By Daniella Cortez
I’ve known Matt Hopper since shortly after my 18th birthday. He was (obviously, like everyone else who played guitar in Alaska) super cool and everyone loved him. Honestly, at that point, I didn’t get the hype. In the days before any of us could go to bars to listen to bands, there were coffee shop shows. His hair was a little shorter back then and he was known for bouncing off amps on stage. His facial hair and band members may have changed more than a few times, but Matthew William Hopper, the man with the mission for music hasn’t.
His band, The Roman Candles, is an ever-changing collection of musicians that vary from state to state. Hopper estimates the number of people who have played with the Candles at over 100 now. I myself played tambourine during a single song with them in 2002. (I only remember this because it was my 20th birthday and it was the first time I’d ever been in front of a crowd of people. It was terrifying.) I don’t think that qualifies me as a former member of the Roman Candles but it’s a tiny, regional claim to fame nonetheless. I’ll take it.
This week for our play list I made what I consider to be Matt Hopper’s Greatest Hits. These are the ten songs that I am particularly fond of. With one very important song missing though. “French Girls” is in the process of being recorded for one of his upcoming albums due out early next year. Hopper talks about his upcoming albums in an interview with Press writer Jeri Kopet that is our print edition this week.
This list spans more than a decade of Hoppers work and features some of my old school favorites like “Rock n Roll” and “Every Day is Saturday” from 2003’s Keep Your Mouth Shut. To me this is quintessential Hopper/Roman Candles: synthesizers, totally adorable teen-in-love lyrics and lots of “bah bah bah’s” and “oowie, oowie, oohs”. These songs and the ones from Bang! Bang! Bang! are basically the soundtrack to the early 200o’s for me. I may not have understood why all my friends wanted to make out with Hopper, but I have always liked his songs.
I heard “Working the Kinks Out” for the first time in the bathroom at Snow City Café before he played a show there. He was still in the process of writing it and he took a few people into the bathroom to play it for them to get feedback. It made an indelible impression on me, marking a moment in my life when I knew that hanging out with musicians was my calling. Someday, when I write his unauthorized biography, I’ll be sure to include that he personally inspired me in a diner bathroom in downtown Anchorage. That doesn’t sound weird at all.
He may have grown up a little bit and his writing style has matured but there are still plenty of the things that made me a Roman Candles fan all those years ago in his new work as well. 2010’s Jersey Finger is a remarkably rockin’ album, and “Death of a Dayjob” is definitely my favorite from this collection. “In it for the Music” starts out with almost a full thirty seconds of “ooh ooh’s”, so clearly Hopper hasn’t totally matured out of his roots. Thank God.
Now if only we could get a re-release of Bedroom Pop (Vol. 1 & 2) and the little Firecracker EP digitally, my made up Greatest Hits could really be complete.