Pop Evil’s Leigh Kakaty Reflects on Decade in Rock, Talks ‘Rock and Roll Now’ Tour + New Album Plans
These are the best of times for Pop Evil. The band is in the process of wrapping up the support of their hugely successful Up album with their current single “If Only for Now,” they’ve just embarked on a headlining tour called “Rock and Roll Now” trek and they’re celebrating 10 years since signing their record contract. We recently took some time to chat with Pop Evil frontman Leigh Kakaty about the tour, their current single and the anniversary. We also got an update on their new album plans and spoke about how drummer Hayley Cramer is fitting in with the group after her addition last year. Check out the chat below.
So much to talk about. First, there’s another song from Up out there at radio — “If Only For Now” …
Yeah, I mean, we’re you know excited about this track, one of my favorites on the record, personally, it’s just, I think, being away from our families, friends, we’re all coming up on our ten year anniversary, actually, since we got our record deal, so, we’ve been away for a long time so, it’s kind of, a form of, kind of therapy. Look, we only get two weeks, we only get three days with those we love, and then our families and you know we want to appreciate that. We only get so much time to come out here to tour, get to play a show, we want to appreciate that, you know. It’s kind of just stemmed from where our vibe was making this last record, it’s just coming from a positive place.
There’s so much negativity that’s all like around this genre and, rock and roll is dead, and you know. And people don’t really care about the genre, all that kind of negativity, we started to realize look man, we’re grateful that we’re able to play rock music in this generation, to be able to tour, and we wanted to be more positive about appreciating things we have, rather than being, you know, complaining about the things we don’t. That was kind of where the mindset was at when we wrote this song, and just … it’s definitely relatable to us personally. and people close to us. We felt like it was the way we wanted to end this album cycle and it’s just been great already. And it’s still early, in a way, too, with the song you know, and of course, the holidays, but it’s a great response so far for this song and we look forward to seeing it grow.
You mentioned ten years. Man, time flies! Talk about what it means to you to reach this milestone.
It’s been crazy, you know. I think about it and we’re approaching our sixth studio album, that’s on the horizon here for us. Just like you said, it feels like yesterday we were just dropping “Hero” and “100 in a 55,” so, it’s just, it’s crazy. It’s just, we want to be just more productive and be more strategic about what we’re trying to do here. It’s just not a party anymore, and we’re staying focused on making the best music we can to remind people that rock and roll does matter, and we’re trying to scream at the mountaintops to remind people that we have a voice, we want to be heard, we want, the mainstream side of the market to understand that, you know, we write music, too, and that we are relevant. We are important and we have to prove it live. It’s interesting, in this landscape in the music business nowadays, it feels in some ways that you’ve forgotten that all our role models were, you know, around in the heyday, and now we’re kind of running around in this total atmosphere, that is all non-relevant.
So it’s important for bands, rock bands especially, to come together, create more opportunities for ourselves — certainly with Danny Wimmer, what he’s doing over there for rock festivals, showing the world that rock and roll is certainly relevant and it’s alive and well and kickin’. We’re just trying to do our part, being a radio band, and trying to make the music that can, hopefully, connect the dots and not have to worry about one aspect anymore, like you once did. There’s tons of places digitally and online, where people are going hear your world whenever they feel it’s necessary, so you want to just remind people that we’re here and new things are coming. So we’re trying to stay active on our social media outlets and keep people in that part of the world that is definitely opportunities out there if you go on and grab it rather than sitting back and letting our label or manager kind of bring opportunities to us. You know, the fans are very hungry now, as we’re getting close to that ten year mark and we want to do it ourselves then. When I sit back and I wait for people to do anything for us … we’re going after it, we’re trying to tackle each aspect of this career and whether it’s touring, whether it’s with our touring, whether it’s with our social media, whether it’s with our VIP experience getting to mingle with our fans there, or of course with our writing, we’re trying to just be creative, to be more efficient in how we’re taking advantage of those opportunities.
You mention the VIP experience and I know a lot more bands are doing that these days to make that personal connection. Talk about what that has meant to you to have that avenue to get to know some of the people that follow your band. What is that experience like for you to get that feedback?
Yeah, yeah it’s just a great, I think it’s one of the coolest things about being a touring musician in this age of social media, what we call millennial era and you know, it’s just when I think about some of my favorite bands in the ’90s, or even ’80s, there’s no way you’re going to meet them. There’s no way you can even get that offer, and we’re already making, you know, substantial bits of money where they took their time personally and then gave us a little more privacy but nowadays it’s so much more fun being a fan. You get opportunities to meet the people and have a personal conversation, ask the questions you want, and I don’t mean, personally, I had so many questions I was wanting to ask Kid Rock or Eminem, or anybody in the Detroit scene, because I was a Michigan boy, so those guys were my idols.
I always wanted to ask questions, where did you guys go here, where did you guys go there, just starting out, like how was it for you? Where were you guys eating at? All those kind of questions, where it’s impossible to ask any kind of a celebrity in those days, but now, I mean, we’re on social media, Twitter, Instagram, and our VIP, you can have some kind of a relationship with your fans, like you said, you have that connection and it keeps you, kind of, up to date on what songs they’re liking, where their heads’ at, how in-depth are they with your band? Like, are they just, do they know your name? Do they know what it means, do they know the history behind your band, the more different questions that they’re asking, the more excited they are about your project and telling you, just kind of, an impact that you are having with your fans. And that’s a key element, you know.
Another big thing is, we’re starting to have relationships in a way where we’re like, “Wow, we’ve seen you, what the last four or five VIPs, that’s awesome!” It’s kind of, separating the normal fan from the diehard fan, and it’s letting you know the people that are willing to go the extra mile for your project. So, it makes you more appreciative and excited to want to talk to them rather than hanging out in a bar and have someone just buy you a shot or a drink. It’s showing you that these fans are here for you. They’re here for you and the music, you know, and most importantly the music. So It definitely gives you a different appreciation for those special fans that are willing to go the extra mile for your band and you want to go the extra mile for them. So, it’s been a win-win. We’re excited to see it grow into the future with our particular band and obviously, as you said, more bands are doing it as well. And you’re obviously trying to create different revenue opportunities to stay alive. I mean, you’re always one album away from going home.
It’s a tough business, it’s cutthroat, there are no spoils to the victor in rock music and any touring rock band or musician will tell you. It’s a grind. You gotta get out there and be creative to stay afloat. Create more opportunities for your band to be a band and to keep out, there, put more energy into the music. So as the band continues to grow you start to look at it more like that. It’s not like when we were younger, we were excited to just be here and, “Oh my gosh, wow. It’s our first rodeo. This is great, wow, it’s our first tour bus. It’s our first big show. It’s our first opening slot. It’s our first tour in Europe.” There are so many things that we’ve done now that have led us to this kind of work ethic where we feel the responsibility now. We feel the responsibility for West Michigan, where we come from. There’s so many people back home that are pulling for you. Like, “Wow. We haven’t had a radio band in West Michigan ever.” It’s just great to have Pop Evil be doing it.
They’ve given us our day that the Mayor’s declared a Pop Evil day in both Grand Rapids and Muskegon, which is basically a small town. There’s a lot of pride in the state of Michigan. There’s a lot of pride in anyone’s hometown. So there’s a certain responsibility that I know that I wear and of course, our band wears to take a little pride and to get after it a little harder. Push it a little harder, be a little smarter, whether it’s taking care of our bodies, putting the drink down until after the tour is done. At least for me with the vocal, any kind of alcohol just squashes my vocal and makes me a little more unable to do my job at the highest level. So it’s basically learning the things of touring 280 shows a year. To learn how to get your mind right, get your stuff done personally behind the scenes, lock in so you can just focus on putting on the best show and giving the fans the best experience. When it comes to you live, Pop Evil show, we’re definitely excited to be putting on our best show yet in our career. We’re definitely pulling out all the stops.Making this the best live, enjoyable experience when people come get into that Pop Evil [catalog] here in the next two months.
Speaking of live, love the name “The Rock and Roll Now Tour.” Let’s talk about what fans can expect, and your support bands on this run.
We feel like we got a great package man. A lot of young, upcoming talent. It’s funny, we were talking about just where rock is now. It seems like a lot of the youth is missing and if you don’t have youth coming to your shows, you have no future, right?! Once your older generation decides that they’re not coming out you need that young bit of energy to come up and give it that second wind. We’ve been blessed to tour with great bands such as Judas Priest, Tesla, you name it. There’s been so many, those are just two of our favorites. They’ve really taken us under their wing. And, of course, being with any older band that’s been around and has a fan base, it’s awesome to see that generation bringing their kids to the show. Look, this is what dad, this is what mom likes to listen to — something that maybe I’m not listening to with my friends but this what dad and mom liked, this is cool. I loved going to the show with my parents, you know. And then they see us, we’d be opening there and we become more like their music.
We’re their band, you know, and I think that creating more opportunities for young kids to come out is you have to have a great package. And there’s no one better, we feel right now, than Red Sun Rising and all the great stuff they’re doing from Ohio. And, of course, Badflower, amazing. I know they’re new but they got a great buzz going around to get a lot of youthful young energy. That’s our thing. When you come see a Pop Evil show there’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. It’s fast-paced. It’s not coming to see a rock show and we’re gonna just sit up there and play our instruments and sing the song. Again, I think that’s just an element of coming from Michigan.
If we just played our instruments we’d be booed all the way back to our doorsteps. People don’t have money to waste. People don’t have time to waste. They want to be entertained. We want to put on a rock show. We’re still a band that believes in putting on a rock show and entertaining you in all aspects. Weather it’s visually or with our music. We try to take every aspect to let you get into that world and have it become your own. Have you take it home and process it anyway you like but to have it become a part of you. Hopefully you leave excited and moved and want to come back again on the next album cycle. That’s definitely what we’ve been talking about as we’ve been looking for this tour to inspire. And of course the “Rock and Roll Now” theme that’s all about getting after it, being a little bit angry, being a little bit upset.
Somewhere along the lines someone in a suit decided that rock and roll, people that listen to listen to rock and roll that our voice matters a little bit less. Well that’s kind of messed up and it’s our job being from a country that prides itself on freedom of speech to get out there, stand on the mountaintop and scream as loud as we can that we want to be heard. But it’s also key and essential to write great music, not just be washed out, not just have the same old sound. We have to challenge ourselves to get better and to be stronger and to be able to give people the other great genres that are playing at a very high level right now. If rock wants to get back, it’s just about talking about it. It’s about educating our listeners to support it. Their dollar matters, their concert ticket matters. Going and taking the time to come see us live, merchandise, it all matters. But it’s our job as musicians to come together, create more opportunities and also write better music. We gotta get out there and be able to compete and that’s something we take as a challenge here in Pop Evil and we’re excited about the future starting with this tour to start stepping up our game.
I haven’t talk to you since Hayley Cramer joined the band. I wanted to get a comment on her joining the group and how it’s been working her into the flow.
It’s been incredible. Her transition was so smooth it was almost like we can’t remember when she wasn’t playing. I mean that as the biggest compliment to our old drummer because everything ended on great terms. Our other drummer certainly went his own way to do some things that he wanted to do. But when it works and it’s natural and it clicks, it happens really fast and it’s smooth. You don’t even realize she’s from another country let alone a female. She’s so on point and it’s almost electric. Since she’s been in the band, the songs take a step up. She’s been playing since she was 4-years-old, so her meter and her sense of the drums has just been infused in her blood since she was a baby so it’s exciting to have her out. Her energy, whenever you get someone new in a project that’s excited, it even amps up the veterans. It gets us amped up on being here, it’s special. How quick she’s connected with our fans, it’s a great sign and we’re definitely excited to look to the future as we start the next project and the next album with her involved from the beginning.
I think that’s going to be essential to our growth in the future. With what she’s done with the live show, and we have a big female fanbase anyway so I think it’s been inspiring for other women to say, “Hey look, she can do that in a bus and in an environment that’s very male-driven. It’s inspiring me to get out there and face my obstacles and to keep pushing on as well.” To have her and not only sound better but be inspiring to our fanbase, and even our male fans, to get out there and have a positive message, it’s what it’s about. Music is fun, it’s a release from the stress that we all go through in our everyday life. It’s important to embrace that. We’re not trying to be anything different than the people we are. She’s definitely making us better. Hopefully she continues to grow in a positive light with us, both onstage and off. Hopefully she continues to grow with the fans and we take it up to the next level here on the next record.
I know you’re doing this tour and there’s already talk about doing a new album. Any thoughts on a timeline on what we can look for from the band? Will you get a break? Is there stuff already written?
I think there’s yes to all that. We’re going to take some time off in March when this tour wraps. Unless something crazy comes up. But the plan is to take a little bit of time to unwind and have us go our separate ways for a minute because we play so many shows in the past two years together. Let’s just get away from each other for a minute and let everyone kind of soak in some ideas individually first and then be back up. I know we’ve all written bits and pieces of things over the past couple of years here and there, but we’ll probably come together to start the demoing process. We’re still figuring out producers and where we’re going to go to do that, but the plan is to just take our time and make sure this album is as perfect as possible. Anything that fell through the hoops on our previous four albums, make sure those things are dialed in so were not rushed. Put the time in now in the early stages of the writing process to make sure that once it’s time to record, all the songs are written and everything is ready to go and be as productive as possible to put together the best piece of work. A lot of things can change from here until now, but the rough plan is to hopefully have an album out by fall or early winter and be ready for 2018 to really make our push.
Our thanks to Pop Evil’s Leigh Kakaty for the interview. You can pick up the band’s ‘Up’ album at Amazon and iTunes, and be sure to catch them on the “Rock and Roll Now” tour at these locations. Listen to their current single “If Only for Now” below.
Pop Evil, “If Only for Now”
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