Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rick Eppedio and lead singer Cindy Keyser-Posner first began playing together in Commonwealth, a well-known New York-area rock cover band, in the late 1970s, before putting aside their set lists to form Barbarian Lovers, an original studio project, in 1984. Independently producing demos on their newly-acquired four-track in Rick’s basement, the very first song they wrote together, the catchy and tuneful ‘Hip Hip Hop,’ caught the ear of Blondie/Go-Gos producer Richard Gottehrer, who encouraged the two to continue their newly-formed collaboration. Shortly thereafter, the pair were offered a record deal with an indie label out of Texas, as well. The following year, the Barbs had their first European release on Italian label Cruisin’, who put out a 12” vinyl of ‘Where Have the Feelings Gone’ b/w ‘Round and Round.’ Excited by the positive response to their music, the band formed their own independent label, Blue City Productions, in 1987, and began servicing college/alternative radio, garnering much positive press and radio response, including being named ‘Spotlight Pick of the Month’ by The Gavin Report. Still without a major record deal, despite interest from several top labels, the pair released their first full-length LP, ‘Fatal Embrace,’ the same year, which was lauded by Billboard’s Music & Media, as well as scoring substantial radio play and press throughout western Europe and Asia, particularly in France, Spain, Italy, and Scandinavia. In 1989, the band’s first LP was re-released in Europe by London-based Aura Records, where labelmates included Alex Chilton, Steve Marriott, and Nico. Following this, the Barbs released two follow-up CDs, ‘Faith in a Desperate Place’ and ‘Dancing in Dreams,’ both of which were met with great enthusiasm on European radio, particularly in Denmark, where the group conducted a radio promotion tour in 1992. Not long afterward, the band, who have been compared by critics to acts ranging from Tears for Fears to Eurythmics, went on extended hiatus, eventually resurfacing as the harder-edged Smoke Ring Days.
Taking inspiration from an eclectic collection of artistic influences, the serpentine sojourn of Smoke Ring
Days has been an unexpected and extensive one, resulting in a sound which reveals an eagerness to
embrace varying genres with innate instinct and without hesitation. Melodic and memorable, their music has been described as gritty, surreal, moody, reflective, sophisticated - and catchy as hell.
Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rick Eppedio and lead vocalist Cindy Keyser-Posner first began writing together as Barbarian Lovers, independently producing demos on a four-track in Rick’s childhood basement. Their very first co-write, the infectious, electro-folk ’Round and Round,’ caught the ear of Blondie/Go-Gos producer Richard Gottehrer, and resulted in an indie label offer. Opting out of a domestic deal in favor of focusing their energies abroad, the Barbs saw their first European label release the following year with a 12” vinyl of ‘Where Have the Feelings Gone’ b/w ‘Round and Round.’ Encouraged by an enthusiastic reaction at radio, but seeking greater creative control, the band soon formed their own New York-based independent label, Blue City Productions, in order to service US college/alternative radio.
Garnering positive radio and press response - including being named ‘Spotlight Pick of the Month’ by The Gavin Report - and resultant interest from several major labels, the pair released their first full-length LP, ‘Fatal Embrace,’ on the Blue City imprint that same year. Lauded by Billboard’s Music & Media, as well as scoring substantial radio play and press throughout western Europe and Asia, the indie album, with cover art by Weegie, was soon after released in Europe by London-based Aura Records, where labelmates included Alex Chilton, Steve Marriott, and Nico.
Subsequently putting out two follow-up CDs, ‘Faith in a Desperate Place’ and ‘Dancing in Dreams,’ both were well-met at European radio, particularly in Scandinavia, where the band toured to promote the releases. Not long afterward, the Barbs - who were compared by critics to acts ranging from Tears for Fears to Eurythmics - went on extended hiatus, eventually resurfacing as the harder-edged Smoke Ring Days.
An all-too-rare long-standing partnership in the music industry, Smoke Ring Days are defined as much by what they do as what they don’t do. Long ago choosing to remain musicians true to their artistic vision, rather than playing at being pop stars, this has provided the path to the band’s creative freedom. So, what is it exactly that Smoke Ring Days do?
To get to know Smoke Ring Days, listen to their music.
‘Badlands Suite’ recounts the rise and demise of Dust Bowl-era anti-heroes Bonnie and Clyde, vividly revisiting the harsh realities which too many today again find themselves facing. ‘Head in the Sand,’ a desperate plea to consider the all-too-real risks of a world in which the next move could prove the last one, evokes the droning melancholy of the Velvet Underground’s more introspective moments. And while ‘Hit to My Heart’ and ‘Matter of Honor’ channel the primal raunch and stripped-down garage vibe of Patti Smith and X, ‘Silent City’ and ‘Oil’ tell tales of political power cultivated at the cost of human lives, set to a loping, Peter Gabriel-esque global groove.
Raised by parents impacted by impoverished childhoods and the immigrant experience, Smoke Ring Days’ songs embrace a working-class ethos which seeks to elevate awareness of and create kinship with those who, far too frequently, go unrecognized by a society mesmerized by materialism. Which isn’t to say they can’t rock out with the best. Amidst the grit and grief shine through layers of hope and optimism, captured in songs from the aptly-named ‘Things are Gonna Get Better,’ the bouncy sing-a-long of ‘Peace in My Soul,’ and the driving and edgy ‘The Distance Between Us,’ with a final verse intoning unity and peace.
Having amassed a considerable catalogue of music across multiple genres, the early aughts saw the band expanding their range via side projects including the jazz-tinged/world fusion SpiceHouse and Sinfonia Electronique, with a focus on avant garde, experimental, and futuristic music. Proving popular with music libraries, the more offbeat material saw placements in Netflix indie films, the ‘Make It With A Cowboy’ on-line campaign for celebrity-owned Sauza Blue tequila, and as the theme for a major international reality chef series. The resultant unexpected windfall has allowed Smoke Ring Days to continue to feed their rock jones, creating community through music they love to share with others they hope will, too.
Influenced by the unique stylings of musicians as diverse as Ornette Coleman, the Grateful Dead, Brian Eno, and Jefferson Airplane, SpiceHouse is a foray into world beats, acid and traditional jazz forms, and jammed-out trip hop grooves, filtered through the aural prism of Barbarian Lovers and Smoke Ring Days, the band’s previous rock and folk-rock incarnations. Citing the works of groundbreaking artists from the avant-garde jazz scene of the 1950s to modern day electronica pioneers, SpiceHouse has quickly become a favorite of downloaders. Stand-out performances by R&B/funk musician John Scarpulla (John Hiatt, B.B. King, Robert Cray, et al) on alto and soprano sax accent SpiceHouse’s studio work. The band’s sound blurs the boundaries between radio-friendly rock and extended improvisational explorations. From upbeat polyrhythmic syncopations to meandering, mystical soundscapes, Spicehouse mixes music from many eras and styles, from ancient ecclesiastical modes to twelve tone atonal music to modern ambient music and various world and electronic grooves, the latter a focal point of their newest side project, Sinfonia Electronique.
Sinfonia Electronique is an international collective of European, Asian, and North American musicians who have come together to interpret new musical works created by its members. Focusing on compositions by American musicians Richard Eppedio and Cindy Keyser-Posner, and featuring performances by a select group of kindred musical spirits from various stylistic backgrounds, Sinfonia Electronique continues to move forward while maintaining a backward gaze, ever mindful of those who have come before them and blazed an amazing trail of musical mastery, leaving a legacy these performers strive to keep alive in the twenty-first century.