Apparently, when Michigan native Leigh Kakaty formed POP EVIL in 2001, he chose the name for a reason: He loved hard rock, played with a good melody but he also loved propulsive rhythms. For Kakaty, it was natural element he found in the songs he grew up with: the motown/soul, the funk of the railroad, the proto-punk of MC5 and the rap of Eminem – these all became the musical backdrop of his upbringing and journey into the business.
Kakaty and his bandmates – rhythm guitarist Dave Grahs, lead guitarist Nick Fuelling, bassist Matt DiRito and now drummer Hayley Cramer – are at their most inspiring on their new self-titled album, out 16th February via Entertainment One. Every song on the disc offers a different spin on the concept behind the band’s name.
We had a chat to the band in London last week…
RAMzine: So why is this next album self-titled?
“Track one to eleven tells it all… this is a coming-of-age record with a clear message which is: we’re trying to convey the fact that there’s an element of division in the world and that sense of division is at an all time high… so from the first song you get acceptance — acceptance you’re alive — and by the middle of the record you get to thinking “crimes happen” and it’s got a very creepy pulse to the beat, the groove is going and we’re swimming in and out of that pocket, then by the time you get to the chorus you feel like you’ve gotten away with something… then “When We Were Young” reminds us to steer it back to when we were kids, when there was no judgement and you were just excited to have someone to play with.”
“Then, as we grow up, we started to realize we get pitted against one another. So “Rewind” at the end of the record reminds us that while we still have a breath we can rewind and start again. And we think the message is so positive, for us, that we thought “This is the real Pop Evil now...” We really understand that we mustn’t turn a blind eye to issues out there in the world… And if they’re affecting us let’s not be afraid to go there.”
“The way that this album shaped us made us think this album should just be self-titled, man. Pop Evil isn’t about anything more than when Pop! was a bad word. We were rock crusaders, we were metal crusaders… so to be able now to send a positive message musically and lyrically just felt like that was the perfect marriage. It’s a record where every song makes sense and the whole thing conceptionally makes sense.”
“Pop Evil has always been the ying/yang. A little bit of vibe a little bit of rock and a little bit of infusion along the way. And to bring positivity was always the goal.”
RAMzine: How does this compare with other albums?
Well our third record,which was our first instalment here in Europe was a very dark album. It came from a very dark place. We needed that album to kind of let that [darkness] out. But when we were getting ready for the next record [we] were sick of being angry, sick of writing dark songs… and “Footsteps” kinda spearheaded a new movement.”
“So we had this more “fun” record in a way, musically speaking. And we wanted positivity and a lot of smiles… and then as we got ready for this new record we really started to mature and understand what our fans wanted… and we heard the battle-cries. And we were, like “we get this...” We are a mainstream hard rock band and so we have a responsibility to listen to what our fans are wanting… and because of all that this 2018 release feels like our first record.”
RAMzine: This was recorded with a new veteran producer, for you, Kato Khandwala, what was that experience like?
“He told us what we needed to hear, we were kinda bouncing all over the place so we wanted someone who could shape our identity. And to add to that we wanted someone to look at our music sonically. His ear is so incredible — he knows if something’s gonna work or not work — tones, percussion sounds, all that.”
“But it’s fair to say that Kato continued what we’d already started, the ethos, you know. We decided to come away from the road to put time into writing, so we wrote all together for six weeks in a house. And [in the studio] his view was exactly the same… no distractions. Everyone there, every day, all inputting, taking time, no rush… And that made it a more enjoyable process as well, a band going full circle. Having toured solidly for 10 years.”
RAMzine: Do you think there’s a resurgence in rap metal?
“If not, we’re gonna do our part to bring it back!”
“It’s just a way to tell a story. It’s just another form of expression. We’re from Michigan, so it’s Kid Rock, Eminem, Bob Seger, Motown. You couldn’t go anywhere in Michigan in the 1990s without hearing Kid Rock and Eminem. So rap-rock’s in the psyche . We got soul, we got street-vibe, just infused… and there’s lots of positive slogan in Pop Evil material, because we need those slogans to live.”
“And in the rock genre we have to motivate ourselves… there’s no plaques coming our way, no platinum on the walls, there’s no record sales… it just is what it is… so [in rock] if you don’t find worthy paths for yourself to make you feel proud about it then you’re probably not gonna survive in it…”
RAMzine: So what makes it fun then?
Talk in the studio, those producer moments. Or those twitter moments, good or bad, with your fans. When you actually have that relationship with them. That’s the good things about it…”
Thanks POP EVIL
The new self-titled album is out 16th February.