Pop Evil singer Leigh Kakaty: “People demand a certain amount of honesty from their favorite bands these days”
Pop Evil frontman Leigh Kakaty formed his band in Grand Rapids, Michigan back in the early 00’s and the band has withstood label changes, lineup shuffles and the normal grind that eats rock bands alive over their careers. Their last album “Onyx” has been re-released as a special tour edition and the band is out on the road with Five Finger Death Punch continuing to build their fan-base with every moment onstage. I recently talked with singer Leigh Kakaty, read on…..
LRI: Some of the lyrics on your latest album “Onyx” were influenced by the loss of your father, did you and your dad have a lot of conversations about your choice to be living your dreams and being a musician ?
Leigh Kakaty: Not at all but you’ve gotta remember, while he was extremely proud, my dad was from India, he’s from a different country and it’s not really Indian custom to talk about emotions. Normal father/son talks are always about paying bills and getting stuff done on time and all that. Again, not to say he wasn’t very proud, It’s just understood. We didn’t really talk about it, he would enjoy the shows and I’d see him but we didn’t really have those discussions about him being proud but I’m sure he was. If you’re a father you have certain expectations for your son and certain thoughts of what he could be or should be but we never had those talks like “Oh, I’m in a rock and roll band is that how you would have seen me” or anything like that.
LRI: Some bands make a big initial splash but fade away while some stack smaller successes and stick it out. Do you feel like each new record and touring cycle strengthens your vision for the band?
Leigh: I guess in certain ways looking back it feels like it’s been such a hard struggle. The first record just kinda solidified us getting in the game which was frustrating. It seemed like we remixed or remastered “Lipstick on the Mirror” a hundred times, it was getting old or beating a dead horse. A lot of those songs like “100 in a 55” I wrote back in 2005 and then we signed our management deal in 07 or 08 and “100 in a 55” came out in 09. It was just a struggle and it was like “Ok we got 3 songs done” and then we have to remix and remaster those songs to get a management deal and then once we did that we got the managers and then once we got the managers it became “Alright, let’s get the record deal and the money and let’s push this”. Those first three songs turn into 6 which turns into 10 and then finally we’ve got 12 and a finished album but by the time it had come out we were five years into that process before we even released a song. By the time we finished that first album cycle we were like “Okay we cannot WAIT to get out some new material” and then with “War of Angels” we took a step and it was really our first chance to work with an A-list producer at an A-list studio and an A-list label (E-One), everything went fine and that was a dream come true album. Then with the success of that record we learned with this last record “Onyx” just the simple fact that “Ok, we listened to so many people because so many people had the platinum records on the wall, I mean Johnny K’s track record speaks for itself but with this record we were like “Woah, woah, woah, Okay, we’re doing this record the way we wanna do it”. That was no acoustic guitars, we’re not writing songs for pop or trying to cross songs over anymore, we’re through with that. Rock and roll is in a different place and we’re making rock songs for the people who have been there for us now and from the beginning and that’s the rock fans. You really can’t have that realization until you’ve gotten a couple of albums in and with “Onyx” we really wanted to make a record that would take our fans on a beginning to end journey, an emotional roller coaster which is also what we try to do live. Now, it’s about adding songs to our setlist so we’re always like “Ok, what is our set missing? What can we really explore here and how can we challenge ourselves by playing new music while still honoring the old material that got us to where we are?.”
LRI: Speaking of the live show, what bands really blew you away or impacted you in terms of the concert experience?
Leigh: Obviously I grew up on all the heavy stuff, Pantera, Rage Against The Machine, Metallica but what I really loved, as a singer not really a screamer was just great singers and great lyrics with great melody. Just trying to find your own identity growing up you gotta be tough, that discipline my father had where you can’t show emotion. I think in this day and age, growing up with free speech and everyone having a voice I’ve learned by having strong women in my life to say “Hey, it’s okay to be upset or be emotional about something in a given situation” and I really have always liked the artists who are able to write those kind of songs. Pearl Jam was one for sure, I was a diehard Pearl Jam fan growing up, I liked how they could have a song like “Alive” and then have a totally different track like “Jeremy” on the same album. Stone Temple Pilots was another one, a band that obviously had a lot of appeal to me as a singer because of the vocals. Maybe a drummer or guitar player would give you a different answer but as a singer, I’ve always been drawn to great singers with great lyrics.
LRI: You mentioned earlier how much better things are with the right manager and label and all of that but at the same time, there is still a shit ton of work that you have to do own your own isn’t there?
Leigh: Yeah, I think we’ve learned how we have to do everything on our own along with our great management team who are really who we answer to. A label is just a bank, a label could love you today and be ready to dispose of you tomorrow. It’s about finding a management team that really believes in you as a writing team and really believes in your career and putting the work in early on. We were really blessed that we had the right people around us early on which really solidified our foundation and I think you will continue to see hopefully as we continue to grow. That groundwork that we’ve put in these early years I think will really pay off because it’s taught us about how to do the little things. Hung over or not, you can wake up and do a couple songs acoustic for the radio, some bigger bands don’t like or don’t wanna do that but it’s important to us to do some of those little things like that, things other people don’t necessarily wanna do. I think in the 80s, the whole makeup and disconnect from the band onstage and how a band acted or looked offstage, I don’t think people are that easy to trick. I think with all the information and opportunities to reach people electronically that people demand a certain amount of honesty from their favorite bands these days. In those days you could have a big career based on having one hit song and get paid for having one big hit, you would get a certain amount of celebrity and notoriety for that but in rock and roll now one song means nothing. You need more than one to even get on the map so it’s taught us humbleness. Also, with us being from Michigan, you being from the midwest know, it’s a very blue collar and there’s a very honest way people have about spending their money. They’re not splurging like they once were, everyone is just struggling to make ends meet and just making the minimum and I think that for rock bands it’s really the same way and I think that realization and connecting with your fans in that way could lead to the resurgence that really brings rock back. At the end of the day it always comes back to having a healthy respect for the relationship between the fans and the band.
Mar 10 Grosse Freiheit w/ Five Finger Death…Hamburg, Germany
Mar 11 Huxleys w/ Five Finger Death…Berlin, Germany
Mar 12 Stodoła w/ Five Finger Death…Warsaw, Poland
Mar 14 Gasometer w/ Five Finger Death…Vienna, Austria
Mar 15 Theaterfabrik w/ Five Finger Death…Munich, Germany
Mar 16 Alcatraz w/ Five Finger Death…Milan Mi, Italy
Mar 18 LKA-Longhorn w/ Five Finger Death…Stuttgart, Germany
Mar 21 Schlacthof w/ Five Finger Death…Wiesbaden, Germany
Mar 22 Live Music Hall w/ Five Finger Death…Cologne, Germany
Mar 24 O13 w/ Five Finger Death…Tilburg, Netherlands
Mar 25 Trix w/ Five Finger Death…Antwerp, Belgium
Mar 26 Bataclan w/ Five Finger Death…Paris, France
Mar 28 Academy w/ Five Finger Death…Birmingham, United Kingdom
Mar 30 Forum w/ Five Finger Death…London, United Kingdom
Mar 31 The Forum w/ Five Finger Death…London, United Kingdom
Apr 01 Academy w/ Five Finger Death…Manchester, United Kingdom
Apr 03 O2 Academy Glasgow w/ Five Finger Death…Glasgow, United Kingdom
May 02 99FM Lunatic Luau w/ Devour The DayVirginia Beach, VA
Jun 28 Flaming Gorge Days w/ Royal Bliss Green River, WY