Grand Rapids boys Pop Evil are all over rock radio these days! The band's latest single, the rock ballad "100 in a 55," is striking a chord with hard rock fans. The band is also representing the Midwest at the famed Rock on the Range music festival in Columbus this month. Check out my interview/story below. Thanks for reading! (Courtesty photo)
Music: Pop Evil edges toward top; hit 'Hero' helps band break through
By Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ
They have Kid Rock's engineer on speed dial. They're on tour with rock behemoths Puddle of Mudd and Saving Abel. And they have a Top 25 rock radio hit - something unheard of for a band without major label backing.
Grand Rapids rock band Pop Evil is on the cusp of something big.
But even with the hoopla, lead singer Leigh Kakaty shows no sign of the pretentiousness that usually comes from swelling success. He is funny, personable and light-hearted.
Like many young bands, Pop Evil discovered early on that to make some cash with their music, they had to start by playing other people's hits.
"We wanted to play our own music but learned quickly that wouldn't pay anything," said Kakaty.
"So we decided we had to play some covers to make more money and get a good producer."
That producer turned out to be darn good - Al Sutton, who works with Kid Rock. Gathered in Sutton's Detroit studios, the band got to work on its Ready or Not EP, tapping heavy influences such as Metallica, Pantera and Our Lady Peace. The disc spawned the hit "Somebody Like You," and the guys made a name with heavy touring.
Fast-forward to the present. Pop Evil's new album, Lipstick on the Mirror, dropped in August of 2008. Filled with soaring melodies and powerful vocals, the disc features the single "Hero," which is turning into the group's breakthrough hit. The track reached No. 24 on the active rock chart, next to major-label bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Trapt.
If you think "Hero," with lyrics like "I won't be your hero/I won't be your superman/Everything I did was for you/Everything you said was a lie," is about a romantic rumbling, think again.
"Everybody thinks 'Hero' is about a relationship, and it's not, really," said Kakaty. "It's basically about someone we trusted who was close to us and who back-stabbed us.
"It's also metaphorical to this profession we're in. The more success you have, the more people want to bring you down. We're your hero today, but who's your hero tomorrow? It's about standing up for what you believe. And if it's really what you love to do, you do it regardless of pain and tribulations that come with that success."
The success of the song is turning negative into a positive for the guys.
"To have someone you trust turn out to be conniving and scandalous is hard to swallow. To get something positive out of that, now that this song is getting us national attention, is great. And it's very ironic."
The live show is everything to Pop Evil.
"If you have people spending $30 on a ticket, you want to earn their respect," said Kakaty. "We bring our A game every night. And to see people singing your lyrics and singing your songs every night is definitely what being on the road is all about."
And if you're at one of the band's shows, chances are, you'll spot Lansing's own Donnie Herronen, aka DJ Donnie D, rocking it onstage.
"I would describe it as the Kid Rock, Detroit-Michigan mentality. There's always a DJ," Kakaty said. "To have Donnie spinning and filling the empty gaps during the live set is very important. And to know Donnie D, to add a personality like him to an already very personality-driven band is very unique. I think it's one of the big strengths of our band."
Herronen loves being a part of Pop Evil. Come October, he'll tour full-time with the band, but promises to make it back to his Lansing digs at least once a month.
"Having the guys ask me to join Pop Evil means the world to me," Herronen said. "It's like fulfilling a dream."
Kakaty was doing this interview smack dab in the middle of the band's tour with Puddle of Mudd and Saving Abel.
How are Wes and the guys treating Michigan's new rock darlings?
"The first thing Wes (Scantlin, from Puddle of Mudd) said when we met him was, 'I have a Pop Evil CD in the car, and it's the only CD in my car right now.' There's not really a word to describe that," said Kakaty. "It's like, 'Wow.'
"The crowds have been embracing the band, too. To get the response we're getting is overwhelming. We are most excited about getting people to listen to some Michigan rock and roll.
"We come from the state of Kid Rock and Eminem and people who perform their music. They don't just sit up there and play their songs, and we take that same philosophy with our band." -xo