If you’re a Sopranos fan, you remember the demise of Christopher Moltisanti in an overturned SUV. So it’s a little disconcerting to hear that the actor who played him, Michael Imperioli, will be driving his band, La Dolce Vita, up to Bill’s Bar this Friday for their first-ever Boston gig in his own SUV. Imperioli laughs when I tell him of my fears over the phone, “Yeah, I just started driving a year ago. Anyway, I never drove under the influence.”
POWER PUNK: Post-Sopranos, Michael Imperioli is no longer afraid to sing like a canary.
Imperioli started the band about two years ago with bassist Elijah Amitin and drummer Olmo Tighe and says they’ve played about 20 shows, mostly around New York. A couple of rough-mix mp3s reveal a not-bad power-punk trio featuring Imperioli’s guitar and vocals. He grew inspired by the likes of Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Television, and the New York Dolls. By the time he got to New York to study acting in the early ’80s, he was following the alt-rock of the time: the Smiths, the Pixies, Echo and the Bunnymen.
“New York was in a very fertile time for artists, and there was a lot of cross-pollination between disciplines,” he says. “John Lurie was a musician who started acting in movies. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Vincent Gallo were in a band together.” For Imperioli, playing in a band is of a piece with his other projects — acting, screenwriting, and producing plays at the off-Broadway theater he owns with his wife, Victoria. “Performing live is always exciting to me — on stage as an actor or musician.”
Imperioli earned an Emmy for his work on season five of The Sopranos, when Christopher discovers that his girlfriend, Adriana (Drea de Matteo), is an informer. “When we were doing it, I realized that I could pretty much go as far emotionally as I wanted, because it was a scene that would hold pretty much anything. That gave me the freedom to go for broke. We both did in that moment.”
Did that make it easier? “It was easy in its approach, but in its execution it’s hard to keep that going.” So what is difficult, acting-wise? “Playing drunk. It’s hard to do that convincingly. It’s harder than playing high. Drunk is tricky.”
Imperioli recently finished work on Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s best-seller The Lovely Bones. And he begins shooting his own low-budget indie feature, The Hungry Ghost, from his own script, on May 19, with, among others, two former Sopranos cast-mates, Steven Schirripa (Bobby “Bacala”) and Sharon Angela (Rosalie Aprile).
As for the band, Imperioli, 42, doesn’t see himself taking off on six-month tours — maybe eight- or nine-day jaunts like the one that will bring La Dolce Vita to Bill’s. After all, he and his wife have three kids, and he does have another career.
And has he been heckled? Any girls standing in front of the stage yelling “Christufuh!”
“Not yet. I’m sure it will happen, but not yet.”
La Dolce Vita join singer-songwriter Patti Rothberg at Bill’s Bar, 55 Lansdowne Street, Boston, on April 11. Call 617.421.9678.