Written by Molly Boekenheide
The third time’s the charm.
Such is the case for Pop Evil, the Michigan-grown band whose third album, Onyx, debuted in the Top 40 on the Billboard Charts just last year. Since the album’s release in May 2013, the guys of Pop Evil: Leigh Kakaty, Chachi Riot, Dave Grahs, Matt DiRito, and Nick Fuelling, have been touring virtually non-stop, and thrilling legions of fans along the way.
As luck would have it, we were able to catch one of Pop Evil’s shows at Montana’s Rockin’ The Rivers Festival this past Friday. While there, we also had the opportunity to speak with bassist Matt DiRito about their touring, vices, and working with Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC…
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me! So, tell me how it’s going, and what you guys been up to lately?
Matt DiRito: Right now we’re gearing up for Uproar, which is our big tour for the summer. That starts…the middle of this month, so we’ve got a bunch of headline shows lined up until that. That takes us until September, and October we’re going to start writing a new record.
Your last album, Onyx, came out a little over a year ago to stellar reviews, and debuted at #39 on the Billboard Charts. Was the recording process for Onyx any different from your last two albums?
Matt DiRito: Yeah, absolutely. When we went in to record this album, it was the first time we were really able to sit down as a band and do it all from start to finish. The album before that, we had different people recording it and had band members drop off in the middle of it…it was just kind of a mess. We worked with the same producer with this album, but I think it helped us because we were more prepared when we went in the studio – we had all of our songs written and arranged, so it was more about just putting our nose to the grindstone and work, work, working.
A lot of your tracks deal with substance abuse and dependency. Does this come from personal experience, or are you trying to connect with fans that deal with these issues?
Matt DiRito: We like to leave our songs kind of open-ended, so that people can interpret them however they want. Like, for instance, our song, “Deal With The Devil” is about dealing with those influences – whatever they are. It could be drugs, for us on the road it could be women, I mean, it could be junk food, you know? Like, everywhere I turn, I can’t have something; every gas station I go to, I have to look at the candy bars, you know?
But seriously, a few of us have struggled with stuff like that – I, for one, have been sober for just over nine months now, so I can relate to that whole thing. But yeah, we try to leave it open-ended enough where people can apply it to their own lives.
“Trenches” is one of my favorite tracks on Onyx. The music video touched on the subject of domestic violence – what made you guys decide to go in that particular direction? The track also seems to be wide open for interpretation…
Matt DiRito: Yeah, it really can be. I mean, you can ask the band, we all sort of view that song as like, coming out of the trenches and fighting for yourself. There are a lot of different interpretations for it. When we looked at doing the music video for that, we looked at doing three different tracks to sort of weave them together in some sort of story. The three songs that we picked, which were “Behind Closed Doors,” “Deal With The Devil,” and “Trenches,” all dealt with different types of issues that people struggle with overcoming.
You released a remix of “Trenches” with Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC. How did that collaboration come about?
Matt DiRito: You know, it’s funny, we were playing a show in Kansas City, and he happened to be there. He was side-stage and watched us the whole show, and the last song we played was “Trenches.” We walked off the stage, and immediately, he was like, “Yo, I love that song! I already have my verse written!” And right there on the spot, without even pausing, he just spit a verse at us. We were like, “…we’ve got to get this on tape!” And it really just kind of took off from there, it’s as simple as that. I mean, you have a Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame-r write a part on the spot, and you go for it!
Is there anybody else that you are hoping to work with?
Matt DiRito: Well on our previous album we got to work with Mick Mars from Motley Crue, so that was pretty awesome. I would love to write with Trent Resnor or Nikki Sixx…there’s a ton of them out there, you know?
What advice would you give to struggling bands that are trying to make it?
Matt DiRito: Songwriting. It’s all about songwriting. That’s really the biggest difference between our last two albums and the album that we just put out. I’m not saying that the first two were bad or horrible or anything like that, but there’s definitely a difference in the degree of songwriting between those two and this one – and it shows, you know? That’s how we ended up getting out first, and our second, and our third #1 single, and it really helped push our careers forward. It’s just all about the songwriting. If you write a good song, nobody can deny it. If you write a horrible song, people will forget. I see a lot of people that try and focus on their stage shows and their appearance and stuff like that, but really, all of it comes second to songwriting.
Do you guys have a set songwriting process?
Matt DiRito: It’s different every single song, it really is. It’s just about who comes up with what first – some songs will evolve just around an idea or a concept and we just write the song from there.
What’s your favorite Pop Evil song?
Matt DiRito: I like playing “Sick Sense” live. It’s kind of a fun song – it’s not one that’s a single or anything like that, but it’s fun to play live. I also really like the song “Silence and Scars,” because it’s got kind of a weird, timeless feel to it…it’s just kind of different.
Do you prefer big festivals or smaller, more intimate shows?
Matt DiRito: I like them both! I mean, that’s kind of like asking “blondes or brunettes,” you know? I’ll take what I can get! [laughs] But the festivals are fun, just because you know why the people are there. Like, the people here today are here to party. It’s not just like a weekend thing, where you have some drinks and listen to some music. It’s like…they’re ready to go. But it’s really all about the vibe. Like, just last night, we played this smaller club that was just packed, and you could not beat the vibe in that place…it was awesome. It was crazy, there were people hanging from the walls and the ceiling, it was great.
Matt DiRito: Is there anything that you would like to say to your fans?
We love you…we love you LONG time!