Catch up with Philadelphia-based alt-soul group The Chris Paterno Band's Chris and listen to lead track, "Unfaithful", from their forthcoming debut self-titled EP.
What brought you all together?
Chris: I received a phone call from a friend that works for the Philadelphia Freedoms, which is the tennis team with Billie Jean King, and they wanted me to play a show but I needed a band, so I brought together my current roommate, Connor McElwee, on the guitar and our old high school English teacher - he taught me in 9th grade, like, eight years ago - he plays the drums, and then we just built the band around that; asking around people that we knew in Philadelphia, hitting up the art institutues like U of Arts and Temple and Curtis and just brought together some horn players - Mike Clark and Frank Rein - and our mandolin player, Adam Monaco, was a good friend of mine. The gig really brought us together and we didn't know where we were going to go from there. We played in front of about 2,000 people our first show and it went well, so we decided, let's go for it, so then we started booking some more shows.
Which musicians have you been influenced by, individually or as a group?
I would say, personally, I'm definitely influenced by some of the oldies like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder and also a couple singer-songwriters like John Mayer, James Bay, and Ed Sheeran. I like to describe our sound as an alternative soul, a combination of John Mayer meets Stevie Wonder. We've got the Philly soul roots of raw emotion and funky horn lines with the singer-songwriter complex voicing of somebody like John Mayer. I know a lot of the guys really like The Grateful Dead in the group, so we kind of veer towards a jam band and we like to pass out solos when we play live, but in the studio we're definitely more of a tightknit, alternative soul group.
What words would you use to describe your sound to someone who had never heard you?
I would definitely say alternative soul and other things that I would point to are, we just try to embody Philadelphia; the city and the emotion that's here and the roots that were laid by Philly soul down in Philadelphia by acts like The O'Jays and Patti Labelle, they really encompass this raw emotion with these driving horn lines and I think we put a modern flair on that. We've got these great horn players that come up with great arrangements, some percussive guitar and bass, and just raw emotion in the lyrics and vocals.
What were your inspirations behind your single "Unfaithful"?
The chord progression comes from an old song, actually, that I wrote back in high school and I could never get it out of my fingers. I was just playing around with it one day and made a couple changes here and there and then, at the time - there's a line in the bridge that goes "all we've built, burn it down" - and, at the time in my life, about a year and a half ago, I had just gotten out of a long relationship, my friendships that I'd had the year before were starting to go awry, and there were some issues with my family and it was just at a very emotional time. It was also at the time when I decided to focus more on music and less on my potential career in medicine and just let those bridges burn down and start anew and that's where the emotion comes from. The actual theme of the song comes from just being on a college campus and seeing what goes on on the weekends and some of my friends were dealing with untrustworthy people, so I just really related to that at the time, so that was my inspiration.
Can you tell us more about your forthcoming self-titled debut EP?
Yeah, definitely! So, there's six tracks - I wanted to cover a song that we're really excited about and I'll leave that one a surprise, but it might be my favorite track on the EP - but the other five songs were written by me and I like to write about everyday experiences and music is really my journal, so I write down everything that I feel and I don't really hold back and those thoughts and emotions go right into the songs. There's songs like "Unfaithful" about infidelity and not being able to trust people; there's a song about feeling pressure and stress from expectations and just everyday life; then a couple songs about love found, love lost, and a hopeful theme in there, too. I think the EP really has something for everybody, it's got a lot of driving horn sounds and a couple tracks that sound like "Unfaithful" with the faster groove, but there's some slow paced and we've got a folky tune, as well. I think we really span across a couple of genres and hopefully people find the tracks relatable.
Is there a track from this record you're most excited to perform live - other than the cover?
[Laughs] I think I'm most excited - and the band is most excited - about this one track called "Pressure". When we went into the studio it really didn't sound good [laughs] and we had to take a little bit of a break just so I could go out and rewrite the track. The track is about just being stressed out, trying to decide what I need to do with my life and how I want to do it, and it's about feeling stress and pressure from myself and people around me and that's something that I deal with on a daily basis and that I impose on myself, that it's my life; it was so hard for me to actually write about something that was so common that it took me awhile to actually get the track to where we wanted it to be, but now we've got some James Brown, funk soul brother drumming going on and these great horn lines and I think it's probably our favorite track to play live.
What do you hope your fans and listeners are able to take away from your music?
I really hope, first and foremost, that they find the songs relatable. We're down to Earth guys, we just like to have fun and play music and try to start a conversation about things that are going on in peoples' lives. Secondly, I hope that they just find it enjoyable to listen to and listen to them all more than one time and nod their heads to it and move through their lives with that as a soundtrack in the background. Like I've been saying, we put all of ourselves into the music so when you're listening, you're getting all of us and that's a lot to give to other people, so we just hope that people recognize that and can appreciate it and take it at face value and enjoy it.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
I just want to tell people to be on the lookout for a couple more singles that are coming out: one each month until late August when we're going to drop the whole EP. I would love to invite people out to come see us play; we've got a show this Saturday at MilkBoy and then our next show is at Connie's Ric Rac on 6/16 in Philly. We're really excited to get out and share this stuff live so people can hear it before it comes out and they're always welcome to text me at 610-955-8684 if they want a sneak peek or to chat.