One of the fastest growing bands in the active rock format, these Michigan-based rockers know what it’s like to dig out of the trenches and earn your spot on some of the biggest stages in the genre. In 2013, Pop Evil unleashed the band’s highest charting offering to date with Onyx. After debuting at #39 on Billboard’s Top 200, selling over 850,000 singles, and releasing back-to-back #1 rock radio singles (“Trenches” and “Deal With the Devil”), Pop Evil were one of the most played and in-demand rock artists of the year.
So where do you take that momentum in 2014? On the biggest tour of the band’s career.
The sold-out nationwide run with Stone Sour (the modern rock side project of Slipknot’s Corey Taylor) is not only a testament to the growth of Pop Evil, but the resilience of the genre. I caught up with front man Leigh Kakaty prior to the band’s stop at the Sunset Strip House of Blues to get his take on the success of Onyx, the thought process behind the band’s music video trilogy, and how they teamed up with Run DMC.yes, Run DMC.
How’s tour life? I heard you’re having a solo day in Minneapolis.
If I get a chance to get away by myself for a minute, I’ll take it.
How often do you get a chance to do that?
Never.We’re fine, and everyone’s cool [laughs]. Nothing against the guys. I just like to have a minute to kind of do nothing and not worry about who’s shoes I’m tripping over.
Speaking of the guys, I’ve noticed all the Tweets about sobriety and staying fit. Is that band wide? I see that a lot in rock right now.
Yeah. I mean, it’s not our first rodeo anymore so we’re just trying to be more proactive. We’ve been going on a long haul and we’re getting ready for this next record. You know, it’s a grind. It’s a lot of work. I don’t know if we’re completely sober.but we’re trying to train as much as possible and stay healthy.
Sobriety in rock music is definitely the trend right now.
Catch me up on this Stone Sour tour. How has it been going?
Insane. Easily our biggest tour ever. I mean, every show’s been sold out; you’re getting your bang for your buck. I mean Stone Sour.it’s Stone Sour. And Pop Evil being the biggest we’ve probably ever been. We’re just getting out there and leaving it all on the stage. It’s awesome. It’s just raw, uncensored, unfiltered rock. There’s no lights, no special moves, or awesome props. Its just raw rock ‘n’ roll.
That was the idea behind Onyx, wasn’t it?
Yeah. I mean, certainly, that was a big part of it. But you never really know how your album takes shape once it starts to get into the full cycle. It kind of takes on a life of its own. It’s been awesome.
It’s been crushing. What are you guys doing differently with Onyx than other albums or releases in the past?
Man, I don’t know. It’s probably timing. Americans in general are, “Prove it to me, prove it to me, prove it to me”.
And I think after a while, if you’re a strong band.I mean, strong bands stand the test of time. And now, here we are. We’re doing the right things and we’re just going to continue to get better as writers and most importantly, as musicians.
Walk me through the thought process behind Pop Evil’s latest music videos. You released “Trenches”, “Deal With the Devil”, and “Behind Clothes Doors” as a trilogy, which is pretty different.
We wanted to do something that was visually stimulating, and it was a concept most bands don’t get the chance to do. And it was so dope shooting in Sweden; I mean, how often do you get to shoot a music video in Sweden? Johan Carlen, the director first off is insane. He’s up and coming, he’s hungry, he’s aggressive, he’s artistic. So once he was chosen as the guy, the story line is where we wanted to go [next]. We knew we wanted to do a trilogy and we kind of talked about what this album was, where these songs were, which songs were going to be on the trilogy. And we wanted to pick them whether they were going to be singles or not. Obviously “Trenches” and “Deall” ended up becoming big singles for us but at the time, there was no guarantee other than “Trenches”.
We wanted to tell a story not only from a guy’s perspective, because we are guys. We thought that was easy. We wanted to challenge ourselves from a more female perspective. We have a lot of amazing female fans and we thought it would be the right thing to do, to take all these controversial, I guess unsafe, topics and take that approach on it and really make it about what our fans go through. I think when you start touring and you start getting a fan base, you start being a little more in tune to who your listeners are and what they’re dealing with. I mean, rock fans in general deal with a lot of serious topics, so we thought it was important to take a stand and do whatever we could with whatever little bit of money we had to make sure that we put together something that will hopefully stand the test of time, and hopefully help people.
How important do you think music videos are for artists, especially rock and metal bands?
I think they’re very important. I mean, people debate that all day, but they’re still a visual outlet now. People have their smart phones, or their iPads, and their fast-paced lifestyle; so it’s important that they can watch you and watch your videos. I think its important to have a visual outlet for your music as an artist. To be able to tell a story, to be able to take a song from the paper, or from your mind, from your head, to a visual conception that is going to have people judge your band. I think it’s very important. Whether they judge you for better or worse. That’s any band’s dream when they write. And they’d be lying to you if they said they didn’t dream about having the song they wrote become a video one day.
I have to admit, I never have the patience to watch full music videos. But when you guys released these, I watched them start to finish and then again in order once the trilogy was done.multiple times. They are really great pieces of work.
They’re fun to watch in order like that.
It’s a really rare thing anymore for bands to tell the story of their album through videos in that manner. Even full, concept or story-driven albums seem a bit antiquated. Is that what Pop Evil was shooting for with Onyx and these videos in particular.Æoffering a complete album experience? Do you think you accomplished that?
Yeah. I mean yes and no. We wanted to put together a cohesive piece of work that we were proud of, that start to finish we could put a vibe together. And being a radio band, sometimes it hurts not to just have an album of singles, that don’t really cohesively flow together. We spent a lot of time making sure that song order, and the preparation for the songs really took you on a journey for an hour. A journey of moods, of feelings, to take you back, take you forth, make you laugh, make you cry.Æjust like life.
The thing I love about being a rock guy is that rock is honest with people. You don’t always have to wear a mask or pretend to be something you’re not. And that’s what we wanted to do with Onyx. Onyx came from such a dark place. All the negativity that was around the band, carrying member loss, record label frustration.Æjust the lessons of growing up in the business. It was about finding out who we are in general and [asking], what are we going to do? What are the songs that we’re going to be singing in years to come? Once your career starts to flow and your music starts to happen, you start to understand that wow, these are songs we have to play the rest of our life. So you have to like those songs. There was definitely a different kind of sense of urgency this time around.
Do you get the sense (being on the inside) that 2014 is going to be a big year for the genre? I feel like this year is going to be a big year for rock music.
Yeah. I mean, I’ve heard a lot of people say that. It’s so hard to sometimes step out of the box when you’re in a band because you’re band is so full time.
I think we had two weeks off in all of 2013, so to say that I am in tune to what’s going on outside the Pop Evil world, I’d be lying to you. It’s hard to stay stay in tune because you’re so focused on your band. But yes, I do agree. From what I have heard, there is a lot of positive energy in 2014. It should be a memorable year for the format and we hope to be a part of that.
Tell me about this collaboration with Run DMC on “Trenches”. How did that happen?
It’s a funny story. We were playing in Kansas City. Jesse Dupree was watching and DMC was doing a show with him the next day. Jesse is a good friend of us and the band and he decided that he was going to bring Darryl down to watch the band.and he just freaked out. He loved it. Before I even got off stage, he had the versus already written. He was like, “I’ve got a remix man. I want to be on that!” I said, “If you’re serious, just tell me when.” I love DMC and to be able to work with two Hall of Famers, him and Mick Mars (Motley Crue), is pretty humbling.Æits a pretty rare experience.
We actually just shot the music video for the remix for the ACC Basketball Tournament. So that’s big news.
For more tour dates and news from Pop Evil, keep up with the band at PopEvil.com.
Pop Evil joins Stone Sour tonight (February 5th) at the West Hollywood House of Blues.