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Pop Evil keeps the music coming during pandemic shutdown

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Leigh Kakaty isn't used to being home in western Michigan during the summer.

But the founder and frontman of Pop Evil is trying to make the most of it while the heavy rock band, like all others, is in dry-dock due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It's...refreshing," Kakaty says by phone. "At first it was horrible; Everything's so 'What's next?!' in this business. But now that I've set in, Iím enjoying it. I'm doing yard work today. I Put in an outdoor basketball hoop we can all kind of enjoy. It's something I've never been able to do 'cause when you're working you don't get this kind of time, ever.

"Donít get me wrong -- I love my job, and it'll be great to get back. But I'm enjoying this, too. I get to rest my mind, rest my voice. It's nice to take a deep breath and try to stay above everything that's going on."

Kakaty and Pop Evil have hardly been dormant -- far from it, in fact. When the pandemic hit during March he was in Los Angeles, working on the group's sixth studio album. During the spring Pop Evil released two singles, "Let the Chaos Reign" and "Work," and on Friday, July 24 it's dropping animated video for the latter.

"We wanted to do something different," Kakaty says, noting that "Work" especially takes a different and more sinister sonic path than Pop Evil's usual, high-torque anthems. "That's the Pop Evil way, to try to do a little bit of stuff you're not expecting us to do. We want to give you that yin and yang, flip to the extreme left and to the extreme right. that's always been what we've done, and my voice and the melodies have been what's held it and glued it together."

Both "Let the Chaos Reign" and "Work" have taken on fresh perspectives since the pandemic, Kakaty reports. "We wrote (the former) about chaos we saw in the world," he recalls, "then, boom, by the time we release it it's even more chaotic in the world right now." The video for "Work," meanwhile, knits together themes of pandemic essential workers and social unrest, depicting a disaffected factory worker wreaking some havoc in his workplace.

"It's about standing up, finding that inner line and all the way people can stand up for themselves, man," Kakaty explains. "It's always refreshing when we can make those comparisons and connections to what's going on in the world. Hopefully more people can relate and come on board to the Pop Evil machine."

A great many already have, of course. Since emerging from Muskegon in 2001, the quintet has racked up 15 Top 10 Mainstream Rock hits -- five of which have reached No. 1 -- and a string of four consecutive Top 10 albums on Billboard's Rock, Hard Rock and Independent charts. Its songs have been featured during NFL, NHL and NASCAR events, as well as on ESPN's "Sports Center."

On the road, meanwhile, Pop Evil has established a solid reputation as a headliner as well as supporting bands such as Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch.

The new album is "pretty much done," according to Kakaty. Pop Evil has been working with "multiple producers," and the goal this time is the right combination of power and polish.

"We want to capture the energy of the live experience people have grown to now from our shows," Kakaty says. "We want to capture the energy you have when you first write something and really work to get that, which is hard. We have so many friends and family who listen to what we've got who are like, 'I wish you would just put out the demo...'"

The album's release is TBA at the moment, but the Kakaty expects to release more singles and videos along the way. The silver lining of the shutdown, he notes, is that "when we finally play these shows, these songs are going to be so familiar to the fans. They'll be singing them back on the first time we play it."

And, he adds, that time can't come too soon.

"Obviously I miss the fans," Kakaty says. "I miss the screams. I miss being able to play new music. I was in as much in a daze as everyone else was -- 'Is this really what happens? Am I really gonna go a whole year without playing? I haven't done that since the mid-90s.

When you stop and think about it, it's depressing, so I'm trying not to think about it and just focus on the album and stay positive. We're all planning on being back in 2021 at some point, so hopefully that'll be what happens."

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