Pop Evil’s Leigh Kakaty on Rock + Metal Community: ‘We Need to Create More Opportunities for Each Other’
We caught up with singer Leigh Kakaty on this year’s ShipRocked Cruise, where he and the rest of Pop Evil rocked the boat. The band has been flying high back on land as they wrapped up their Rock ‘N’ Roll Right Now tour with Red Sun Rising and Badflower. Check out our interview with Kakaty below where he chats about the band’s successes and evolution, plans for a new album and his desire to see the rock and metal community united in creating opportunities for each other.
How have you been? You’re no stranger to ShipRocked. Let's talk about this experience for you both on and off the boat?
It’s been great, we’re getting ready to end this cycle, easily it’s been the craziest cycle of our career. From the success of “Footsteps” from the beginning to “Ways to Get High” to “Take It All,” RAM trucks, ESPN, there’s been a lot of firsts for us on this album cycle. The most important first is our big production for our tour with Red Sun Rising and Badflower.
ShipRocked is a bit of a challenge for me because I always get so seasick. I’m trying my best to just stay low and be cool. Ginger works, I’m chewing ginger gum but it’s going good. You’ve got to expect some crazy things on ShipRocked, it’s normal. Our band is more focused on being chill and relaxed, focusing on the music and the songs. There’s a lot less party then there was in the early years so we’re just trying to stay healthy because once we get off the boat our focus will be on this tour and ending this album cycle on a good note.
It’s crazy to think that we will be getting ready to make our fifth studio album. We want to do it right and we want to set ourselves up to do better in the future. It’s a grind, less party and more work. Right now it’s all about the fans and screaming from the mountain tops that rock and roll has a voice and we want to be heard.
Do you think the song “Footsteps,” which is featured in the RAM trucks commercial you mentioned, sort of represents the path of the band?
Absolutely, we wanted to write songs that motivated us and “Footsteps” certainly did that. It changed the way we were thinking. We don’t want to be negative and think about all the bad things that are out there. We want to be grateful for those few good things that can lead to other good things. There are so many kids that come and watch Pop Evil shows, it’s so important for us to take that responsibility and hopefully be more proactive whether that is being healthier or more efficient in the way we’re dialing in with our stage show, how we’re writing in the future.
We didn’t ever think about kids coming to the shows but now they do and so there can be things we can do. A song like “Take It All,” that’s a song you can sing with your mom, dad, grandma and your 4 or 5-year-old can sing it right with you. It’s just being responsible to understand that there’s music that can connect and transcend boundaries or age limits. When you’re a rock band and you don’t have the exposure or pop radio or television, you have to be creative and make those moments special with families and bring them closer together with music.
Growing up, when I think about some of the closest times with my mom and dad, music was there. So to be a part of people’s lives through music, it’s a huge honor. We definitely don’t take that stuff lightly and it inspires us to work harder.
How has the writing progression been for new music?
We all write individually first and once your ideas are done individually, you’re more open minded to listen to other people’s ideas. Otherwise you’re fighting about ideas and that back and forth delays everything. We’ve all become more mature in the studio and we’re trying to be even better this time around.
I usually don’t write on tour. If a melody comes up I’ll record it. I’ve learned how to focus on touring when it’s tour time, writing when it’s writing time, launching when it’s launch week, otherwise things can get half-assed done. It’s a business and if you don’t treat it as that then the music might suffer. There’s been little bits and pieces of writing but honestly we’re going to go in fresh and see where our lives are.
Onyx was a very dark record, getting up onstage and singing dark music. We’re rockers from Michigan and we got into this to have fun. We weren’t trying to beat people up and get into a mosh pit. We’d turn our electric guitars up but we’d also pass around the acoustic guitar and share it around a bonfire. With this last record [2015's Up], I think we were just tired of being angry. There was something missing from our set and it was the element of fun. We wanted to bring more fun to our live show and have our fans sense all of these emotions. We’re still going to be respectable to the acoustic and electric guitar if the song needs it. If a song needs to be experimental and go a certain way then we’ll do that too. There’s no boundaries. We’re going to go out and let this album be what it’s going to be.
What does 2017 have in store for you and the rest of Pop Evil?
Well, first I’m probably going to go to Hawaii for two months and do nothing. Then we’re going to start demoing, start writing and enjoy that process. We realize now that when you’re making an album it’s going to be two years of your life. We want to do more to make sure it’s the perfect record from our standpoint and just challenge the art. From March to August, we’re going to try to put together the best collection of work that Pop Evil has done and focus on that.
Anything else you would like to add that we haven’t talked about?
It’s funny when you come from a country that prides itself on freedom of speech, somewhere along the lines rock and roll voices matter just a little bit less. We need to be united as brothers and sisters. Our metal community needs to join together, rock and metal, we’re all influenced by each other and we need to create more opportunities for each other.
It needs to start with the bands educating the fans one at a time, that’s the mission. You really feel like you’re in that world on this tour [with Red Sun Rising and Badflower]. We’re fighting, together, united, one genre that’s just trying to make a difference to drive the music that has changed our lives and helped us and inspired us to live our dream – that recklessness, raw, awkwardness that isn’t choreographed…it’s rock and roll.
Our thanks to Leigh Kakaty of Pop Evil for the interview and be sure to pickup the deluxe version of 'Up' here.
Listen to Pop Evil's Latest Single, 'If Only for Now'