Michael Imperioli’s cult classic NTS radio show ‘632 Elysian Fields’ (inspired by the movie ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’) revealed the artist formerly known as Christopher Moltesanti to be a man of unusually refined musical tastes - an hour-long special spanning everything from Count Basie to the B-52s and the choicest cuts of early Cat Power.
On his intermittently disappearing Instagram account, he documents his passion for 90s shoegaze - remember the ricochet that went round the internet when he revealed he was big into My Bloody Valentine? He loves music. We know this. But did you know he was in a band?
Zopa, the three-piece outfit he formed with Elijah Amitin (bass, vocals, production) and Olmo Tighe (drums and vocals), released their first record ‘La Dolce Vita’ in August 2020. Recorded in Brooklyn’s Bunker studios, it’s a dark, moody swirl of a sound, suffused with the energy of the 1970s New York underground they’re indebted to.
For their latest single, ‘Diamonds in the Dust’, they’re going cinematic - with a short standalone film from Glaswegian director James Price. Released via an online worldwide premiere tomorrow, alongside a Q&A with the band and director, it’s a characteristically unconventional tie-up of talents. And all the better for its unlikely collision of worlds.
Transplanting Sopranos-inspired themes of seedy gangland glamour to his hometown, Price takes us on a heady, irresponsible rollercoaster as a pink balaclava’d Bonnie and Clyde tear through the streets of Glasgow, after a deal kicks off in a seriously scary highrise. He’s got a cameo too, as a knife-wielding nutter, issuing threats in broad Springburnese.
How did this unlikely cultural exchange come about? The plucky Price catapulted himself to Made Man terrain by taking a simple punt in the DMs. After Imperioli dropped a reference to the band in a Talking Sopranos episode, he followed the lead.“I just messaged him on Instagram. I sent him some of my short films and told him which songs I was really drawn to and he was gracious enough to let me pitch an idea to himself, Elijah and Olmo.” Price says.
“I realised that I was making a very cool New York band a music video that was going to be set in the roughest parts of Glasgow, so I really wanted to inject the working-class Scotland I know with as much of a Scorcese, Tarantino, Abel Ferrara, Safdie Brothers film feel as possible. It was really important to me it had a specific kind of style and pace to it for the song.”
But for all its gangster sheen, it’s a tribute to his father, who died last year. “My dad passed away in April really suddenly, so the Zopa album became like my grief soundtrack,” said Price. And given that the record winds around themes of loss and bereavement, it was fitting that the video became the vessel into which he poured his grief.
“It was the first thing I made after my dad died, so I was aiming for a certain type of vibe that I knew he would have responded to if he was here. The Sopranos, True Romance and Badlands were all really important to us. One of the last films we watched together was Queen and Slim, so I think that was probably somewhere in my subconscious”
And in that, Imperioli gave him plenty of artistic freedom. “Michael was just so generous and trusting with me, he wouldn't tell me what the song was actually about for him because he didn't want to influence me in any way with the making of the video. He just really understands the artistic process and I owe him and the band so much for allowing me the opportunity to do it. It was a truly beautiful, mind-blowing experience for me.”
The resulting film’s a special one - and in a time when we’re zonked out on livestreams and gigs seem like a distant memory, it reminds us how music gains another life when it’s paired to other mediums. And how the music video can be an artform, when we let it be.
But mainly, it’s just a beautiful thing - a platform offered by the most made of men, offering a worldwide stage to a talented young wiseguy, sharing a bit of the limelight.
You can listen to Zopa’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ on Bandcamp
Register for the premiere with Zopa and James Price HERE.
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Words: Marianne Gallagher
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