Pop Evil is not your typical rock and roll band.
The band, who will be appearing at Temple Live in Fort Smith next Wednesday night, released its self titled album last year.
However, the album is not the band’s debut. Instead, it’s the fifth.
Lead singer Leigh Kakaty explains the newest release marks a rebirth of sorts for Pop Evil, which was formed in Michigan in the early 2000s.
“It felt like it’s a new start for us,” Kakaty said. “The first four albums were kind of growing pains in a way, but that’s the that rock is, you don’t get that big budget to come in and spend endless time in the studio and figure out who you are. We’ve had to kind of figure out who we are along the way.
“We’ve had band members come and go and for the first time in our career, it felt like we really know who we are now both on and off the stage.”
There is a lot of “on the stage” for Pop Evil. The show in Fort Smith will be one of 150 to 200 this year, as has been the case since 2007, Kakaty said.
“It felt like as we were naming this record it felt like we’d never had (a self titled album) and with a band name like Pop Evil it felt like it was time to make our statement,” said Kakaty.
While early on the influence was some 80s material — Motley Crue’s Mick Mars makes an appearance on the group’s Boss’ Daughter — the statement now is less of the coming of age and more, much more, of social awareness.
“We’ve been kind of known for our ying and yang melody being more melody (the pop) and our evil is the more heavily influenced rock songs,” Katay said last week from a tour stop in Boston.
The Fort Smith show follows one in Nashville on Tuesday and is among the final week of an intense series of shows that started Jan. 16, and will be followed by almost two months in Eruope and Austrailia.
“To be honest, live shows is where you really build your fanbase nowadays. You don’t get that TV exposure you once did, you’re not getting the massive looks on radio so it’s important for us to get out there and play and let word-of-mouth do what it’s always done,” said Kakaty.
The group is extremely popular on streaming services like Spotify with 4.4 million plays on the app’s Rock This playlist.
“Not a lot of people are listening to radio the way they used to. They listen to Spotify. The only way they’re checking on you is if they run in to you word-of-mouth, or at a show. A lot of people are doing the Spotify playlist now and Youtubing and doing the streaming thing,” said Kakaty. “It is harder to be found. There’s more competition out there now.”
The new album includes the hit single A Crime to Rember.
“It’s an alt driven song, deep driven, like a heartbeat vibe,” said Kakaty. “It’s making awareness of the stuff that’s going on in the world today. We’re not necessarily trying to preach one way or the other, but we want our fans to be aware of what our surroundings are and where our country is.
“We want to write songs that make a difference in people’s lives.”
The key is remembering.
“At least trigger them to think about different things or let them know that they’re not alone in thinking these things, that’s the true crime to remember — not being aware, or not being in tune to you making a difference whether your voting, or speaking up for what things you believe,” said Kakaty. “We wanted create awareness with our fan-base and let them know that we’re not just writing to write songs that are kind of here today and gone tomorrow.
“We want to write songs that are like a time capsule for where our world is, where we are at the moment.”
Waking the Lions, the band’s fifth number 1 single, is all about the motivation, Kakaty said. Just maybe not what you’d think.
“As a front man doing rock and roll for this genre in this time-frame it’s important almost to be a preacher in some ways. Fight for the genre of music that we love. I think people always take the phrase for granted ‘rock and roll is dead’ and kind of write us off so it’s important for me as a front-man to get up there and educate fans and let them know that we matter, that we make a difference.
“Sometimes you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and know you’ve got to wake those inner feelings up that can make you a better person.”
Pop Evil is still rooted. Rather than follow the longstanding rock thinking of moving to sunny California, the group has stayed home.
“We play so many shows a year it would be pointless for us to move around because we’d be paying mortgages in a bunch of places we don’t live,” said Kakaty. “We definitely are rooted to the Midwest.
With one exception.
“Our drummer Haley (Cramer) she’s from the UK, so she’s back in London, but for the most part we keep close to home if we can, that’s where our family and friends are.”
Cramer is the newest addition and, of course, a little different because of the gender, but not so much in terms of talent.
“She’s incredible. She’s a successful drummer, not even just boy or girl thing. She’s so focused on her craft. She cares about the little things about drumming (and) you don’t see that with a lot of guys we’ve worked with before. A lot of stuff they take for granted.” said Kakaty. “Maybe it’s just her being European and the way she was brought up. She’s definitely one of a kind.”
The group also did a hype song for the University of Michigan football team, though Kakaty admits Columbus, Ohio is actually friendler to his band than is Ann Arbor.
Kakaty adds, however, he is a Notre Dame fan.
The openers for Wednesday’s show at Temple Live are Them Evils and comedian Don Jamieson.
The show is all ages. Tickets are $20 to $25 in advance and increase by $5 the day of the show.