Holland’s FaceCulture recently conducted an interview with vocalist Leigh Kakaty of Michigan hard rockers POP EVIL. You can watch the entire three-part chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On what originally inspired him when he started writing his own songs:
Leigh: “I think, honestly, what inspired me is when I first recorded a CD. Because when it was recorded, it was the CD era. I just wanted to hear my voice on a song, I think. My initial love back in those days was basketball, so I always wanted to play for the L.A. Lakers or Detroit Pistons, or something like that, but obviously, I didn’t get very tall, so it didn’t work out. It started off with wanting to hear my voice on a song. I couldn’t afford it, so I had an acoustic guitar, so I wasn’t screaming metal riffs at that time. It was just chords so I could sing and focus on writing and singing. I think that the early songs were more folk driven because of acoustic guitar. But, I don’t even think I had purposes back then, it was just writing hooks. It’s always been about hooks. As I started developing to have my own bands, then different themes came about. Then, of course, when POP EVIL started, it almost was a crusade for rock. In those days, the mainstream, secular musical world in America was starting to dwindle and they were starting to abandon us. In Michigan, rock is king still. Rock basically motivates people to live 9 to 5. They have rock music to look forward to. It’s a genre that dad and mom could listen to with you, you can listen to it with your parents and have a bit of a common ground, right? My parents weren’t listening to hip-hop and country, they were listening to rock. We all had that together. It was important, I remember being around the fire and we’re all listening to LYNYRD SKYNYRD, we’re doing the thing of classic rock now. It was those memories that were really strong with me. ‘Pop’ was the bad word. Pop was evil. POP EVIL was like a mission statement, it was a battle cry to remind people rock is very much alive and well and it’s going to start right here in the great state of Michigan. That was the early, I guess, the early birth of POP EVIL. It started from those kinds of beliefs and that system. As we started to progress, sending a positive message to our fanbase and reminding them hopefully with the best rock riffs we could do, obviously, we had to get better over the years, but we keep refining the same belief and that’s just fighting for rock.”
On whether it’s difficult to be in a rock band in this day and age:
Leigh: “Of course. It’s definitely hard. It’s challenging and I think where rock’s at is in a transitional state and we’re at the bottom of the sea, so to speak, in the music business. But you know, we never got into this to make money, we never got into it to be famous. We got into it to play shows and we’ve played over 200 shows since ’03, so we’re winning that battle. Now, it’s gotten more personal where we get it out and want to be better musicians. We want to be a better band together. We want to keep growing musically and writing songs that connect that have an impact on people and expanding the brand over here to Europe. I think that’s a big part of it for us, being able to see the faces of the people that are our fans that are overseas. For the longest time since we were kids, we never thought we’d be playing Rock Am Ring or Rock Im Park or playing here in Germany or Amsterdam or France or the U.K., for that matter. I guess we’re going to live in this world and play Michigan, Ohio and maybe Indiana and that will be it. It just kept growing and it keeps getting bigger. We’re not going to stop. As long as the good lord lets us stay blessed, and we’re able to do what we’re able to do, we’re going to keep proving hopefully to him, that we deserve more opportunities to make an impact on people’s lives.”
On the writing process for the band’s new self-titled album:
Leigh: “I think that what I’ve had to do and what the band’s done, is we’ve separated the two: touring, live show, is totally separate than writing and studio time. I think, for me, I don’t really write. I’m running a lot of aspects of the band, so I try to separate it and really this past few years, really tried to put the emphasis into my voice and trying to eat healthier and not do the drinking even though it sucks sometimes even though I love a drink just like the next person, but the alcohol just squashed my vocal cords and I don’t sound as good. I don’t think it’s fair to people who have lived their lives with POP EVIL music becoming a part of their lives to show up at a show and I’m not sounding as good as I can. When you play five to seven shows a week, it’s so tough to sound good every night anyway. It’s so important for me to take those proactive steps to be the best frontman I can be for those fans that are coming and most of them may be seeing us for the first time. There’s a responsibility thing that I think has changed. As you get bigger, you understand that there’s a different kind of weight that shifts. You’re not as mad because no one knows you, they’re suddenly knowing you. You’re not as mad about that, like, ‘I better be good now. I better sound good.’ There’s a consequence. You don’t want to lose fans because you’re being selfish because I’m staying out until five in the morning drinking Jägerbombs. It’s something I had to really make some personal changes with and for the better. I feel a lot better anyway.”
POP EVIL will support POISON and CHEAP TRICK on a North American tour that kicks off May 18 in Irvine, California.
“Pop Evil” was released on February 16 via Entertainment One. The album marks the group’s first recording with drummer Hayley Cramer, who joined POP EVIL in 2016 following the departure of Josh “Chachi” Marunde.