed to dream. He had figured this place out. He belonged here, and really, this place, the Lower East Side, WAS Howie.


Howie was no longer a street urchin. No longer a strung-out rich kid running wild through nights that rarely included going to sleep. He knew that he had to get clean or he would be dead. And he managed to do it. But that same edge was still a huge part of him, and he knew he somehow still belonged in this rough part of town that chews up so many people yet doesn't even bother to spit them out. He scraped, and he saved, and Howie managed to eventually open his own vintage guitar shop, (the literally world-famous Rivington Guitars.) Howie's love of guitars from forgotten decades, and old, time-worn effects pedals, along with amps from as far back as the 1940's, and warped reel-to-reel multitrack recorders would be his salvation. Funny that this shop on the gritty Rivington Street in the Lower East Side would not only finally provide a modest living for Howie, but it would also help him put together the musical project he had always dreamed of.


Not everybody in America knows Howie yet, but he could truly be called a RockStar at this time in his life. Because Lou Reed knows Howie. Philip Glass knows Howie. The New York Dolls know Howie. And EVERYONE in the L.E.S. knows Howie. Howie has always been immensely likeable, if stand-offish. His shy introspection might be mistaken for coldness, but this incredible artist cannot be blamed for having millions of thoughts cluttering his mind, all simultaneously crying to be let out, to be expressed through his only outlet; music. Even with these ideas flooding his mind, Statland would strike up a conversation with just about anybody. One day in the guitar shop he struck up a conversation with Kevin Fox Haley, who was looking for a new bass, and a new band, and New York City Smoke was born. Even if neither of them knew it yet.


Kevin Fox also lived in the Lower East Side, and like Howie, he too obsessed over the horrible state of much of current popular music. Kevin Fox was raised on a steady diet of live shows by the Ramones, Clash, and Sex Pistols, and this young musician too would come to know his idols personally. Kevin Fox even once rehearsed on bass with Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Pistols. This would figuratively put him in Sid Vicious' "spot!" Not bad for a kid who was 8 years old when "Never Mind The Bollocks" was released. And much like the Sex Pistols met by hanging around Malcolm McLaren's shop in London, New York City Smoke was born out of Rivington Guitars in the Lower East Side. Kevin who was frequently unemployed would spend hours at Howie's shop where they would discuss their love of true, honest rock and roll. Listening to vinyl LPs, drinking too much coffee and Diet Coke, these two could talk for hours about anything related to music. From what year classic albums were released, to who produced those records, to what mixing console was used for the recording, these two could appreciate in each other the love of music. Real music. Real rock and roll.


Howie was already an accomplished songwriter, and a sick guitarist, who was releasing his own CDs, touring essentially as a solo artist and building a devoted following around the U.S. and parts of Europe. Kevin bought a beat-up '78 Fender Precision Bass from Howie and asked if he could try out for Howie's band. If Kevin Fox's playing wasn't exemplary in technique, it certainly exuded tons of heart, and truly unrestrained raw power. Kevin is known for often breaking the heaviest string on the bass, which is not easy to do. Together, they would see NYCSmoke through several incarnations, touring the states and playing increasingly high profile New York gigs, building a name for the band. The two would always remain the core nucleus of the band, but were never truly happy until all the other pieces fell into place.


The way the band became what it is today is rather strange in how naturally it all evolved. Again through the shop, an unbelievably talented (and gorgeous) girl named Kim Henry would enter the band. She played a vintage gold-top Les Paul, and played here is a real understatement. Kim had been in Major Label acts, but had grown disillusioned with the music business as well. When she asked if she could play guitar for New York City Smoke, the decision was made before she finished uttering the question. Imagine Joan Jett asking you if she can join your band. Gee, what would YOU say? Kim was a true friend already, part of the crew at Rivington Guitars and could more than hold her own when it came to knowledge of Rock History. Kim was a HUGE fan of The Who, just like Howie and Kevin. Plus she could talk Studer 2-Tracks and TS 808 Tube-Screamers with the best of them. Hell, Kim even subscribed to the underground TapeOp magazine before Howie was ever featured in it! Are girls allowed to be this cool?

At this point NYCSmoke had "Spinal Tapped" their way through yet another drummer. There had to be an end to the revolving door, a door spun non-stop by these hired-gun hacks, these mercenary skin pounders. Enter former ”Billionaire," Matt Lewis. Truly down to Earth, and one of the nicest guys in town, "Matteus" had recently finished playing in a band with his best friends for years. The band, Billionaire Boys Club, had nearly gone over the top, even playing on Carson Daly's NBC show as the house band! But the dear friends had done their time as a band and were moving on. Matt had spent his entire life devoted to one thing: smashing the hell out of drums. (In perfect time, mind you!) This no-nonsense battering ram was exactly the driving force needed to tie in with Kevin Fox's raging basslines. Matt joining the band nearly perfected it. Nearly...


The figurative and literal "cherry on top" would be the man known as "Double Sour;" Jesse Soursourian himself. This charismatic and handsome young actor was making his way up through the world of drama that every New York actor must endure. Even though he was climbing the ladder of success in the acting world, Jesse's true calling, being a genius on keyboards and piano, would not let go of him. Jesse was a known fixture at Rivington Guitars, and everybody in the gang loved him. You never had to rent "Annie Hall" again if you knew Jesse, because he would recite most of it line for line almost daily. Everybody at the guitar store knew that Jesse played keys, but still just thought of him as "The Kid." When Jesse asked if he could join, nobody even answered him. But on a daily basis Jesse would be seen around the guitar store, and he would keep asking Howie to let him play keys for NYCSmoke. When Howie relented, and Jesse auditioned, the entire band was blown away by Jesse's deft skill, inventive and complicated riffs, and both his originality and sheer dominance over the Moog synth he was playing. Jesse was most definitely in, and New York City Smoke was now most definitely a band. In fact, it was now the band that Howie Statland had sought to put together for so many years.


The individual accomplishments of Howie and the other members are impressive. In past projects they've been on Major Record Labels, and they've been around the world. Together, however, they are reaching new heights in modern rock music. Often referred to as "New York's best-kept secret," they manage to fuse together all that is real and great in rock and roll. Raw guitars, expertly played. A driving rhythm section that never lets up. Melodies from keys and guitars that intertwine like something celestial and divine, all come together with vocals delivered straight from the heart, and the mind, and most definitely the throat, of Howie Statland. In NYCSmoke, you can feel the spirit of true rock and roll. You can feel The Who. You can feel Lou Reed, The Replacements, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, and even Pete Yorn. You feel all of these great artists, and more, when you listen to NYCSmoke. But you don't hear these great artists. What you hear is a band like no other, a band that is making real music again, with real instruments, and with real talent. Guess what. Music is good again.

NYCSmoke is:

Howie Statland: Vox, Gtr
Kevin Fox Haley: Bass, Vox
Kim Henry: Gtr, Vox
Matt Lewis: Drums
Jesse Soursourian: Keys