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Coming out of the 'trenches': Interview with Matt DiRito of Pop Evil

Matt DiRito with Pop Evil at The Fillmore Charlotte
Patricia Jones

No one paying attention to the music charts in 2013 can deny that Pop Evil easily had one of the biggest successes of the year. Having started ’13 in the studio in the hopes of releasing a new record, recorded and released said record, survived the flood at Carolina Rebellion, headlined a Fall tour, and then to close the year with not just one, but two number one singles, “Trenches” and “Deal With The Devil,” Pop Evil made sure leave their mark on 2013. Now, the guys are taking steps to secure a successful, if not hectic, 2014 by kicking off the year on tour with former Grammy nominees Stone Sour. In the face of this phenomenal kick off and the brand new year, got chance to sit down with bassist Matt DiRito and talk about the road thus far, what’s up next and where his own heart is at the moment.

Last year was a really great year for you guys…
Yes, we recorded and released Onyx last year. You know, we went into the studio January 1st of last year, we put that album out, and that album has been doing for us! Onyx has been doing amazing. “Trenches,” our first single, went number one and we’ve kind of danced around that a lot before with singles in the past, like “Top 20,” “Top 10,” “Top 5” even, but just never quite hit that number one spot. Now that we’ve got two that have gone there, we’re just excited to see what the next single does.

I know you guys worked with Johnny K (on Onyx), so what other kind of collaborations can we look forward to?
For new material? You know, I’m not really sure; we’ve talked to a couple of people about possibly doing some songwriting. Two albums ago we co-wrote with Mick Mars (Mötley Crüe) and that was a pretty cool experience, you know with “Boss’s Daughter.” We might try to do some more of that just for the fun of it, but we’re not relying on any of that I think the chemistry that we had in the studio with this last album, we kind of want to re-harness that and just see what we can do on our own without reaching out to outside sources. I don’t think we need them. We want to sound like Pop Evil we don’t want to sound like Mötley Crüe.

Not that it’s a bad sound…
Yeah, not that I have anything against Crüe, believe me! Aside from that I’m not even sure when we’re gonna go into the studio again. It depends on how well the record does from here on out, how well the next single does and all that. In the meantime, obviously we’re out with Stone Sour, and we’ve got some stuff coming up after this over in Europe. We just signed a record deal over there, so we’re gonna finally get over there and tour a little more than we have in the past.

That should be exciting!
Yeah! It should be really exciting, then we kind of dive into festival season. So, it’s going to be a busy, busy, busy Spring and Summer!

A good busy though.
A great busy! I mean what better way to kick off your year than with Stone Sour?

Well, you mentioned festival season and I’m sure no one around here has forgotten last year’s Carolina Rebellion and the torrential downpour, but you guys got out there anyway. That was awesome!
Yeah! (Laughs) Mudfest, dude, it was ridiculous. You know, I know that there were a lot of people upset at the bands that didn’t perform and everything, but it’s really. I see it from both points of view. We’re a rock band and we like to get out and throw down and everything like that, but you know there’s a lot of electricity on those stages and the last time I checked electricity and water don’t mix that well so…. I can’t blame other people for being hesitant to do that and also jeopardizing their shows in the future, too. You know we’ve got one trailer full of gear and I think event hat particular show we ended up blowing out some gear and had to get it fixed and replaced by the next show. So, you could do one really great show in the rain and potentially have your next ten shows cancelled or ruined or sub par because you have to find other equipment to use. Unfortunately it was the way that was…

What led you guys to make that decision?
It was definitely during some of the heavier rain. I think we were one of the first up on the main stage and we just wanted to set the bar for everyone else. The point where they actually decided when that we could play had to be like an hour and a half after we were actually supposed to play because they kept delaying it and delaying it and delaying it. They were trying to keep the stages dry and brush them off and stuff like that. We were like “you know what these people have been standing in the rain this whole time…let’s just go out there and show them a good time and give them a reason to be out there soaking wet and muddy.” I think I came out afterward, after we were done with our interviews for the day and I definitely watched Sevendust’s set in the mud. I was very muddy after that, but it was good. Well worth it. (Smiles)

Have there been any other similar situations like that where you guys had to make an executive decision like that?
There was one show in Chicago we had, it was an outdoor festival. It was a bright, sunny day. We started a song and literally in the this three-and-a half minute song it went from a bright, sunny day to kind of cloudy to really dark to super high winds to thunder and lightening and gallons of water pouring down on us. That one actually did fry out all of our heads and everything. We sat on stage, it cut us off, but we sat on stage waiting and stayed out there onstage talking to the fans as long as we could. Then, as soon as our set time was up, it was done raining and the sun came back out. It came just long enough to fry all of our equipment and then that was it. That was probably the worst, but still a good time.

So what are you guys hoping to accomplish in 2014? What are your goals?
Well, I think one of our goals is to get on two new continents. We really want to start to branch out and break out in other parts of the world because we’ve been touring the states for so long, and even Canada, and we’re getting to the point where we’re kind of over saturating ourselves. I think that getting off to Europe will be a great start, and if we could squeeze one more continent in there, like South America or Australia, that would be great. It would give us something different, something new.

Well, I know that you have some of your own side ventures and businesses that you’re working on like, so why don’t you tell us a little more about those.
The one I like to focus most on is Star Treatments, and I could talk about this for days, but it’s basically a thing to help children with cancer. I saw a really close family, family friends of mine, go through this with their little girl and have to take her in for treatments all the time. I kind of watched as their hospital bills and everything…you can defer those or pay-as-you -go or you can get help with that sometimes, but in the meantime the out of pocket cost can really, really put a family under. I’m talking about if they get their treatment once every two weeks and the nearest center that helps children is let’s say six hours away, you've got to make that drive back and forth every two weeks. Gas money, you know, a lot of families don’t have reliable transportation or can’t take the time off work, stuff like that. So, Star Treatments is something where I would like to sponsor a family. Then, once those families are sponsored you stay with them through the entire journey and it would be a bus like the one we’re sitting on now (tour bus) would come pick them up at their front door, take them to the treatment and take them back. Simple as that every single time, but the bus would be outfitted with a bed with bunks, kid’s movies, games, and coloring book, fun stuff like that, and stock it up with good stuff to eat. You know if you picture a child in the backseat of a car buckled in and they know that they’re on their way to a hospital; they’re dreading it. They know that when they leave they’re gonna be sick and then having to sit in the car buckled up that whole way back. At least this way, while they’re making the trip, if the kid feels sick the parents can come back and take care of them and it doesn’t have to be something that they would dread. Trying to take that and turn it into a positive. If it’s the summertime, grab five of your friends and have them hop on and play games the whole way there. You know, give them the “star treatment” on the way to get their treatments. That’s it in a nutshell.

That is so fantastic! It’s great to see artists doing something other than the usual clothing or jewelry line thing. In researching I didn’t come across a lot about it, so I definitely wanted to find out more from you.
It’s really, really where I want to go and devote a lot of my time to. You know, the other thing I could do is get other bands involved. Each trip that this kid would take could be sponsored by another band.

Ok, last question, what was your first concert?
Boston was probably my first concert when I was a real little kid like two or three. I never really had TV in my house growing up. We got cable finally when I was in high school, but we would just listen to music all the time, like 24 hours a day. There would always be vinyl records on or CD, tapes whatever. Twenty-four hours a day just music, music, music. I couldn’t not love it…

DiRito has big plans for Star Treatments once it’s gotten past its developmental stages. He wants to incorporate care packages for kids from the sponsoring bands and possibly even a sponsorship interface/blog where other contributors and sponsors can track their individual child’s journey through treatment complete with health statistics per journey and much more. He wants to make it so even individuals can make contributions to these families and actually see their donations go to work to brighten the day for each brave little traveler. As for the band, Pop Evil will be joining with some epic forces at this year’s Rock On The Range May 16th- 18th in Columbus, OH, including Slayer, Motörhead, and Avenged Sevenfold. For now, you can still catch them on tour with Stone Sour and Stolen Babies. Check out their remaining dates with them here and follow them on Facebook. Pop Evil is only just getting started and they’re gearing up for blazing 2014 and this time the world better be ready!