Michigan’s Pop Evil has had an interesting journey since singer Leigh Kakaty formed the band in 2001. Rhythm guitarist Dave Grahs has been his partner in crime for the entire sojourn which is entering its twelfth year and third studio album. Drummer Dylan Allison also joined in the band’s inaugural year but had to depart last year due to a serious neck injury. Bassist Matt DiRito joined the party in 2007.
This month Metalholic phoned Kakaty to get the lowdown on the band’s rotating members, and its much anticipated new album, “Onyx” which is set to be released May 14 rough eOne Music.
In 2011, in the midst of Pop Evil’s mammoth tour in support of the band’s sophomore album, “War of Angels“, new drummer Josh Marunde aka Chachi Riot took the torch from the ailing Allison. Meanwhile in 2012, lead guitarist Tony Grieve found religion and was replaced by lead guitarist Nick Fuelling.
After strong success with its 2008 major label debut “Lipstick on the Mirror”, Pop Evil battled through a label change from Universal to eOne Music, while its second album, “War of Angels” spent a year hanging in the balance. When it was finally released in summer 2011 it sparked four hit singles; “Last Man Standing”, “Montser You Made”, “Boss’s Daughter” and “Purple”. The album spent two years touring what was hailed by many as one of the top hard rock albums of 2011.
This January the band entered the studio to record its third album, “Onyx”, once again produced by Johnny K (Disturbed, Megadeth, Sevendust). Kakaty calls it “a statement album” and marks the recording debut of Riot and Fuelling. With the departure of Grieve, who was a writing contributor to the band’s previous albums, I asked Leigh how the loss of Tony and addition of Fuelling changed the writing dynamic.
“Tony did a lot of writing with me and the guys in the early years but there’s a time when you get to a place where you’re constantly touring so much in this day and age that there’s not time to write. It seems the bigger the band got it was harder to write. Tony wasn’t writing as much. Obviously he was doing his own thing. I was having to carrying the brunt, trying to go to the other guys as much as possible. Then Nick came in and kind of had his material that he was writing it it was like ‘holy cow, you write too? Are you kidding me?’ his writing on this record is just incredible and it’s kind of helped the evolution cause having a lead guitar player is a big part of your sound. Replacing Tony in our band was definitely not an easy thing to do and Nick, with his writing, kind of sealed the deal with us. He’s such and incredible writer and he’s so easy to work with and so humble. He’s quickly earned his place and just brought an amazing new sound. Chachi and Nick have brought this new youthful energy to the band that kind of reminded the veteran’s of the band that this is fun still.”
“War of Angels” was a very powerful and successful album for the band. After such a breakout fans often wonder and worry that their favorite band will completely change their sound. This begs the question, is “Onyx” a continuation or progression from the previous record?
“To me personally, it’s a progression in the fact that it totally destroys the previous two records. For the first time in years this feels like a rock band. Before it was, we did the independent thing, then we got a record deal and we signed and we had to remix and remaster. Then ‘War of Angels’ was really our first time that we got to record with an ‘A’ list producer, and then we left the record deal. So there’s always turmoil. All of our records, ironically have succeeded though they never were really released properly. There’s always some obstacle that held the album back. The singles back. The label wasn’t on the same page or we were leaving the label. There was always just so much drama that was involved. Now for the first time at eOne, our new label, it’s all full guns-a-blazing and everyone’s believing in this music. Everyone’s excited about the album. And most important, in the band we’re all really excited about each other. We all understand our roles and we’re not fighting each other internally. Everyone’s very supportive of each other.”
Kakaty talks at length about his feelings on “Onyx” and the band’s new sense of rock and roll brotherhood. You can listen to the full interview below and request the single, “Trenches” for your favorite local, internet and satellite radio stations. Or just check it our via their via their Facebook page. Click HERE to listen!
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Rustyn Rose is a veteran music journalist who owns and operates Metalholic Magazine and Metalholic Radio.