Michigan bred rockers Pop Evil craft music that’s loud, fist-pumping and highly addictive. The band first got the attention of the national rock contingent with 2009’s “Hero,” a rock anthem about defying the odds and standing up for one’s beliefs.
Now, Pop Evil have a catalog of chart-toppers in their roster: “100 in a 55,” “Monster You Made” and “Last Man Standing,” to name some. Their most recent hit, “Boss’s Daughter,” features co-writing credits from none other than Mötley Crüe six-stringer Mick Mars.
Pop Evil frontman Leigh Kakaty recently spoke with Gibson.com about the band’s latest album, the Johnny K-produced War of Angels, and why Gibson guitars “scream rock and roll.”
Let’s talk about your new single, “Boss’s Daughter.” That’s such a killer song. Where did you come up with the track’s concept?
Thanks! Well, the album was done, and we wrote the song, and we had an opportunity to work with Mick Mars. My favorite band in the whole world is Mötley Crüe. Pop Evil definitely has a lot of resemblance to Mötley Crüe. We try to live the rock and roll lifestyle with our band. It’s that 24/7, rock and roll lifestyle. It’s always been that way for us. So, I think we wanted to write the song that’s a throwback to the old songs that got us started. It’s just a fun song, with gritty and no-brainer lyrics. It’s fun and driving. It’s about a girl who seems to be unattainable, but any attention she gives you is worth it, and you’re okay with that. Musically, we wanted it to be very driving. We wanted to make sure the guitar tones were grimy, the bass really popped and hit you in the chest and the drums to be just very simple but moving. It’s full speed ahead.
It must have been great working with Mick Mars from Mötley Crüe.
Yeah, it was! We wanted an opportunity to work with Mick Mars, and the publishing company got us that opportunity to write with him. That album was already done, so it was a Hail Mary: If we got something, great, but if not, it wasn’t a big deal. We had 24 hours to write it, and it all came together.
You recorded your current album, War of Angels, with producer Johnny K in Chicago. What was it like working with him?
Johnny is the best. We were so excited about doing this record with him. He’s helped shape the identity of the band. When you hear that band that you like on the radio, you’re like, “Oh, that’s Mötley Crüe,” or, “That’s Kid Rock.” He’s helped us do that and fully mature. People will hear my voice or our music and know it’s us, and it takes a great producer to really help shape that identity of the band.
Let’s talk guitars. You use exclusively Gibson acoustics on tour.
Yes! My main one is my Hummingbird. It’s the one I’ve grown up with. When you have one Gibson and get used to it, then you don’t ever play anything else. It’s your baby. The acoustic Gibson guitar, to me, is always the only one I want. It’s like cheating on your girlfriend. It’s gotta be a Gibson. It’s like riding a Cadillac. It doesn’t even matter, as long as it has that Cadillac name on the front grill, you know you’re feeling good! There’s a lot of pride with Gibson guitars.
What is it about Gibsons that makes them a good fit for you?
They scream rock and roll. I love the wood and the tones. The thing I love is that sometimes when you travel and play as much as I do, the guitar has to take a beating. Sometimes it’s freezing cold or extremely hot, and the thing with my Gibson is that out of all the years it’s been beat up, it still plays like it’s brand new. Actually, in my opinion, Gibsons actually get better the older they get. They sound even richer. Mine’s been through the Pop Evil battle, and it’s been through the wars with me every night trying to win over fans. It’s hard to explain that comfort zone of having a Gibson for me.
Do you write on Gibson acoustics?
Yes! I write all our songs on the Hummingbird.
What advice do you have for getting a solid guitar tone?
I think getting good tone is knowing your instrument and playing it in different situations. You have to tweak it and find out where your action is and play your instrument and experiment with new tones. For us, working with the stage techs is a really big help. Instead of just plugging in and being ready to rock, taking the time to actually run your equipment. We have a lot of Les Pauls in our camp, and we make sure what we’re running our guitars through whatever creates the best sound, as far as cabs and amps. Learning that combination and finding that happy medium is big. Also, listen back. Just because it sounds great onstage, that doesn’t mean it’s going to sound like that in the back, when you’re in the seats or in the back bar in the venue.
Do you have any songwriting tips for our readers?
It’s just like writing a paper in school: Don’t just be satisfied with the first draft. You should always try to look at it from another perspective. Maybe the whole band should read your lyrics. It’s about being open-minded and knowing that we’re not all perfect, so we can’t just write the perfect song. Listening to what you’ve created, you can hear different techniques and tricks to try out. Sometimes when you’re writing, you’re not hearing it how it sounds back to you. Try to visualize what that will sound like onstage. When you do it and actually take the time to look into the intricacies of writing, it will be worth it. Hopefully, it will help people. That’s what Pop Evil is about: helping people through music. We’re trying to make a positive influence on people’s lives through our music.
Photos: live shot by Drew Bacca, band shots by LeAnne Mueller.