Matt Hopper is from Wasilla, Alaska, but don't expect the rock and roll singer-songwriter to spend much time talking about that - or, for that matter, say anything about that city's most famous resident.
"To me, you either make good music or you don't, it doesn't have anything to do with where you're from except maybe some of the lyrical content is derived from your surroundings and environment," says Hopper, who is now based in Boise and has just released his most complete and fully realized record to date, Jersey Finger.
Hopper, whether with his band, the Roman Candles, or traveling alone in his Chevy Blazer, has been touring steadily for several years, making several stops here in Bend. During those performances in town, he's always purveyed thoughtful and emotion-soaked songs that, even when performed solo, have a rock and roll attitude. It's like Ryan Adams, but with more sass and lyrical consistency. Or maybe he's a boozier sounding version of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.
Hopper has always been a solid performer, but if you've listened to any of his material in the last half-decade, it's impossible to hear Jersey Finger as anything but a significant and impressive step forward. Part of that quality results from the fact that Hopper was able to bring Richard Swift, the singer-songwriter and relatively new Oregon resident whose own records have been widely acclaimed as of late, in to produce the album.
"I was passing through and stopped by to say hello and check out his studio. We ended up recording a few songs for fun while I was there and I asked if he'd ever be interested in helping me craft a full length," says Hopper.
Then last year, Swift said he would, indeed, be interested in working with Hopper and in January the two laid down the record in Cottage Grove during two short sessions after Swift dug through about 35 songs from different points in Hopper's recording career. Swift selected 12 cuts from that list and those dozen songs became Jersey Finger, a record named after the finger injury that Swift sustained during the recording of the record.
While he's not looking to be known as an Alaskan musician, Hopper did include a tribute to the state's tallest mountain with "Denali," a punchy and whimsical track that's one of the highlights of the album. That song, however, is on the lighter side of the record, while cuts like "Send/Receive" (which is full of excellent Built to Spill-style guitar hooks) and "Nice Shades" give us a sample of the sort of unrestrained rock energy that Hopper and his band are capable of bringing to the stage in concert.
He acknowledges the record is a step forward for him, but that doesn't mean he's giving up the sort of touring-in-a-Chevy-Blazer sort of ethos that's gotten him this far.
"If this record leads to bigger and better things, that's great. I am not looking to go backwards with my music," says Hopper. "I love being a DIY musician and I love the fact that Swift took a chance on me and lent a big hand to this record, 'cause he sure didn't do it for the money."
Matt Hopper and the Roman Candles, Bryan Free
9pm Friday, October 15. Silver Moon Brewing. 24 NW Greenwood Ave.
$5. 21 and over.