“…we wanted to look at the positive things rather than always complaining about where rock is, and oh people don’t listen to rock like they used to and the negativity that’s surrounding us at this point. So we thought why don’t we be a band that’s more positive and see if we can’t get some more positive things to come our way.”
From release: POP EVIL smashes through the odds like a battering ram, weathering the trials and tribulations of paying dues with a steadfast resilience owing much to their blue collar and middle class backgrounds, and building a worldwide audience one fan at a time. As the moniker promises when emblazoned on a CD or radio dial, POP EVIL conjures aggressive riffs and hard charging sing-a-longs with emotional heft and melodic power in equal measure. It’s music by the people, for the people.
We gave Pop Evil front man Leigh Kakaty a call to talk about the band’s new album ‘Up’, what it was like putting it together, the meaning of the album, the possibility of touring Australia, and crying in movies…
So heading into your fourth album on a major, after some experience, do you go into this release with an idea or concept of what you were aiming for or did you let it evolve?
Yeah I think with this record we were definitely trying to be more experimental, and try to kind of expand our identity. I think on the first three albums we were always dealing with certain situations, whether it was an old label, an old band member, people coming and going, it was really kind of hard to stay focused at times, we really feel like we were very fortunate to be in the position we we’re at, it was always a little bit tough dealing with this adversity, so this time around we had all the things going for us for the first time, so we were like, look, we’re going for it, we’re going to be more experimental, we’re going to take the time to be more open to each other as ideas come and go and do the best thing we could and put the best effort we felt in making the best record we’ve done so far.
So the album is titled ‘Up’, can you tell us what it represents to you and why it scored naming right to the album?
Yeah, ‘Up’ for us was kind of like that inspiration, that goal of where we’re trying to be, our last album ‘Onyx’ was written from such a dark place, you know I lost my father in 2011 and again all the adversity that I was mentioning earlier, it just felt like we wanted to put the anger aside, we went and recorded in Seattle, Washington which was like once we experienced the first rainfall of Seattle we were just cleansed and we felt like we had gotten rebirthed so to speak and wanted to get more positive about being just our approach and just our way we were living our lives both on and off the stage. Whether that was for me personally, I stopped drinking in December and I’ve been trying to do that best that I can to make sure my voice and my health are in the best shape because every album cycle gets longer and longer so we want to put the best foot forward to be all we can be when people come to spend money to see us live. So ‘Up’ was kind of that, kind of inspirational, and be like look man let’s be more appreciative of these things we have, these blessings we have, so it felt rare to be able to get paid to do music for a living, we wanted to look at the positive things rather than always complaining about where rock is, and oh people don’t listen to rock like they used to and the negativity that’s surrounding us at this point. So we thought why don’t we be a band that’s more positive and see if we can’t get some more positive things to come our way.
I’m a big sucker for the big rock ballad type song, so I have to ask specifically about ‘If Only For Now’, is there a story behind that song in particular?
That one, you know, there’s always those songs and the ballads have always been important to Pop Evil’s career, and we’ve had such success with radio and big ballads being hits for us in The States, that we wanted to challenge our listeners to do something different, and ‘If Only For Now’, I always loved those songs that said nothing, but they said everything. It’s like if you thought about the first time you were in love, or you thought about your life and you were looking up at the stars sitting in the back of a pick-up truck looking up and thought ‘wow, if only for now I could just be there, if only for now I could appreciate this, and if only for now I had that’ and it just seems like that it was just such a powerful phrase and again not necessarily meant anything but it represented everything, you know if that makes sense? That was just kind of where my head was at and it seemed just that song and the way it came together, it starts with this acoustic arpeggio riff and then it builds in and the guitars come in and the second verse builds and builds, kind of like the story of our career, we started small with this idea and then conceptually it keeps rolling and building until this if only for now reality is at our grasp. So that’s kind of like where that song came from.
I always love asking about the producers as they can help make an album, so when working with a guy like Adam Kasper, what did he bring to the band that you felt may have been missing previously?
I mean Adam was the key, it was funny when we first started working with Adam, I would get asked by our manager and our families back home, wow what’s it like working with Adam? He’s always been one of my dream producers to work with and when we finally found out he was available and said yes to working with us, it was life changing, it was huge. So with that it was so important that we went in there with a clean slate, a clean mind, just all brand new material, and with Adam it was very interesting what he was doing, he was almost helping us without helping us, he made it very clear from the beginning that this was our record and he wanted to just steer the wheel and have us do what we needed to do to create, develop and evolve our identity. He was there to help us find our own true passion, our own true purpose for this musical album, so with that said, it was interesting how he helped right from the beginning, right from day one, help build up a lot more confidence in us. Every record, every band gets that much more experienced with becoming a studio musician and this was that record for us, the confidence that he instilled in us at the early stages of the record and the recording process I think lead to the result in what we ended up getting, and we were so proud, we really felt with this record we had really done ourselves, it wasn’t like in the past like ‘oh we’re working with Johnny K in Chicago, that was our last producer, what is he gonna want us to do? Or Johnny what should we do?’ this time it was like ‘nuh uh, this is what we’re gonna do’ because we know our fans are gonna dig this, or we’re the ones that have to play these songs for the rest of our life, not Adam or any other producer, so kind of getting that confidence and really building that momentum is what lead to what we feel is our best record yet.
This many albums in, do you feel you’ve still got to prove yourself out there in this tough music world?
Yeah 100% I do, I feel like there’s a lot to prove, this is so exciting for us too, getting the chance to be out there in Australia, New Zealand, obviously a total different world for us, just to be able to be talking to you with the opportunities that are in the future for this band as far as becoming a more worldwide brand is mind blowing to us, and that’s something that we’ve wanted to do for such a long time. There was a gap in the process where it felt like getting to Europe, or getting another country, obviously getting to Australia now, Japan later this year, it just felt like it was a shot in the pan, man, it felt like it was just never going to happen for us, and now to be talking to you and I’ve always dreamed of being able to go to Australia in general, so to be actually be able to go there and possibly play shows and have a fan base and hear people singing your songs across the globe, its humbling, man. So I think that was always the big thing in thinking about things to prove, the best way to fight and get out there and prove yourself is that you’ve got to be able to get out there and bring it on stage and that’s what we’ve been known for since we started, so again the thought of being able to play out there in your neck of the woods is awesome, man, and it’s a dream come true for our band for sure.
So are there any plans at all to come down to see us?
Well there’s nothing set in stone but the plan is this cycle to do Australia, New Zealand obviously, then possibly even Japan, and I know that we’ve cracked Europe and done a lot of stuff there, Canada as well, that’s North America, but that band’s starting to get big enough where we can actually handle those kind of tours and be able to make those things work, so it’s definitely on the horizon, but as far as a specific date or time, we don’t know yet. Probably around the festival time, Spring / Summer maybe, that would be my plan at least as of just now, I’d love to get in for that, big festival, I think it’s Soundwave if I’m not mistaken… I’ve had a lot of friends play Soundwave and always tell me about how amazing the crowds are there and how receptive to new rock bands they are and especially bands from the States. So it’s exciting, man, and we’re gonna definitely try our best to make sure it becomes a reality.
So in your fourteen years with the band, what for you has been the biggest realisation about the music industry as a whole that you didn’t think would be a part of it all when you began the band?
Yeah… *laughs* I guess I never thought that rockers in general wouldn’t have as strong as a voice, when you come from a country that practises freedom of speech, land of the free, home of the brave, I never thought that someone who had a voice in rock and roll would be valued less, at least in this country where we grew up, so that was always frustrating. When you come from Michigan in the Mid-west everything about where we come from was rooted on rock music and rock and roll, so it’s a little harder, obviously if you were going to tell me we’d have three number one’s in the U.S. at one point in my life I probably would’ve said we’d be playing arenas right now, but it just doesn’t work like that. It’s a little sad about the music, think of it as your product, if I was the cook in a restaurant well I would get paid every night to make food, well when you make music for a living I never would’ve thought just how much stealing is a part of your product, you’re basically giving it away.
It’s different, you know that’s different, it gets back to your original question of why did we call this album ‘Up’? I think for me and for my band, it’s always been that we can’t control the things around this band, we can only focus on things we can control and we want to be more positive about it because there’s been so much negativity and so much of ‘well if the music business was this, then we’d be this or we’d be that’ and you’ve got to look at the reality, the bottom line is that we’re here, we’re a band that’s doing it and to have as much success as we’ve had so far we have make sure we appreciate that, respect that, if we don’t then what’s the motivation for bands that are coming behind us, or bands that are after us, or the next generation? There has to be bands that will fight and fight to be heard again and we’re just trying to do our part and hopefully it happens in our career or lifetime, but if it doesn’t hopefully we can springboard it for another band to come along and say ‘Wow, Pop Evil fought through those tough times and now look at rock and roll, those were the godfathers that really slayed and were playing for basically for free and they were fighting through those trenches and those rough times and they made it through, now look at us, now look at where rock is for that.’ So I’m a firm believer that there is a cycle and it all happens in cycles and all got this kind of mystique and this purpose and I just think I wanna be more positive in finding what our purpose is and just keeping the best effort and best focus on what we’re doing live, and what we’re doing now to make sure we can put the best show forward and give our fans the best experience with our band’s music as possible.
Although we’ve featured you before on the site, many may not know of you, so let’s throw out some quickfire questions:
What was the first album you bought?
Guns ‘N’ Roses, ‘Appetite for Destruction’. That was my first CD because I remember when CD’s came out, so that was my first CD.
Favourite band to see live?
Oh man, I’ve got a lot of them, but one that really affected me when I was a kid and where I’m at now is Pearl Jam, I love Pearl Jam live.
Which band or artist made you want to be a rock star?
Probably Jimi Hendrix.
Did you cry during the movie ‘Up’?
*laughs* No *laughs* I don’t think I’ve ever seen the movie ‘Up’, I’ve seen the trailers… that’s the movie where the guy’s got the balloons and he goes up I think, right? I didn’t see the whole movie but I don’t normally cry, I think I cried during ‘The Lion King’ that was about it.
Well when you do watch it, watch the first ten minutes and get back to me…
*laughs* I love it…
Lastly, as the year hits the downward slope, let’s predict the future, so finish this sentence for me, by the end of 2015, Pop Evil will…
Oh boy… *laughs* sell a million records… *laughs* just kidding… I don’t know, hopefully we’ll be onto the second single, I’m realistic and that’s a bad thing for me because we’re in the first single, hopefully we’ll have the next video out by the end of 2015…
From: Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Band members: Leigh Kakaty – Vocals, Davey Grahs – Guitar, Nick Fuelling – Guitar, Chachi Riot – Drums: , Matt DiRito – Bass
Latest release: Up – (out now- eOne Music) – Get it HERE