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with Royal Tusk
From the Promoter
Advance tickets also available at Rotate This & Soundscapes
When North Muskegon, Michigan native Leigh Kakaty formed Pop Evil, he chose the band’s name for areason. He loved hard rock songs with good melodies but he also dug loud, crunchy guitars and propulsivemetal rhythms. For Kakaty, it’s a natural duality that came from growing up in the Great Lakes and iteventually became the raison d’etre of his band.“It’s just a natural part of who I am,” Kakaty says. “When I was growing up we’d roll out to the beach on theweekdays with an acoustic guitar and everyone would kick it. And on the weekends, we’d turn up the ampsand, boom, everyone would try to break windows. It was all about the heaviness. And I needed both of thoseelements – the melodic and the metallic.”Five albums into Pop Evil’s career, combining strong hooks with knockout punches is more important thanever. The band’s new record, simply called Pop Evil, is a surging, contemporary sounding release thatincorporates metal, alternative, hard rock and even electronic music. In the wake of the band’s peppy, upbeat2015 album Up, it’s a wake-up call, a musical rebirth that inspired the band to self-title the release, partiallysince they’d never done so. Their first album, Lipstick on the Mirror came out in 2008, and while it introducedlisteners to the band’s core sound with well-received singles like “Hero” and “100 in a 55,” Pop Evil hasgrown exponentially since then.Pop Evil captures Kakaty and his bandmates – rhythm guitarist Dave Grahs, lead guitarist Nick Fuelling,bassist Matt DiRito and drummer Hayley Cramer – at their most inspiring. Every song on the album offers adifferent spin on the concept behind the band’s name and in an era when many rock bands create a fewstrong singles, and six or seven less memorable songs and call it an album, Pop Evil is all killer, no filler – thebest 11 songs culled from 30 demos.There’s plenty to be excited about on Pop Evil. The first single, “Waking Lions” starts with clattery electronicdrums and a chugging guitar riff interjected with a squealing harmonic, then the first verse kicks in like a mobsmashing down the doors the confine them. As Kakaty hits the euphoric chorus – backed by buzzing guitarsand a minor-key counter melody – he sings about reaching within and overcoming obstacles “I want to standup 100 feet tall / ‘Cause fear will never lead my way / I’m ready to run 100 miles strong / I will never be thesame.”By contrast, “Colors Bleed” – for which the band shot an insightful video -- was inspired by current eventsand features a charged rhythm, incisive guitar licks, and confrontational vocals. “Step aside watch the colorsbleed / The rise of democracy / Fight the System / Stop and listen / True colors, how can you miss ‘em? /Born with knowledge, raise the fist / Face the enemy, just resist.”
The song blends aggressive rock vocals and rapping, bringing to mind Rage of Machine (even if the bridgeand solo sound more like Pink Floyd). “Rage was my favorite band growing up,” admits Kakaty. “Because hewas a frontman of mixed race, Zack de la Rocha was my hero. He was the guy that I could relate to when Igrew up rapping. In the beginning of my career with Pop Evil, I moved away from that vocal approach in hopesto find the right song to bring it back. It just naturally happened on this record.”Lyrically, songs like “Colors Bleed” cover new ground for Pop Evil. Instead of being about dysfunctionalrelationships, self-empowerment or mortality, Kakaty digs into today’s headlines and addresses what he feelsabout capitalism, hypocrisy and violent confrontation.“It was important for me to document things that we’re going through right now, such as what happened inCharlottesville, what’s going on with North Korea and where the government is at,” he says. “As a lyricist, Ineed to address all sorts of subjects and emotions and politics is a part of that. I felt I needed to write aboutthe things I’m feeling as a mixed American -- someone whose mom and dad came to this culture with bigdreams, hopes, and aspirations because this is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Anyone whocomes to America is a native of this country, so it’s so important that we all come together. When we jointogether, everyone wins.”“With a band name like Pop Evil, we felt like the Evil has always been de-emphasized just because of thesituations we were in,” Kakaty says. “It always seemed like the people around us wanted to focus more onradio play or writing more mainstream, melodic stuff. That’s definitely a part of what we like to do, but this timewe made a rock album for rock fans. And, in general, rock fans are real Middle American, middle orlower-middle class people who get forgotten about. Secular music has pretty much told the world that rockand roll and metal music don’t matter anymore. Having lived that life and thrived as a rock band, it’s hard notto take offense to that, but it’s important to try to be a part of the solution rather than the problem. And we’redoing that by turning up the amps and saying, “Look, we can make heavy songs that really rock and we canalso write catchy songs that someone who likes Pearl Jam or Led Zeppelin can get into.”The struggle was a regular obstacle for Pop Evil as they prepared to record their definitive album. Before theycould finish the UP album cycle, they had to find a new drummer. Joshua Marunde (AKA Chachi Riot), whohad been with the band since 2011 gradually lost interest in being a touring musician and decided to open hisown CrossFit gym. He stayed with the band until the end of May 2016 in support of Up and then amicablyparted ways with the band, forcing them to find a replacement while on the road.After some soul searching, their management team brought a few ideas forward, one being a female drummerand the band members decided that it could be a terrific idea to work with a female drummer in order to givethe band a new perspective that wasn’t solely motivated by testosterone.They took recommendations from industry contacts and invited a bunch of women to email them auditionvideos. After carefully examining a bunch of playthrough videos one stood out to Pop Evil. It was one videosent in by English drummer Hayley Cramer (ex-McQueen) who they invited for a try out in their hometown andabsolutely blew the band away. The band decided to bring her out on the road while Chachi was finishing his
role and split time during the month of May 2016. She entered into the band with total confidence and a newartistic vision.“As soon as we saw her video we were like, ‘Oh my goodness. She’s the one,’” Leigh Kakaty says. “Her firsttour with us was in packed arenas opening for Rob Zombie and Disturbed. It was crazy, but when things work,they work. She’s been like the big sister we never knew we wanted but we’re so glad we have. And she’s sopassionate about the music. Songs that we’d been playing for years suddenly came to life in a different wayand then she came in and killed it on this record. It was a rejuvenation for us. She’s nothing short of ablessing.”With Cramer’s help, Pop Evil wrote a batch of new songs in their practice space before they started demoing.In addition to making sure the album was heavier than Up, they wanted the time to create the album theywanted to make. While they had been forced to rush through past albums in three or four months so theycould return to the road (the band had averaged 200 live concerts a year over the last ten years), theydedicated a full year to completing Pop Evil.“When you’ve got a bunch of material to work with, weeding that all out takes time,” Kakaty says. “We’d windup going with things we didn’t know if we were completely sure was right for the album and then I’d have toput lyrics on and if I didn’t totally believe in something it was hard to put my heart and soul into the vocals. Sofinally, for the first time ever, the record company/management agreed to give us the time needed to make therecord and we worked really hard this time to try out everything and really use the best of the best.”In Spring 2017, Pop Evil went to Sound Emporium studio in Nashville to work with Kato Khandwala. The bandworked in Nashville between June and August, then went to Los Angeles to record vocals and SphereStudios.“In the past, we’ve all done our parts and it was a little awkward,” Kakaty says. “This time, everyone wastogether. Everyone was there in the studio offering their opinions and Kato was there to make sure we didn’tveer off track and to push us to deliver our best performances.”Looking back at Pop Evil, Kakaty is thrilled that it came out exactly how the band wanted it to. Theexperimental parts give the album a cutting edge sound and the melodic passages – whether they comprisethe crux of the chorus, verse or both – are undeniably memorable. At the same time, the band didn’tcompromise when it came to delivering powerhouse metal riffs and emotionally expressive vocal lines.“With every album, we’ve been able to branch off a little and do more of what we wanted to do,” Kakaty says.“With this record, we really feel like we finally got all the pieces together and created this monster of an album.It’s everything we talked about and strived for and we can’t wait to go out and really show people who weare.”
Royal Tusk was born with a shared love for the craft of music, and a natural chemistry that manifests itself in the band’s songs and in its fiery live performances. Carriere and Sandy MacKinnon (bass) spent 12 years in beloved JUNO-nominated Edmonton band, Ten Second Epic and knew they weren’t done making great music. They rounded up Quinn Cyrankiewicz (guitar), Calen Stuckel (drums) and Mike James (keyboard/guitars) for a jam session, and just 10 months later the band headed to New York to record Mountain with Gus Van Go (Hollerado, Whitehorse, The Stills). “Shadow of Love” and "Smoke Rings" were breakout tracks off Mountain and both saw significant radio-play. These singles helped earn Royal Tusk a 2015 SIRIUSXM Emerging Artist of the Year nomination, an “artist of the month" nod from Sonic 102.9, and a short-list spot for CBC’s 2014 Rising Star Award.
After touring extensively and sharing the stage with artists including Big Wreck, Dear Rouge and Metric, Royal Tusk has spent the past year writing, embracing growth in its sound and songwriting. It’s no doubt that with DealBreaker you can expect a louder, more confident and longer-haired Royal Tusk.