Having worked in rock and roll for a few years now, there a lot of bands that come and go. Whether you hear a song on the radio, or see them open for your favorite band, this industry in present day has a rough way of giving many talented musicians staying power. That being said, on the contrary, there is a band whose name has become somewhat household; whether you are turning on rock radio or attending a live concert, Pop Evil tends to always be around. With three consecutive number one radio hits, countless tours with huge musicians, and a new album, Pop Evil have found the perfect balance to push forward and experiment, while maintaining their true identities: rock and roll stars.
I recently had the chance to host a very in-depth interview with the lead singer of Pop Evil, Leigh Kakaty, about their current state as a band, new music, touring, and his overall experience as one of today’s most recognized voices in rock music. I have heard this new record played through a number of times, and let me tell you, it’s one for the books. Check out our interview below:
Leigh, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. First and foremost, I wanted to start off this conversation by congratulating you guys on all of your recent success; with three consecutive number one singles, and being extremely active in the rock market, this band thing really seems to be working out for you all (laughs).
Maria, thank you so much for that. It’s still crazy to us; it’s been a wild ride thus far. It’s overwhelming at times how lucky we are. Things are really going in the right direction for us a band.
I couldn’t agree more. Now I will get right to it; Pop Evil are about to release a new album entitled Up, which has been described as a huge leap forward for you guys. Can you tell me a little bit about the writing process for this album?
Absolutely. This is the first time we’ve recorded back-to-back albums with the same lineup, and it feels amazing. Upon recording Up it was almost like a rebirth; a cleanse for the band entirely. First and foremost, we needed to get out of the Midwest and clear our heads, for there are too many distractions. Not that being home is a band thing, but it’s so easy to record the guitars and drums one day, and then drive home for a bit. We knew we had to be focused and 100% all in on this one, so we went to Seattle. That was the best decision we could have ever made for this record.
We worked with Adam Kasper (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Foo Fighters) on Up, and the experience couldn’t have been more amazing for us. Any musician will tell you, an album cycle is draining, and this for us has been all positive; just a great learning experience for us, personally and professionally. It is definitely a huge leap forward for us as a band, and somewhat of a rebirth. This time around I am taking better care of myself, my body, my voice, and everything on a personal level, because I know how lucky we are to have what we have, and I want to make sure that I am taking all of the right steps to make this last.
That’s amazing. I have heard a few tracks off the record and I am so excited for the release. To touch upon what you just said, I have always seen you guys find a way to push forward and experiment, while still maintaining your distinct style and sound, staying true to yourselves as a band. Would you agree?
Wow, that’s a great compliment, and I love hearing that. Absolutely. We have a profound understanding now of what the rock world needs, and what the fans want to hear. We need to make sure the fun is always there, and we have managed to do that while maintaining true to our fans and ourselves at the same time. So yes, I agree 100%.
Speaking of your fans, having worked in rock radio for quite some time, and even the concert business, I have found that Pop Evil fans are a rare breed.
(Laughs) Yes! However, do explain.
What I mean by this is, they are HARDCORE. They stick by you on every tour, every single, and every record. Is there anything specific that you guys to do maintain that healthy and personal relationship with your fans, or does it just come natural? I swear to you, every rock show is announced fans will comment, “add Pop Evil!”
It’s so important for us to have an open relationship with our fans. Honestly, that’s how we got to where we are now. So many people know of Pop Evil from seeing them in a local bar or pub in their hometown; that’s how we were. We made sure to dominate our hometown circuit, and get noticed that way we wanted to. So many people told us, “If you want to make it, you have to move to Los Angeles or New York,” but that was never in the cards for us; it was never even an option. We knew that if we wanted to do this, we wanted to do it the right way—the Michigan way, I should say!
As we get busier and busier, it’s somewhat harder to be in touch with our fans as much, but their opinions of our music and shows mean more to us than anything. It’s been an easy ride because our fan base is so dedicated, as you said, but we’ve always had that relationship because of how we got to where we are. We were never given the magic wand that says, “You’re going to be famous.” It’s not like in the movies, that didn’t happen for us. We hit the million-dollar lotto ticket that everyone is trying to win; the American rock and roll dream. Our backstory literally is the American music dream. We tried, and played, and played again, until it all happened organically. You work hard, you build fans, you make music, and you do what you love.
It’s so important, and such a true statement. I can’t even begin to tell you how many bands I have seen in small, local venues start to blow up. And most of them who are that way don’t forget where they came from. Speaking of bands, you guys have toured with so many heavy-hitters. Is there any group or tour in mind that sticks out the most?
Honestly, there are so many. We’ve been blessed to meet so many bands and artists we look up to, and we’ve really learned a lot from them. The experiences we have on tour we always try to take something away that we’ve learned. As I stated before, this time around I am not touring to party, I am touring because this is my job and my everything. I haven’t had a drink since December, and I have never felt better.
Sometimes when bands are just starting out, they don’t think about the future—they are more focused on the now. But if I have learned anything at all or could give any advice, it would be look at the bands you idolize and how they maintain that staying power. If you are serious about this profession and really want to remain relevant, it’s so important to take care of your bodies, your health, and your well-being to keep getting on that stage. We’ve learned that along the way, from many artists. But back to your original question, they all are memories for us.
That’s great to hear. Speaking of touring, we can see you back in Jersey soon, right?
Yes, this fall we are playing a festival in Jersey. We love coming there; Starland Ballroom is one of our favorite places in the world to play. The radio stations and fans out there have been so good to us, so yes, we will continue to come back as much as we are allowed (laughs).
I really want to wish you the best of luck on this record. I think the possibilities for Pop Evil are endless on this release, and you all seem to have your heads clear and in the right frame of mind.
Thanks, Maria. This album is so important to us, and it means so much. We have realized in this business that you have to tour; touring for us is the only way to make a living. We’ve learned that we have to prove ourselves on the live stage in order to be successful, and we have openly and eagerly accepted that challenge. Putting out good music is very important to us, because our fans have become our families. We almost have to put our personal lives on hold at times, so the fans are our family on the road.
Recording this album we realized that we are so lucky to have our music on the radio, and how lucky we are to be a radio band. The amount of acts out there that kill for that opportunity, we really needed to regroup as a band and realize how appreciative we really are for that, and Up will show you what I mean.
Onyx (2013) came from a very dark place; I had just lost my father, and was really trying to find my way. But Up is a rebirth for Pop Evil; pick up a copy and you will see. We wanted something fun, because that’s what the rock world needs: fun! Is it different? It is! However, in life I have learned sometimes the best things you will hear are the things you weren’t expecting to hear, so take those words moving forward. It’s a growth that the fans haven’t seen before, and we cannot wait for everyone to ride along with us.
Thanks so much, Leigh. Best of luck on the new album, tours, and everything you encounter down the road.
Thanks Maria, see you in Jersey!
Pop Evil’s new record, Up, is available now through eOne Music. You can see them Sept. 19 at Oak Ridge Park in Clark, NJ. For more information, visit their Facebook page at Facebook.com/PopEvil.