Under The Influence – with Pop Evil

Michigan quintet Pop Evil recently served up their fourth full-length album ‘Up’ – and guitarist Davey Grahs admitted how satisfying it is to hear how their music affects people.

“We do hear some of the most moving things about how the music has moved and touched certain people in their lives,” says Grahs. “I hear stories from people like we’ve saved their lives. They’ve contemplated suicide and say, ‘Hey man, you talked me out of that.’ To be part of that is huge.”

It got us thinking – which bands changed their lives and informed their sound? Here’s what they revealed…

STONE TEMPLE PILOTS – Plush (Core, 1992)
Leigh Kakaty (vocals): “When I first saw the acoustic version of this song on MTV’s HeadBangers Ball, my heart stopped. My eyes were glued to the TV and I knew right then and there what I wanted to do. I instantly had to learn how to play it on the guitar, just so I could sing it exactly like Scott Weiland. His voice put me in a such a state of calm that the chaos of my life seemed to slow down.”

LED ZEPPELIN – Stairway to Heaven (The Song Remains the Same, 1971)
Leigh: “I always had the creepiest feeling come over me every time I heard this song, but there was something very hypnotic about it that would draw me in. Maybe it was the beautiful acoustic guitar arpeggio or Robert Plant’s haunting vocals, but nevertheless, I always felt at peace after every listen. As I got older, I began to understand just how powerful this song really was. Growing up, I would always listen to this song before any sporting event I played. It would help me meditate and get focused on beating my opponents. This song basically meant victory!”

ALICE IN CHAINS – No Excuses (MTV Unplugged, 1996)
Nick Fuelling (guitar):
“When I started getting into rock music, I would listen to Alice In Chains. Jerry Cantrell’s playing played a big part when I was developing my technique: transitioning from playing open to full-on palm muting. Picking one song from their killer catalogue was tough, but I had to settle on No Excuses. The song opens with a drum hook right from the get go. Not just a drum beat, but a memorable drum pattern that sets a tone for the rest of the song. The chorus is one of my all-time favourites; the melody is so addictive, you can’t help but sing along. The lead guitar part comes in and fills the holes and plays almost as important a role as the vocal lines. Cantrell’s solo isn’t too flashy and cements the feel of the song. It’s just a well-written song that emphasises the strengths of each band member.”

METALLICA – Fade To Black (Ride The Lightning, 1984)
Nick: “Metallica is another band that I listened to non-stop when I was first learning to play the guitar. Ride The Lightning was one of my favourite albums by them and this song in particular struck a chord with me as a guitar player – no pun intended. From the opening acoustic arpeggio, then bringing in the lead guitar over top, I just loved the way James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett worked together. The complete gear shift when the bridge comes in is one of my favourite Metallica moments. And the harmonised guitar, complete with palm-muted gallops leading into the solo is absolutely awesome. Again, the solo is not too flashy, but fits the song and feel perfectly. Fade To Black takes you on a journey, which is exactly what I want from a song.”

PEARL JAM – Alive (Ten, 1991)
Davey Grahs (guitar):
Alive is one of those songs that I’d listen to constantly right before bed. Listening to the way that Stone Gossard and Mike McCreedy’s guitar lines worked together made me want to make music like that. The great part about it is that you couldn’t play one guitar line by itself and have it genuinely sound like the song. You needed that contrast of both of the guitar parts to make it sound whole. It made me feel like being in a band was like being a part of a team, and less of a one-man show.“

BLIND MELON – Change (Blind Melon, 1992)
Davey: “[The late] Shannon [Hoon, vocals] had an ability to sit down and just write exactly what he was feeling. It’s honest and a reminder to keep things simple. It’s not always what you say, but how you say it, and if you are honest, the song will sing itself. As a songwriter, that’s something I’ve always admired and tried to aspire to.”

JIM CROCE – I Got A Name (I Got A Name, 1973)
Matt DiRito (bass): “This song takes me back to a time where I felt songwriting was really a work of art. It has a message that I’ve identified with from a very early age and it continues to solidify over time. As a touring musician and living the lifestyle that I’ve chosen, this song has inspired me to continue on my path. To me, it’s about finding a strong sense of identity and staying true to that. Your name is the one thing that you carry with you for your entire life, and you’re the one who decides what you do with it. You gotta get out there and live your life, do what you want to do and say what you need to say.”

GUNS N’ ROSES – Paradise City (Appetite for Destruction, 1987)
Matt: “When I was five years old, I saved up to buy a tape player for my room. I had two cassette tapes and one of them was this single. I literally used to play this tape over and over in my room and run around playing air guitar. It was this very early period in my life that I discovered the fun in music. This song moved me to the point where I would daydream about being on stage and performing in front of thousands of people. I wanted to be a rebel. I remember that song planted the seed in my imagination way back then – and it’s blossomed into the way I perform today.”

LED ZEPPELIN – The Ocean (The Song Remains the Same, 1973)
Chachi Riot (drums): “By the time I heard Zeppelin, I’d long been exposed to rock, rap, metal, pop and country music. My parents were both very diverse in their musical tastes and this allowed me to hear it all. But nothing moved me the way the groove of The Ocean did, and it still does to this day. The prominent and hooky riff, calling and answering Bonham’s drum lick that always seems to be so simple yet, unique and unexpected. The band had an ability to play challenging yet catchy music that was so groovy, awkward and unpredictable. Led Zeppelin, without a doubt, changed music and my love for the art. This song specifically was a massive influence on how cool a rock song could be. And that bridge… wow! A true fusion of songwriting: blues, rock and jazz.”

INCUBUS – Stellar (Make Yourself, 1999)
Chachi: “[Frontman] Brandon Boyd paints such a picture with his lyrics and take the listener to another place. Each member of this band is so incredibly talented at their craft. José Pasillas’ drums are tasty and funky but, never too much. On this recording, he settles perfectly amidst [guitarist] Mike Einziger and [then bassist] Dirk Lance. The band has gone through so many stylistic evolutions and taken so many risks, Stellar to me is one of their best. It’s hard to pick a favourite but, with the descriptive, novel-like verses and brilliant chorus hook, this has to be one of them. The guitar and bass open the song in such an atmospheric and spacey vibe that the environment is already set before Boyd insists that you “meet him in outer space”. You’re already there! It’s just an amazing track that sounds like nothing else and a great example of a well-written song, being performed by tasteful, incredibly talented musicians.”

Pop Evil’s new album Up is out now through eOne Music and are currently on tour in the US. You can read our TeamRock+ review below…

Pop Evil: Up