Let’s just get this out of the way first: Jason Scoppa used to be a male model. And while he jokes about having gained weight and being too old to feel sexy, this married father of two still carries the effortless, good-natured, open demeanor that comes from being beautiful. The grit of his Detroit background tempers the effect of a stint in New York and an adulthood in L.A. He’s one of the popular kids, but he’ll let you sit at his table. Add an ear for music, and it seems natural if not destined that Scoppa would ascend the world of nightlife. His latest project brings him to Las Vegas, where he will open an outpost of his 3-year-old Hollywood hot spot the Sayers Club in the SLS . Scoppa paused from opening preparations to chat about his aspirations for this combined music venue, lounge and nightclub.
What is your vision for translating the magic of the Sayers Club in Hollywood to Las Vegas?
What I like about Vegas is that there’s not a lot of people in this lane, and I think it’s going to work really well here. The times that I have been in Vegas in the past, there has never been anywhere that I wanted to go per se. We’re going to do some of the same things here that we do there.
One of the things you do there is a cover-band show called Sessions, which you plan to host at SLS. The event has done well in Hollywood and even drawn guests such as Prince and Slash. But now that you’re in the land of cover bands, how do you plan to stand out?
It’s a cover show, but it doesn’t have any of the shtick to it—it’s really just incredible musicianship, incredible vocalists and the occasional guest. We don’t have any set order, so we’re basically surfing the vibe in the room. That creates a cool thing between the audience and the show because we don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s proven that particular show will work. … We’re going to be experimenting with residencies from different artists, both new and big talent, as well. So we don’t really discriminate by the level that a musician is at, we just want quality.
You’re looking to blur the lines between a lounge, a live-music venue and a nightclub. What does that look like?
The vision for me has always been like, “I love music, it’s my passion, but I just wish there was a party around it instead of it being a listening party.” At a live venue, [the set is] about 30 minutes too long most of the time. This [mixed format] is supposed to accommodate the short attention spans of today’s day and age. Give the crowd a little bit of everything—a little bit of a party, a little bit of a live show, with a DJ in between. That’s one of the really cool things about Las Vegas: In L.A. nobody shows up until 11 p.m., so you’ve got 11 p.m. till 2 a.m. to run your business; here I have more time to fan out the true identity of the space. Being a lounge, it can open up early (at 5 p.m.), then perhaps an early evening set of jazz, then start moving into the nightclub identity of the space. But I do keep those sets to 30 minutes. When we’re doing original artists, one-offs, that’s sometimes a different thing. But I always try to convince everybody that 30 minutes is good.
Is that 30 minutes total for the entire night? Or multiple 30-minute sets?
That’s the good part about these shows: We’re customizing. When we’re here, we do what we feel. There’s no real set time, kind of an area of a set time. I always want to hit the shows at peak hour, probably around midnight. But being that we can be open till 4 a.m., we might come back and do another set for 30 minutes.
How much time will you be spending in Vegas?
Me, personally, I’ll be here Saturday and Sunday nights to facilitate Sessions. Sometimes I’ll be here on Friday. At least initially, I’ll pop in and out of town during weekdays on a one-off basis for certain artists.
Get those frequent-flier miles.
I’m going to drive. I’m not a big flier. So I’m getting a tour bus, and I’m carting the band back and forth from L.A. We’re all going to be staying in the same place—a house in Las Vegas. We’d never be able to do it if we didn’t become so close over the years. We’ve covered so many songs, know each other so well.
Sometimes people who run venues that succeed in one market assume that their concept will work here. How do you avoid the fate of nightclubs that are successful abroad but fail in Las Vegas?
It’s a saturated market [for nightclubs]. I don’t feel like we have a saturated market for this concept. If it was, I would be freaked out, but everybody seems to be doing other things in nightlife. The whole thing here is that this is supposed to be for everybody. It’s not just for live-music fans, it’s for real fans of music that have a healthy appreciation for pop, indie pop, electro and everything. I always tell the DJ to keep an open format so that everybody’s hearing something that they like, and bring in that 30-minute live performance right at the peak hours, so it feels like it just happened. Even if you know who’s going to play, in an intimate space like this you still feel like it’s an impromptu moment.
What should local music lovers know about the Sayers Club?
This is a place where you can be comfortable for a long time. I want people to feel like they can stay for a full night and feel all the different identities of the space. I want people to feel like they discovered artists here as well. I also want them to feel like they’ve discovered the biggest show of their life in a tiny room. I saw so-and-so with literally 250 people, and it was unbelievable. … I want the music here to be universal, and I want them to hear it better than they can hear it anywhere else.
The Sayers Club
Grand opening party with Tove Lo on Aug. 28; Battle Fridays (two DJ-drummer duos battle for sonic supremacy) debuts on Aug. 29; Sessions at the Sayers Club debuts Aug. 30-31. Hours vary, 21 and up, cover charges vary, TheSayersClubLV.com.