Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Dawn of a new day for Midwest band


Evan Gillespie

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 31, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

What’s in a name? In the case of Michigan-born Pop Evil, the band’s name contains an extremely efficient explanation of the music, a slick melding of melodic pop hooks and guitar-and-vocal rage.

It seems superficially contradictory, but the band has made it work, rising from regional popularity to international recognition.

It hasn’t always been easy. The band was initially put together in 2001 in North Muskegon by Leigh Kakaty, Dave Grahs, Dylan Allison, and Jamie Nummer. The friends were devoted to their music, but they faced — as every young band does — years of hard work with little reward.

But the formative of years of Pop Evil spanned one of the biggest economic downturns in the nation’s history.

Bologna sandwiches

The slog for an independent band trying to make it in the Midwest was especially tough, an experience that Kakaty remembers as “ten years of bologna sandwiches.”

“Weʼre just a bunch of guys that grew up together and are hungry for rock nʼ roll,” Kakaty said of the band’s current line up and of the drive that kept him going through the hard times. “There are no other second options for us. Itʼs just music. Thatʼs what weʼve done, this is where we’ve always wanted to be, and grind is what weʼll continue to do.”

If there weren’t successes along the way, though, we wouldn’t be talking about Pop Evil today.

Those successes include a small-label record deal that produced the band’s first album, Lipstick on the Mirror, in 2008 and a subsequent deal with Universal that produced 2010’s War of Angels.

Of course, a contract with a big label often turns out to be not nearly as much of a dream-come-true as it seems, and Pop Evil quickly clashed with the company’s vision. At a 2011 concert in Columbus, Ohio, Kakaty symbolically ripped up the band’s contract with Universal on stage and announced that they’d be moving on with the smaller eOne Music label. The incident showcased the band’s independent streak and its unwavering focus on its music.

“I think all five of us didnʼt really fit in, in our own ways, growing up,” Kakaty said. “Pop Evil is kind of our way of saying, ‘This is our fraternity, our home.’”

They did well on their own, too. Three more albums, culminating with 2017’s self-titled collection, and tours with the likes of Papa Roach, Finger Eleven, Escape the Fate, 3 Doors Down, and Theory of a Deadman followed.

Ready for the U.S. and Europe

For 2019, Pop Evil is ready to headline a tour that will span most of the United States through the depths of winter, followed by a charge through Europe in late February and early March.

The show at The Clyde on Feb. 8 will have the band taking the stage with a trio of supporting bands and a popular rock n’ roll comedian.

“We think this is going to be one of the most memorable tours to date with Don Jamieson, Them Evils, and Savage After Midnight,” Kakaty said.

Jamieson is a well-known comic who has earned the respect of metal fans as the host of VH1’s That Metal Show and earned an Emmy for his contribution to HBO’s Inside the NFL.

“We are big fans of Don,” Kakaty said. “He will bring a lot of energy to the stage each night.

Jamieson will deliver material from his latest album, Communication Breakdown.

“This album has tons of jokes but really revolves around four or five longer stories, which is something I’ve never really done before,” Jamieson said. “I usually just like shotgunning jokes like beers at a frat party, but this time around I tried something a little different.”

The album is funny, but it is also evidence of Jamieson’s fraternity with the metal crowd.

“I also called in a favor to my friend Dave Mustaine from Megadeth to record an opening riff to play underneath the intro,” Jamieson said. “So the album features both an Emmy Award winner and a Grammy Award winner.”

Jamieson’s appearance is not the only unconventional part of Pop Evil’s show.

“Another great part of this tour is the opportunity for local bands to win our contest to be the opening band each night,” says Kakaty.

To participate, bands were invited to submit cover versions of the Pop Evil single, “Be Legendary.” The Clyde show will be opened by the Detroit-area outfit We’re a Band?, who won their slot with a funked-up version of the song.

The tour, the album, and the current band lineup (which includes drummer Hayley Cramer, who joined in 2016) marks something of a new beginning for the band.

“This is a dawn of a new day for Pop Evil,” Kakaty said. “The new lineup feels like a whole new chapter for us. We could not be more proud to lead off this new album cycle… sending a positive message to our fans.”

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