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Rockin' the Rivers: Pop Evil to play at 'The Bridge' on August 11

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 in which only the most dedicated fans will listen to 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 responded in a mid-March interview. "I'm under contract, so you got to make an album."

That said, Kakaty said, he understands the conundrum surrounding making albums today, as opposed to 2008, when Pop Evil released its debut, "Lipstick on the Mirror."

"The old-school side of me is like, I just want to make albums. It's your legacy, right?,' the singer said. "You get the albums out for your kids one day and you can look back and feel like you did something. But there's that other new side of that's like 'I don't want to albums anymore, I just want to do singles, put a little more money in these music videos."

That push and pull even extends to the recording process. Making a full album can be daunting, especially compared to recording two or three songs aimed at becoming singles, Kakaty said. But no matter how exhausting, recording a full album is more fun than cutting singles, and if the end product reaches expectations, more fulfilling.

That was the case with "Skeletons."

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

"I know for me personally, in the band we're in an interesting place and it was, compared to the other albums previous, definitely something that we just felt different," Kakaty said. "There's an energy with our band since the pandemic that's been special. And we're definitely excited to finally get the songs (out) and have an opportunity to play these live."

In fact, the songs on "Skeletons" were intentionally recorded to sound as much as possible like Pop Evil does live, so they can seamlessly fit into the live set that Kakaty was itching to play when the tour began in March.

That desire to play shows, which Kakaty has done for two decades, was heightened by the pandemic, which like all other bands, took Pop Evil off the road for months.

"The pandemic was the first time in my life since I was like 12 years old that I wasn't able to at least be in a club or bar and play music," he said. "Not only were we unable to tour, we couldn't even go back home and play music for anyone, unless you played in your house. We'd have those video calls, those Instagram live sessions where we'd play. But it wasn't the same.

"it was definitely taken away from a lot of us. Some of us left the business," Kakaty elaborated. "Others were like "Wow, this is definitely what I want to do and when we come back, I'm gonna come back even hungrier than ever.' For us, the band members, I know I speak for them as well, we all have that bond now and in ways we're closer with each other. We all understand we're all starier in this game of musical basketball, the starting five."

That hoop analogy is natural for Kakaty, who was a multi-sport athlete who played football for current Louisiana State University coach Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State, before going into music.

"My first love was to play for the Lakers, but I think I'm like a generous 5-9, so I realized that wasn't going to happen," he said. "I do relate sports to the writing process, just the motivation and to try to help others. It's the team effort. It's very similar. I think that this business, even with the fans and the bands and the way the community stands by each other, it's very much like sports."

That sports analogy carries over onto "Skeletons" and the planned two-year tour that Kakaty equates to a very long basketball season.

"The energy you're hearing on this album, I think we've got a little chip on the shoulder," he said. "Like 'Hey, we're going to remind the fan base that we're not playing 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 about their shows, either live or online.

"Every year because of these meet and greets that have become a part of the touring scene, you're able to listen to what your fans like, what they don't like," Kakaty said. "The streaming world has made it a little bit easier to see what our fans are gravitating to. You're able to study that so we're able to give them a little bit more of what they want."

"At the same time, we're not afraid to kind of experiment and we do make music for ourselves as well," he said. "But, at the end of the day, all the music we're writing is to make this live show, this live experience with Pop Evil, even that much more enjoyable for our fans."

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

"We just want people to understand that we're here and it's our responsibility to be one of those bands that can stick around because so many bands that came in around our era aren't there anymore, so it's important, man," he said. "I think for up-and-coming bands to come, they need other bands that they can tour with. And it's a community that we really need to stick together and fight through tough times. So we can get to celebrate on the other side at some point."

 
 
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