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Pop Evil proves "Versatile" on sixth album, 5 Things to Know

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

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2021

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Three years between albums isn't a long time in contemporary music vernacular.

But for Pop Evil, that interim leading up to its sixth set, "Versatile," seemed interminable.

The west Michigan quintet started working on the 12-song set -- out Friday, May 21 -- during early 2019, "'cause we didn't want to rush," according to frontman Leigh Kakaty. A year later, however, the pandemic shutdown gave the band even more time than planned, which it used to continue writing and hone some of the new flavors and textures that are wound into the tracks.

Fans have proved ready for the return. The single "Breathe Again" is Pop Evil's sixth No. 1 -- and 17th Top 10 -- single on Billboards Mainstream Rock Songs chart. Now Kakaty and company are ready to show how "Versatile" they are -- and to get back on stage, which they like best, starting Aug. 6 in Mt. Pleasant...

Kataky says by phone from Grand Rapids that the goal of "Versatile" was "letting fans hear the energy of the tracks when they're created." To do that the group worked mostly in its members' home studios rather than costly commercial facilities. "The focus on the album was raw, organic, don't overthink it. We're better studio musicians now than we were in the past. Every year, every album we get smarter at getting rid of the things we don't like and focus on things that are more empowering. I think that's what you hear on this."

Kakaty says that during the shutdown he and the other members of the band worked in, if not full-time day jobs, then "odds and ends to make extra bucks. I wish we could tell you some story about all the cars we're collecting and our lavish mansions, but that just doesn't exist. Early on nobody knew what was ahead -- 'How are we gonna pay our bills?' 'Are we gonna have to get some real job?' It was the great unknown. And then just the fear of boredom -- 'There's no shows, what are we gonna do?!' The good thing was we got to spend more time around our families and enjoy that."

That "Versatile" recording process, meanwhile, dovetailed nicely with what the group had in mind musically for "Versatile." "We knew we wanted to expand the musical dimension," Kakaty explains. "We wanted more of the metal influence this band's always had and maybe never got to pursue for whatever reason. We definitely wanted to show people that heavier side of Pop Evil and go back to the root of that old school Pop Evil sound that's gotten us where we are. But at the same time we wanted to show versatility, too."

Having extra time to work on the songs, Kakaty adds, gave Pop Evil a chance to explore everything from song arrangements to instrumental tones. "You see everything from Rage Against the Machine to influences from Tom Petty, Bob Seger, that Detroit rock city influence in some of the songs as well. Once the songs started to take shape, 'Versatile' seemed like the best name for the album."

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Pop Evil's formation, which Kakaty calls both surprising and gratifying. "Survival in this business is not easy, y'know? And 20 years is a milestone in anyone's career, to be around a job for that long. There's a surviving element here that's surprising for a lot of people. You realize how many people you've touched over the years, and have touched you. It's a special milestone moment for the fans, 'cause it's their music, too."

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