Since relocating to Memphis, TN from his longtime home of Jersey City, NJ in 2014, Stephen Chopek has embraced many new things, not the least of which is the sense of spontaneity that is pervasive throughout the current crop of Memphis musicians.
From seemingly every artist lending their talents to bands they don’t front to the ever-germinating and cross-pollinating of jams, album sessions, and one-off shows, the City’s sense of musical camaraderie and damn the torpedoes musical atmosphere is what most informed Chopek during the creation of his third full-length album, Begin the Glimmer (2018).
An admittedly patient songwriter who turns every bolt while crafting his music, tightening, reshaping and honing his songs time and again until he deems them ready for wide consumption, Chopek approached Begin the Glimmer with an eye toward the impetuous, the unrehearsed.
“I just wanted to be less precious with the performance,” says Chopek, noting how, while the songs were written with deep focus and workmanlike intention, the performance that would be committed to tape would be off-the-cuff.
Culling a batch of ten songs that were heavily influenced by a steady diet of Guided By Voices, Talking Heads, and The Replacements, Chopek decamped to Memphis’s 5 and Dime Recording, himself playing every instrument on the album.
A noted session drummer who has cut tracks and toured with Charlie Hunter, John Mayer, and Jesse Malin, amongst others, Chopek’s venture out from behind the drumset gave further credence to the uninhibited sensibility at the core of Begin the Glimmer.
“There’s a kind of rawness in Memphis,” Chopek says, “There’s a freedom in the scene here and that helped me be way less conscious about being the drummer guy who is writing songs.”
Mixed by legendary Memphian Doug Easley, Begin the Glimmer possesses a rapid-fire, stream of thought lyric styling reminiscent of Billy Bragg, and bedrock music that some amalgam of lighter Superchunk, heavier M. Ward, and the janglier, less decadent-era of The Replacements. And in it, Chopek has created an album that is urgent yet introspective, which, it might be said, is a description not too dissimilar from the singer/songwriter himself.