Pop Evil’s third album, 2013’s Onyx, introduced a darker and more serious edge to the band’s pile-driving post-grunge sound, with songs about death, addiction and various life struggles. But when it came time to record a follow-up, the Michigan-based modern hard rockers decided to take things in a different direction.
The result is the new Up, a decidedly more, well, upbeat effort. “The title basically describes the overall feeling that we had when we were writing and recording these songs,” guitarist Nick Fuelling says. “Everything is just looking up. We’re really enjoying what we’re doing for a living and we don’t want to forget that. So it’s definitely a way more positive message than the last record.”
Beyond just changing their outlook this time around, Pop Evil also switched up producers for the new record. Whereas for the past two albums they’ve worked with Johnny K (Disturbed, Staind), this time they opted to go with Adam Kasper, best known for his work with grunge titans like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. “It was like a dream come true to not only work with Adam, but also to do it in Seattle, where he had produced so many great bands,” Fuelling says.
Adds guitarist Dave Grahs with a laugh, “He actually had [Pearl Jam guitarist] Mike McCready’s Marshall head in the studio with us, and I wanted to use it so bad. I don’t think it made it onto the record, but I did play through it.”
While Pop Evil have found much success at rock radio with songs like “Trenches,” “Deal with the Devil” and the new “Footsteps,” the leadoff track from Up, they’ve also received plenty of love from a decidedly different scene—the professional sports world. “I’ll get text messages from people, saying, ‘The Dallas Cowboys just came out to one of your songs,’ or something like that,” Grahs says. “It’s pretty cool. I get so amped when I hear us on something like Monday Night Football.”
As for why their music works so well in that venue? “It’s that ‘one against the world’ mentality that comes through in the songs,” posits Fuelling. “It gets teams motivated.”
But regardless of where their songs turn up—or whether they’re dark or more uplifting—at the end of the day, Grahs says, “We don’t want to be pigeonholed into any one thing. And that’s always been what the name Pop Evil is about. It’s the good and the bad. The yin and the yang.”
Below, check out an exclusive new playthrough/lesson video for "In Disarray," from Up, featuring Fuelling and Grahs.