Pop Evil’s Leigh Kakaty Discusses ‘UP’ Album, ‘Footsteps’ Single + More
Pop Evil are out on the road all summer prepping fans for the release of their highly anticipated fourth album 'UP,' which will be released on August 21. Loudwire Nights host Full Metal Jackie recently caught up with frontman Leigh Kakaty, who talked all about recording the new effort, following up the success of ‘Onyx,’ their current single 'Footsteps’ + more. Check out the interview below:
Leigh, the word ‘UP’ can have many different connotations. What's the significance of that word as the title of your new album?
The big thing is about moving forward. Obviously with the song "Footsteps" and the whole approach we took in writing this next record was trying to be more positive. We have a lot to be grateful for, all the success we had off of Onyx. We just wanted to have more fun this time around. It seems like just yesterday we were trying to get a record deal, seven, eight years later here we are. It happened so fast; if you don't stop and appreciate this you forget why you're really doing it in the first place. Of course, being from Michigan we're always up north, the ‘UP.’ The Michigan reference there, a lot of different meanings to me about the word ‘UP.‘
Leigh, what is the biggest change between what you want to express with UP and what you were trying to say with the music on your first album?
I think our first one was just trying to get in the game. We were local guys at the time, living the dream. We all grew up together in my garage pretty much so it was just the nostalgia. Getting the opportunity to record with a great producer and watching your music come to life and, of course, onto our fourth album it’s totally different. Being out in Seattle first time to record way far away from where we call home. It was definitely different. We recorded our last two records in Chicago, a lot of distractions, family and friends. Chicago is only two hours away from our hometown so people were coming and going. It was just kinda hectic. But out in Seattle, some of us moved our families out there for the whole time and we just got real focused on trying to finally create our identity.
I think what fans don't realize is when you're a new band trying to make it, the band members don't get to write all together at the same time. Some band members gotta go here, there, it's real tough to be in the same place. With the success of Onyx, our last record, we were finally able to put everyone in a room and everyone was able to get their ideas out. Where we are in our lives right now, this time around, again that identity of trying to have more fun and be more positive with the messages we're trying to send both musically and lyrically. It's made for what we believe our best effort yet.
What's the greatest pressure you feel while writing new music?
You try not to think about the pressures because you gotta make the best music that entertains you and the band. You gotta find that stuff inside that gets the five guys motivated. What's going to make us jump around and get excited on stage, what's going to make us play a certain song for two years -- or in some instances the rest of our life if it's a big enough single? I think that comes first. But obviously there's pressure. You obviously want everyone to like your song but you realize early on in life that it doesn't exist and we're writing music for a select few and we're okay with that. I think the biggest stress is trying to grow as a writer, person and band and write music that can challenge you. You don't just want to write “Trenches II” or “Torn to Pieces III.” We already have those in the set. We're trying to do the best we can to write music that can take our live show to the next level and really give our fans the best listening experience as possible when they come see us live.
Leigh, by the fourth album a band is competing with the audience's familiarity with their catalog. What can you do to make the new songs have just as much impact as what came before?
That's definitely a good question. It's kind of a challenge. As your band gets bigger, what can you do on stage? Props? Lighting? Different effects that can make things a little more enjoyable for fans that have seen you play those songs over and over in the past. But at the same time, it's making sure your set list is still fun. I think it starts there, the songs that you don't really enjoy playing as much these days, I think is a great starting point. If you're not having fun with it, then your fans probably won't enjoy it. We're not going to have the same energy on stage. Our band is certainly known for the energy we exhort onstage so we try to keep that in mind.
Dealing with success, especially at radio, you try to put as many of those radio singles that have been successful for you in the set as possible but at the same time we try to give our loyal Pop Evil fan base some of the B-sides that haven't had that same exposure and try and mix it up. I think that's going to be a big challenge for us on this album, to try to showcase as much music as possible.
What makes being in the studio feel like work and what makes it fun?
It is work. It's a lot of work. I don't know, I guess in a way it's like having a baby. You want to see an idea be brought up right. You want to see it be justified in the studio. Sometimes you come up with this great idea on paper or a demo and you get it in there with the band, you start tracking and it just doesn't have that life. And of course on the flip side, you have that song, that riff that is nothing, then you start adding the band to it and it turns out to be something magical. There's always those kind of obstacles in the studio, so it definitely makes it work.
But the success we just had, dropping "Footsteps" with all the love we've received, that's what makes it fun, when you know you got something your fans are going to like. When you know you've got something … with "Footsteps" we knew was going to be different. It's a style that's going to help shape our identity in a way and add to the identity we already do have and help us grow. That's what makes it fun. That was my big worry when we started this process that I just wasn't in the mood. It just felt like everything was stale. We were playing a lot of the stuff that sounded the same.
I had to, for my own good, to do something off keel and a little different than what we've ever done. I think that just happens, growing up on an acoustic guitar and electric guitar my whole life. When you write to a guitar the whole time, you hear certain melodies that you find. You run into the same chords, you run into the same melodic run that you've been using since you were a teen. I think that writing with other instruments that we experimented with on this album was so exciting. That made the experience so much more enjoyable for all of us. We were able to take risks on this album that we always wanted to do but were never in a position to do in the past. I think this album has been the most collaborative effort we've ever had on any album thus far.
Can you tell us about the new single, "Footsteps"?
I think it's one of my favorites, that's just where my life is right now. I feel like I've had a reawakening. Like I said, I felt like I was such in a weird place. Success is weird animal and people handle it very differently. Even though we've had some amazing success, I feel like my life was a blur. It's been eight years since we've gotten that record deal and I haven't really been home, digesting everything. It's been hard; rock is in a different place and everyone struggles financially when you write music and people can just steal it. It's frustrating when everything you do is around your albums, and your music, it's hard. It makes you appreciate your fans that really go out to shows and spend the $1 on iTunes or spend the $10 on your album and come to your shows and buy your hard copy of your album as well. It's something I've had to process differently.
There was a lot of anger when I was writing Onyx, going through a lot of personal struggles. My father passed away, my best friend. I was dealing with some demons I had to adjust to. Now, it just felt like I was sick of being angry and mad. I'm ready to be appreciative of the things I do have rather than be so focused on the things I don't. "Footsteps" was born out of that, it's the perfect fist single for that reason a lone. Music is about a band first, it's about a band's journey and story. "Footsteps" set the bar for how we want to live both on and off the stage. That's why I think it's so monumental, the five of us.
Many thanks to Leigh Kakaty for the interview. Pop Evil will release ‘UP” on August 21. Fans can preorder the effort here. The band is on tour all summer. Check out their tour dates at this location. Tune in to Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie and Tony LaBrie Monday through Friday at 7PM through midnight online or on the radio. To see which stations and websites air Loudwire Nights, click here.