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Albums are a necessary evil for Michigan rockers

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(Nick Fancher/Contributor)

Michigan rockers Pop Evil perform at the Rialto Theater on Friday, April 7th.

There’s an argument that in the streaming era there’s no reason to make an album, that music is now a track-by-track playlist world where only the most dedicated fans will hear an 11-song package .

So why did singer Leigh Kakaty and Pop Evil just make and release their seventh album Skeletons?

“The real answer?” he replied in an interview in mid-March. “I’m signed, so you have to make an album.”

That said, Kakaty said he understands the dilemma of making albums today, as opposed to 2008 when Pop Evil released his debut Lipstick on the Mirror.

“The old school side of me is that I just want to make albums. It’s your legacy, right?’ said the singer. “You get the albums out for your kids one day and you can look back and feel like you’ve done something. But there’s this other new side that’s like, ‘I don’t want to (make) any more albums, I just want to do singles, put a little more money into these music videos.’”

This push and pull even extends to the recording process. Making a full album can be daunting, especially compared to recording two or three songs that aim to become singles, Kakaty said. But no matter how tiring, recording an entire album is more fun than cutting singles, and if the end product lives up to expectations, more fulfilling.

That was the case with “Skeletons”.

Raw, stripped down and riff-powered, the album represents a revived Pop Evil, something of a tightly fused return to the uncompromising hard rock that Kakaty and guitarist Dave Grahs, the band’s two remaining original members, re-forged in their native Michigan state the early 2000s.

“Personally, I know we’re in an interesting place in the band and it was definitely something compared to the other albums before that that we just felt different,” said Kakaty. “There’s been a special energy in our band since the pandemic, and we’re definitely looking forward to finally getting the songs out and having the opportunity to perform them live.”

In fact, the songs on “Skeletons” were intentionally recorded to sound as much as possible like Pop Evil live, so that they fit seamlessly into the live set Kakaty was dying to play when the tour kicked off in March.

That desire to play shows, which Kakaty has been doing for two decades, was reinforced by the pandemic, which took Pop Evil off the streets like all other bands for months.

“The pandemic was the first time in my life since I was about 12 that I couldn’t at least be in a club or a bar and play music,” he said. “Not only couldn’t we tour, we couldn’t even go home and play music for anyone unless you were playing at your house. We had these video calls, these live Instagram sessions where we played. But it wasn’t the same.

“It was definitely taken from a lot of us. Some of us have left the store,” Kakaty explained. “Others were like, ‘Wow, that’s definitely what I want to do and when we come back, I’m going to come back hungry than ever.’ For us, the band members, I know I speak for them too, we all have that bond now and in a way we’re closer. We all understand that we are all better in this game of musical basketball, the Starting Five.”

This hoop analogy comes naturally to Kakaty, who was a multi-athlete who played for current Louisiana State University coach Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State Football before turning to music.

“My first love was playing for the Lakers, but I think I’m a generous 5-9 so I realized that wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “I associate sport with the writing process, just with motivation and trying to help others. It’s the team effort. It’s very similar. I think this business, even with the fans and the bands and the way the community is related to each other, is very similar to sport.”

This sports analogy carries over to “Skeletons” and the planned two-year tour, which Kakaty equates to a very long basketball season.

“The energy you hear on this album, I think we’ve got a little chip on our shoulder,” he said. “Like ‘Hey, we’re going to remind the fandom that we’re not messing around. We’re ready to come out and earn it. We want to earn it. We don’t need any favors.’”

What Pop Evil needs, or at least wants, is input from their fans on their shows, either live or online.

“Thanks to these meet and greets that have become a part of the touring scene, you get to hear what your fans like and don’t like every year,” Kakaty said. “The streaming world has made it a little bit easier to see what our fans are drawn to. They can study that so we can give them a little bit more of what they want.

“At the same time we’re not afraid to experiment and we make music for ourselves too. But at the end of the day all the music we write is there, this live show, this live experience with Pop Evil, to make it even more enjoyable for our fans.”

And those longtime fans, Kakaty said, are like a family that the band has to bring together year after year, not just to experience the live music, but to support each other through life.

“We just want people to understand that we’re here and that it’s our responsibility to be one of those bands that can stay because so many bands that came around our era aren’t around anymore, so is it matters man,” he called. “I think emerging bands need other bands to tour with and it’s a community where we really need to stick together and fight through tough times so we can celebrate together as a side someday.”

Pop Evil with the living word and avoidance

IF: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 7th

WHERE: Rialto Theater, 318 E. Congress Street, Tucson

COSTS: $28.50 in advance

THE INFORMATION: 520-740-1000,