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Pop Evil is an American rock band that was formed in North Muskegon, Michigan, in 2001 by Leigh Kakaty. The band's roots reside in TenFive, a group formed in the late-1990s by Kakaty and guitarist Jason Reed.
Don’t take Skeletons as something macabre or negative. For Pop Evil, the title of their seventh album simply serves as a mission statement.
“First, it’s about our musical identity,” says frontman Leigh Kakaty, who co-founded Pop Evil in 2001 in North Muskegon, Michigan. “This is about us as a band stripping everything down to the bones. It’s more uptempo, it’s got bigger riffs, and we’re trying to capture the energy of our live show.”
“But it’s also a positive message,” he adds. “I know it’s a morbid visual, but behind every skeleton, there’s a story and something worth talking about. Overall, it’s about looking at something in a positive way. And I’m excited for everyone to hear that.”
For the band’s seventh album, Kakaty and his bandmates (lead guitarist Nick Fuelling, rhythm guitarist Dave Grahs, bassist Joey "Chicago" Walser, and drummer Hayley Cramer) certainly channel some pent-up energy stemming from the last two years of general world chaos. It’s an intense album — both sonically and lyrically — that still finds ways to bring in melodic and uplifting moments.
Which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s followed the band’s ascension. Pop Evil first rose to international prominence with Lipstick on the Mirror, initially released on a small indie in 2008 and reissued by Universal Republic the following year. After Kakaty famously tore up the band’s major label contract onstage, Pop Evil signed with MNRK Heavy (formerly eOne Music). 2011’s War of Angels debuted in the Top 10 of the Rock Albums chart and produced the Top 10 singles “Last Man Standing,” “Monster You Made” and “Boss’s Daughter.”
The band’s momentum continued with the addition of new member, Fuelling, for 2013’s Onyx; an album that put Pop Evil in the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 for the first time and boasted three No. 1 rock songs. Their next release, Up, was the No. 1 Independent Album in America and made it to #25 on the Billboard 200. It featured several top 5 rock songs (“Ways to Get High,” “Take It All,” and “If Only for Now”) and a chart-topper with “Footsteps.”
Their 2018 self-titled set, featuring the addition of UK-born drummer Cramer, included the hits “Waking Lions” (No. 1 Mainstream Rock), “Be Legendary” (No. 2), and “A Crime to Remember” (No. 7). From there, 2020’s Versatile scored two no. 1 rock songs, “Breathe Again” and “Survivor.” Overall, the band has amassed four Gold singles: “100 In A 55”, “Torn to Pieces”, “Trenches”, and “Footsteps”, and are approaching one billion career streams.
Expect those numbers to grow significantly with Skeletons. The first single, “Eye of the Storm,” is a pummeling, chaotic maelstrom that contains an uplifting message at its center (and a killer chorus). As for the song's lyrical plea, Kakaty explains: "It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, at some point we all face a situation beyond our control. At times, it feels hopeless, but it’s not. There is a path through the chaos and a way out of the confusion. You are stronger and closer than you think you are. The storm will pass. Don’t let it bury you.”
Elsewhere on Skeletons, you’ll find anthems built for stadiums (“Sound of Glory”), contemplative alt-rock (“Who Will We Become”), and collaborations with Devour the Day, Fit for a King, and Zillion, who add some metal, electronic and hip-hop into Pop Evil’s mix.
Another album highlight comes via “Paranoid (Crash & Burn),” the second single, which oscillates from something more melodic and rhythmic to pure aggression — that “get out of my head” scream is certainly going to resonate. “It’s about the voices in our head — we all have ‘em, but do we act on them?” says Kakaty. “It’s a cautionary tale, about processing those voices in a positive way. It’s very aggro and uptempo, and I think it speaks to the depression and anxiety a lot of us have at this stage in our lives.”
The future radio hit here may arrive with “Worth It,” a catchy midtempo number that nicely encapsulates the album’s uplifting message. “It’s one of my favorites,” says the singer. “It’s a reminder to every brother, sister, kid, father, and mother — there’s something positive out there and a reason for you to gut it out.”
Skeletons sees the band once again working with producer Drew Fulk (Disturbed, Papa Roach, Motionless in White), a friend and collaborator on a few previous albums. “With Versatile, we had a bunch of producers, but for this album, we just wanted to work with one person and get back to our roots,” says Kakaty. “There’s an energy he and I have, and he’s been great at helping us build these songs and work around some collective themes.”
Before the new album’s release, Pop Evil was able to hit the road and introduce fans to bassist Joey Walser, the band’s newest addition. “Joey’s incredible — he’s made me excited about our live show,” says Kakaty. “I think now we’re really taking it up a notch and I’m excited for the future of the band. We’re ready to show people that rock’n’roll is alive and well.”
Even before the official release of Skeletons, the band’s new music is already going over well with fans. Notes Kakaty: “It’s great seeing people respond at our shows— I think they see what we sing about with something like ‘Eye of the Storm’ is very relatable. We all have hardships and mood swings; this is our way to show that you’re not alone. A lot of Pop Evil, it’s about inspiring positivity and giving back.”