Star Scene: Leigh Kakaty ~ POP EVIL

Leigh Kakaty‘s scene is Pop Evil mainly … with culture thrown in whenever the chance avails itself. Pop Evil‘s founder and singer states: “I have no free time nowadays. I barely get to do anything, but I used to like golfing. I love to golf if I get a chance, especially if it’s in Australia”. Kakaty laughs and continues: “Nowadays, to be honest, I like seeing culture, I like seeing different cities and different, obviously, states in the US, but also different countries. I can’t wait to see Australia, then when I come back here to the US to be able to talk about our Australian fans, and culture with the people who are around my circle. Every time I hear Australia come up now, I’ll be able to talk about it in a different light. I’m looking forward to that, and obviously when people talk to me about Europe, Canada, Mexico, places I’ve toured before, to give ’em stories, like, ‘Wow, in Mexico, you should see this’ or, ‘You should see this in Germany’, then ‘Australia, you wait. It’s true … people do sleep with black mambas’.”

Kakaty’s sense of humour is evident throughout the interview. Currently he is taking a bit of a break before the Australian tour. He states: “I am, at my home. I’ve been home for the past month. We just got done with a big US headline run, and then we did Europe, and then we had about four weeks off. So I’m real excited to kind of recharge my batteries here. It’s been a colder winter in the US than normal, so I’ve been kind of hibernating in the house, so to speak. I’m in Michigan, so it’s been cold up in Michigan. Finally, today was a little bit – but this week’s been a little bit warmer, but nothing, still gotta wear a jacket. It’s the least I do so I don’t catch a cold or anything. It’s a nightmare for a singer.”

Kakaty’s sense of humour is evident throughout the interview. Currently he is taking a bit of a break before the Australian tour. He states: “I am, at my home. I’ve been home for the past month. We just got done with a big US headline run, and then we did Europe, and then we had about four weeks off. So I’m real excited to kind of recharge my batteries here. It is been a colder winter in the US than normal, so I’ve been kind of hibernating in the house, so to speak. I’m in Michigan, so it is been cold up in Michigan. Finally, today was a little bit – but this week’s been a little bit warmer, but nothing, still gotta wear a jacket. It is the least I do so I don’t catch a cold or anything. It is a nightmare for a singer.”

Having already begun his preparation for the upcoming Australian tour, Kakaty is excited about Australia and simply “can’t wait”. He is humble about his and the band’s achievements, is “grateful” for all the support from down under, and loves that Australians know that “rock is not dead”.  He states: “We’ve heard from all our other friends, and they’re all like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you’re going to Australia’, or ‘you’ve been Europe’, these people really respect rock and metal music. And I didn’t really understand, obviously, we were so excited to experience that and we got our first taste when we played the festivals in Europe, and you really could see that there’s such a respect for live music. It was exciting, you know? In some ways, we like playing to these rock crowds better in ways, ’cause there’s such, and no disrespect to our American fans, the fans that come are die-hards and they’re loyal, and they would go to Melbourne and fit right in with that crowd and go nuts.”

Kakaty continues:  “It is just the masses; they don’t come out the same way. It is that ideology, that you can come to the US and be anything you want. But, well, guess what? Everyone believes that, so everyone thinks their band is better than the next band or they can be the next rock star, they can be the next Donald Trump – you know, I won’t get into it, but you know what I mean? That’s the blessed curse that is the US, and it makes us great and it kind of eats it from the inside. Everyone wants to be the stud, but no one wants to support someone on the come-up, you know what I mean? It is just harder, and I don’t mean just for Pop Evil, I’m not trying to cry a river about it because it just makes it a little more challenging ’cause there’s so many bands trying to get, I mean, what is it? If you chart your band, it is 40, so that means there’s 40 spots on a radio station or on a chart for the millions of bands around the world that want to be charted in the US; it is just very competitive, it is hard. And then, of course, we heard, at least from fans and friends and people that are in these other countries, it is like, well, shoot, there’s some bands that may be not as big in the US, that are massive in other countries. It is interesting, all the fans have taught us, they’re like, ‘Look, if you guys just come to the country, you’ll see’.”

Kakaty continues, genuinely discussing how he respects those fans who make the effort and wants to repay them by hopefully frequently touring: “The thing about the people in Australia, Melbourne, they’ve heard all the excuses, right? Like, ‘Hey, I don’t have any money; the band does not do these tours’, there are so many excuses why some of your favourite American bands don’t come your way. When they actually get those bands that take that dedication and come out, it is a different respect. We are hoping, we have certainly seen that in Canada and Europe, and hopefully, we’re going to see that again in Australia as well. The distance is tough, it is a bit of a challenge and it takes eight years, or I think it may be even longer, but it is taken about eight years to finally get the whole full-package to work. I am really grateful, and hoping that fans that reading this article are going to be open-minded to giving us a shot, and hopefully when they do, we’re going to crush this live show and make ’em hungry to see us come back. Hopefully, we can get back to some of the festivals where more of the masses of people could see us, and then they support us ’cause we keep making the effort to come back.”

Music is definitely a passion for Kakaty. It always was. He states: “I was always a song guy. I grew up in the Midwest of the U.S., in Michigan, so we’re a big radio test market, so whatever was on the radio, we were listening to, and rock was king, so I always knew then that I had a passion for rock. Growing up in Michigan, Detroit Rock City, Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Eminem. I mean, there was so just so much rock, real guitars, live instruments; it is just a way of life up here. Sometimes people ask me, ‘How big of a role did Michigan play in your career choice?’ I always say, ‘I think it was everything in my career choice.’ If I would have been anywhere else, who knows if I would be doing this, but certainly, not just the band that I was listening to, but just the genre – rock, metal – it was just such a big influence in the way people live here. Because you’re snowed in, it is cold, there’s nothing to do, you’re bored in your house growing up. People were listening to a lot of music. So it was all, I was trapped in my room, nothing to do but play guitar, so it was a big part. But I was listening to it all of it. Metallica, Pantera, like everyone else, STP, I was a religious Pearl Jam fan in the ’90s. You name it. I was listening to a lot of hip-hop, too, though, ’cause, I mean, obviously, there’s that yin and yang that is Michigan. and MC5, you know a lot of that stuff. It was just, whatever was on, whatever your buddies you were hanging out with, it was always an influence. Somebody was listening to something different than you were, so you were kind of picking up different textures from them, whether you were with your guy friends, or your girlfriends. It was awesome, and I was just empowered by the fact that songs that brought people together. I always kind of joke about it, and I was like, ‘I like the song that brings a little three year-old and a little grandma of 90, together, and they’re all singing the song. So there’s grandma and the youngest child at the family dinner table, and they’re singing Pantera, and they have no idea who is Pantera, but they love the hook. It is those kind of songs that have those universal hooks.”

The impact of those very hooks and those songs are what Kakaty credits for Pop Evil’s music. He states: “They would influence the songs that we write today – Be Legendary, Waking Lions. I mean, it is always such a Pop Evil tradition to write those kind of anthems that everyone can sing along. That has always been a big part of our music. It is about involving our audiences. Just growing up in Michigan we never really believed in – they always called it, ‘musical masturbation’, but no one wanted to watch us jam. They wanted to watch us perform. You know what I mean? They don’t have money to waste up here. They say, ‘Hey, I just spent $20. You better get up there and dance for me, man’. They want to be entertained. It is kind of that mentality that I think spearheaded the early Pop Evil years, certainly in my years of my writing, and my understanding of hooks and finding the right songs.”

Last year, Pop Evil released their fifth album, self-titled. Kakaty states: “ We feel like this is our first record in a lot of ways. First of all, it is a new lineup – we have a female drummer now who’s a beast. She’s incredible. It is such a huge, big barrier buster. So many times, there’s a stereotype – it is a boys’ club, Michigan band, they can’t have a girl. Not only a girl in the band, she’s from the UK, so it is like, ‘Wow’ there’s so many different stereotypes that, even internally, that we broke on this record; tp be open-minded to just where life is going; that you don’t have to judge people. If they can play, they can play, it doesn’t matter if they’re a girl or guy or an alien, if they can play the drums. There’s an opportunity for you anywhere in any band that wants to give you the opportunity. We know we have a big female following. We thought, ‘Wow, what would it be like? There’s got to be a girl out there that can hit hard than a guy’. We found her in the UK with Hayley, and she’s unbelievable. And then, you know, in a lot of ways, we’re starting to know now, after five records in, who we are off the stage. Obviously, finding out who you are on the stage is one thing, but that’s just one percent of us in our lives that fans see. The rest of it is off-stage, so we wanted to be more confident, comfortable in who we are. We felt like this is the first chapter and the first record that we knew now where we want to be and where we’re going for the future. We don’t know exactly how to black-and-white tell you what that might be, but this is a big album and step in the right direction to be like, ‘Wow, this feels right, this feels like this is the band we’ve always wanted. Let’s use this as our stepping stone and move forward’. Pop Evil, Self-titled, it just felt like that was it.”
Still, with five albums to choose from, working on a setlist is a priority in order to keep the fans happy. Kakaty states: “It is been a fun challenge, and it is interesting – it is a different challenge from the US to everywhere else in other countries. It is interesting, fun dilemma. For one, there’s radio hits – and obviously, radio in US is unique to itself. It used to be massive radio play in the US, blah, blah, blah, but now, of course, for rock radio, it is dwindled down here and there ’cause these stations have been bought out or sold or just flipped to different formats. But still, radio is the way, the format, that broke our band. We were a radio band in the US. So there’s a lot of the radio hits that the American fans would want to hear. When you go to the other countries, they don’t care necessarily about our radio hits, ’cause they weren’t radio hits, maybe, in their country. They just want what was on their Spotify playlist or what might be on YouTube. So it is interesting, even though some of these YouTube music videos we have aren’t necessarily radio singles here, but our fans in other countries, you know – we’re going to find out in Australia what they know – but I’m sure it is the same. Even in Europe, they’ll sing all our songs that we have music videos for, or all the songs we have any kind of video for online that they all know, or some that have been released on Spotify playlists and stuff like that. So we try to be at least aware of that when making a setlist for another country or for any tour we do. The Australian setlist, obviously, we have 20 hours on an aeroplane to talk about it.”

The need for a precise setlist and the respect he has for his fans is clear. Kakaty states: “Obviously, we try to keep the more high-energy songs in there. It was weird, though – the last tour we did in Europe, I had an extreme case of laryngitis. I don’t think I’ve had that strong of a case in my career. I literally couldn’t talk, I couldn’t even move, I didn’t know how, but I just don’t believe in cancelling if I can do anything about it. And I just told the fans, ‘Look, I’m sick, I’m going to do my best. If you guys can help me sing a little louder’. They sang the whole show with me. It was incredible. I ended up getting through it. It maybe wasn’t my best-sounding, but I got through it. Just being real and honest with your fans is something that just makes rock so cool. I think that was part of why rockers are paying the price. For the longest time in rock, people were different on stage, then they’d go off-stage and be a totally different person. Fans want real, they want honesty, they want truth, they want you to just be you – it is okay if you had Froot Loops or something for breakfast, they want to know those things – ‘Oh, I had that, too!’ or ‘You had oatmeal for breakfast? I love that!’ That’s where we’re at, and people want to know about you, they want to know about your band. They want to know what you do before the show, they want to know what you do at the show. The more you give them and the more they feel connected to you, both on and off the stage, not just that song or that note, or playing that awesome chord, they want to know. The more they feel connected to you personally, the more they want to support you and the band. It is a different climate for being a fan of any band nowadays, especially a rock fan. We need ’em more now. We’re stronger in numbers, everyone matters, and everyone’s voice matters, so it is definitely interesting. The setlist is definitely a fun challenge and we try to obviously put the ones that everyone knows but also try keep the energy up and try to put a good blend of all five records, but also try to get a consistent blend of this new record, because this is the current line-up.”

The strength of rock as a community is evident. For Pop Evil, Kakaty states: “Music is our religion. It is a full-time job, we’re open 365 days a year, 24/7, 7 days a week. We’re like the janitors of the music business. With pop, and country, and metal and EDM, we’re janitors. When people are done listening to them, we clean the tables and deal with what’s left, and that’s kind of what it is like. Unfortunately, our genre actually has the phrase that there’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll death’. I mean, you don’t say, ‘Hip-hop’s dead’, or ‘Country music’s dead’, but there’s, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll is dead’. It is just pathetic. It is basically been infused in people’s heads for so long now that people actually believe that.”

Not only is rock n roll alive and well, Pop Evil seem to assist people and answer prayers through their music. Kakaty states: “As a band, it is impossible to write songs and not, especially rock songs, and not be aware of just what we’re going through as people. When you think about some of our favourite songs of the past, sometimes, they are just timeless for a reason. They are timeless songs because they were relatable for what people are going through now, and let’s be real – we’re trying to make music that can make a difference in people’s lives, and hopefully, bring positivity to people that need it. Think about some of the times that we have where the sickest, no medicine can help, no parents, family, loved ones, but what is there for us? Music, and I think it is our responsibility to give back to the music that, all those years, have helped us individually, moving forward to be where we’re at. We like to think about it honestly – sometimes, in Pop Evil’s perspective, to write the type of motivational music, there’s anthems that might bring people together. Even if there’s a hundred people in the room – it is a small show, but those hundred people are singing all the songs and they’re singing together, and that’s a congregation – that’s church, that’s music church right there. And we take ’em to church, people are, they’re all, ‘Hallelujah’. They’re all singing on their knees screaming the choruses in the air, and it is our kind of church, right? It is still a camaraderie, it is still a congregation of people coming together for something they believe in, with melody.” Kakaty laughs and states: “I’m a preacher in my off-time.”

Catch Kakaty and POP EVIL in Australia this April!

U.S. Rockers POP EVIL are headed to Australia for the first time in support of their latest self-titled album this April presented by Silverback Touring.


Thursday 4thApril: Enigma Bar; Adelaide

Friday 5thApril: The Prince Band Room; Melbourne

Saturday 6thApril: The Lair, Metro Theatre; Sydney

Sunday 7thApril: The Zoo; Brisbane

Tickets on sale now from:

About Mary Boukouvalas 1216 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos,,,, She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.

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