In a curious string of events, Emmy-award winning actor, Michael Imperioli, puts down the piece and picks up an axe as frontman for the band, Zopa. Read their story and listen to the long-awaited debut album, 'La Dolce Vita'.
Curious and Serendipitous Events
The law of serendipity, in a nutshell, says that the universe bends in our direction by providing us with what appears to be accidental and fortunate circumstances - what we might know simply as, good luck. I got a chance to catch up with Elijah Amitin, bass player for Zopa, on a Brooklyn rooftop to hear about the band and their debut album. Turns out Zopa was indeed formed by the serendipity that, on occasion, comes along to weave together coincidence and connection at one time and one place, time and again. Let me explain. Zopa has three members. Frontman, Michael Imperioli, who handles lead guitar and vocals. Elijah Amitin, who plays Bass, keyboard, contributes to vocals and handles production. Olmo Tighe, who is on the drums and also lends his voice. (Olmo, by the way, is a West Village name meaning elm tree in Italian. Olmo however is not Italian, he is Irish and Spanish. This has nothing to do with the band. I just find it interesting.)
Now, let’s start from the beginning. Elijah and Olmo went to school together. Elijah started playing the bass guitar in high school and Olmo picked up the drum sticks. Olmo had an older brother who played the guitar in Jeff Buckley’s band. He would let Olmo and Elijah use their practice space to rehearse and consequently, the pair developed musical chemistry.
Ok, stay with me. Here comes a fortuitous circumstance. Olmo, who by this time had begun acting, landed a roll in a movie - 1994’s 'Postcards From America'. He shared the screen with a young actor, Michael Imperioli, who some years later would play a leading wiseguy alongside James Gandolfini in the hit HBO series, The Sopranos.
After the movie wrapped, Olmo and Michael exchange formal pleasantries... “Nice working with you.” And they part ways. Before the two would meet again, in even more curious strokes of pure chance, Elijah, Olmo’s one-time high-school jam partner, just so happened to have a cousin who would become Michael Imperioli’s agent. Beyond that, Elijah’s father, who would sell his artwork at a flea market in Chelsea, would one day sell one of his paintings to none other than...Michael and his wife. After years of run-ins and coincidence mysteriously threading the group together, one last chance meeting in 2006 sealed the deal. Imperioli and Olmo run into each other on the street (yes, seriously) and start talking music. They discover they both had a desire to put a band together. Michael played guitar and could sing. Olmo could take care of percussion. All they needed was a bass player. Remembering his old buddy, Elijah, from school and the chemistry they shared...Olmo says, “I got a guy”. And thus, we have Zopa. I believe I’ve proven my point. Serendipity. Now, we all know that money gets you places. A guy, an Emmy-award-winning main guy from a hit TV series, well, he can have a band if he wants one. A certain level of success can make talent optional for some. Paris Hilton cut an album, right? Fortunately, it’s not like that with Zopa. Imperioli, Elijah, Olmo, have each earned their rock accolades fair and square by plugging in their gear, cutting their knuckles on steel strings, hammering out their music, with blistered fingers, and sweaty brows.
"We know each other..." said Amitin against a setting Brooklyn sun. "...how to communicate without words on stage and rely on telepathy, more than outward gestures."
Zopa isn’t just a sideshow for these guys.
These Brooklyn rockers are serious, multi-talented performers...and they can play.
They have been a trio since 2006. They worked out their set, took to the stage, and earned their keep in the New York music scene. Besides playing shows in NYC, they played a few shows out-of-state and overseas when the opportunity arose for the band to play a show in Lisbon, Portugal.
La Dolce Vita
The band’s debut album, La Dolce Vita, has been in waiting. Aging for some time now. (It was recorded in 2015.) Life, circumstances, and timing all played a part. I asked Elijah how he’d describe their music. He thought for a moment, looking up at the sky from our perch: “I think we would call it New York punk”, he said. “In the context of the lower east side scene in the ’70s. Something that derives from that stuff, ya know, groovy, Johnny Thunders, Patty Smith type stuff.” “Why now?” I asked. “With all that is happening and has happened in the city of New York, in our Country, in the world for that matter, why would you guys choose now to drop your album?” The album was released on the 1st of July of 2020. "With this pandemic, with everything, we have all gone through, it just seemed like a good time to share what we created.”
I took a pause for a moment to let that sink in, to think about what music does for humanity. What it does for people, especially in hard times. Music heals. At a time when so many of us need healing, I felt as if a thank you were in order. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Thank you for your music and most of all, thank you for being New Yorkers who believe in community, have a sense of responsibility to this city, and will fight to help build it back. The following is our official review of Zopa’s debut album, courtesy of Lummoxi’s music editor, Brian Todd: “From the punchy, shoulder-first intro of La Dolce Vita's first track, 'All That Heaven Allows', to the late-entry tire-burning punk rock of 'Roll it Off Your Skin', Zopa's debut album makes it clear...this is a New York Rock Band. Fully justified as the first track of the album, 'All That Heaven Allows' is a good display of what this band is capable of. The classic punk-esque indie-rock form, fully active dancing bass lines and machine-gun drum fills, make a surprisingly perfect context for the unique addition of Imperioli's howling vocals that succeed in building tension during the verse, only to be resolved in a bright and memorable chorus.
Not held to the more charged tracks on the album, Zopa's versatility shines through on the more down-tempo fourth track, 'It's Not Real'. Drawing from some blues & soul influences, the fourth track has a feel-good soulful vibe, with a soaring build-up to the chorus that is only lifted to appropriate heights with the piping in of some unexpected but, absolutely called for, brass.
The ninth track, 'Here Comes Disaster', is another notable track. Elijah's groovy and funky craftsmanship on the bass clearly on display, if your body isn't moving to this bass line, you might want to check your pulse.
'White Horse', track number six featuring Elijah's shining top-side vocals, also earns high marks. Pretty simply, it's a great song with a fantastic feel, carried by a glimmering riff by Imperioli on guitar. It's the kind of song that can lift your spirits and help shed the trappings of a long, no-good day.
Combine what these guys have uniquely brought to the table and overall, you have an excellent debut album and a solid body of rock music in, 'La Dolce Vita'.
We're eager to see what comes next for this New York trio.”
My Take On The Music
The writer in me wants to do this with visuals so imagine these scenarios if you will. Various songs, various moods. Tracks 1, 2 and 7. Highway One in California. Perfect weather. Best friend by your side and music as loud as it'll go. Nowhere to be, just driving. Tracks 3 and 5. Outdoor concert. Amphitheater style. Blanket on the grass. You can’t seem to find your shoes but, you just don’t care. You just keep on dancing. Now, my favorite song. Track number four, It’s Not Real. I’m sitting in my favorite place. The high-top table in the back. Alone. Contrary to the song, sometimes you do just need to be alone, you know. Gin and tonic in a rocks glass. Eyes closed when that guitar riff cuts in, feeling the vibration of the bass through the old wooden floor, thankful the waitress is dropping off another drink silently with a knowing smile.
Listen to the full debut album and follow the band on Bandcamp. You can also follow Michael Imperioli on Instagram, and check out his new Podcast with Steve Schirripa, Talking Sopranos. Follow Elijah Amitin on Instagram as well, and check out his Soundcloud. Olmo, we're told, is not really one for social media. So, Olmo, if you're reading this....hi! Sign up for our newsletter for more on all things art and music.