That’s Entertainment: Profiling Me and Chris Idell Band


Published: October 22, 2009

Recently, members of Me and Chris Idell Band tried to make some spare cash. At the same time, they planned to practice some newly learned covers by performing in the subway station. After playing half a dozen songs, including Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” and Weezer’s “Pink Triangle,” a MTA employee shuffled the three college students along.

While the impromptu set outside the Shuttle near Grand Central Terminal garnered more passing stares than tips, the bandmates, including Francis Pastorelle, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’10, Chris Idell, Raritan Valley Community College ’11, and Ryan Confroy, Rutgers University ’10, seemed satisfied with the outing. Idell and Confroy had to catch a train back to New Jersey and the group made plans to play in a different station the following weekend. While some bands spend vast amounts of time practicing in private, they never go out and play for people, according to Pastorelle, who was armed with a ukulele and belt furnished with multiple harmonicas.

A few days after venturing into the underground with Me and Chris Idell Band (tiny edition), Pastorelle sat down to talk more about the band.

Observer: After being induced to pack it up early Sunday night, how would you say playing in the subway station went?

Francis Pastorelle: It’s always fun and it’s a different sort of playing than we do at some of our shows. I think it’s good practice to really up the stage presence because you know you have to do a lot more to catch people’s attention when you only have a second to do so.

Observer: Playing covers in a subway station without the full band is different than playing originals for Fordham students and friends. Would you say you like one over the other?

FP: We’ve always been very relaxed in terms of a target audience. We’ll play for whoever and that’s always been kind of our way. We’ve played for as little as zero people and for as many as a couple of thousand. We got invited to play at a Christian rock concert, quite by accident. We entered a dialysis and pro-life contest while [Idell and I] were both in Catholic high school. The topic of the contest was chastity. And so we wrote a song called “Billy Put the Condoms Down” and it was very well-received, surprisingly, by the bishop and company.

Observer: What’s the back-story of Me and Chris Idell Band?

FP: Chris and I were friends junior year of high school. I liked to sing, he liked to play guitar, so sometimes after school we would play covers. The school picnic was coming up [and] I wanted to sing and perform. Apparently, the day before the event [Idell] was approached by the woman putting together the program. She’s like “Chris, I need to know the name of your band.” I guess without really thinking too much about it, he said, “Me and Chris Idell Band.”

Observer: The “Me” of Me and Chris Idell Band refers to who?

FP: At the time it was me because I was the only other person in [the band]. So it was me and then Chris Idell. And then when we got Ryan we considered changing the name to Us and Chris Idell band or We and Chris Idell band but we figured that “Me” was applicable to anybody.

Observer: Describe your band’s sound without naming a musical genre or another band.

FP: What you would think of when you think of three skinny white dudes from New Jersey getting together with a couple of instruments and fucking around.

Observer: Now, describe your band’s sound only by naming musical genres or other bands.

FP: Garage rock. Weezer. Paul Simon. Sometimes it’s funny because Chris has to tell me what our musical influences are.

Observer: How do you come up with your lyrical content?

FP: Generally, I’ll ask Chris to show me a riff and I’ll have him cycle through what he’s got and maybe I’ll record them. When I have an urge to write lyrics, I’ll listen to all those riffs and see which one best fits the direction I want to go in. Sometimes for fun I just write a funny song and sometimes it’s about something that’s on my mind.

Observer: What are your short-term and long-term goals for the band?

FP: Short-term goals are just getting down a bunch of the songs we have in progress. Chris is really trying to take us to the next level, but it requires a little more time with the song and it can be frustrating. Long-term goals are just a series of short-term goals. For now it’s play some local shows, then get some better recordings, put our name out for some smaller festivals, maybe some bigger festivals. We’ll always be content as long as we’re pushing ourselves.

Observer: After listening to “No Tengo Los Hombros,” which roughly translates to “I don’t have shoulders,” I came to wonder, how did you become so fluent in Spanish?

FP: (grins) I’m so bad at it. I’m better than I was then. I just started throwing out whatever Spanish words I knew.

Observer: How would you respond to people who call your band a “joke” band?

FP: I wouldn’t really respond negatively. I know we’ve gotten some criticism from friends who are like “You should decide. Are you going to be a joke band or a band that tells jokes?” and I’m like “No, I don’t have to decide that.” I don’t think when people say “joke band” they mean your band’s a joke. We make people laugh. We’re entertaining people. We entertain them one way with a funny song and one way with a [traditional] song.

Observer: Have you ever considered collaborating with another on-campus band?

FP: Absolutely. There’s a Facebook group called The Me and Everyone Idell Band Music Collective. We’re hoping to get a set at Goodbye Blue Monday [a Brooklyn venue] and arrange to have it with Vinyl Tap and Average Girl and Mike Fabano. There are a lot of great bands on campus and I think it only helps all of us to get shows [together].

Observer: What is your ultimate goal in crafting songs and playing them for people?

FP: To entertain and for my part to get what is up here (motions to his head) out there in a way that, while it’s making me happy to sort of have the therapy that music brings, it’s also making somebody else happy and somebody else just bobbing their head, tapping their feet, having a good time—that, for me, is a perfect situation.