Pop Goes the Evil isn’t afraid of the taboo. Murder, isolation, sex, jealousy, profanity, self-examination — you name it, they touch on it. Nominated for two Cincinnati Entertainment Awards in the categories of Rock and New Artist of the Year, Pop Goes the Evil is composed of lead singer and guitarist Lucas Frazier, bassist Evan Roberts and drummer Jacob Grove.
“The idea of the band formed maybe two summers ago when I was still in The Dukes (former CEA nominees The Dukes are Dead),” Frazier says at Over-the-Rhine club MOTR Pub. “I remember, I was in my apartment, I had drank about a pot of coffee and I wrote four songs in a row. And I knew they weren’t Dukes songs.”
Frazier can be a bit hard to read in person. He’s a compact man with piercing eyes, a plethora of tattoos and a definitive persona, which he employs to great lengths when he’s performing. Pop Goes the Evil is a straightforward Rock group, but its multifaceted musicality is evident, especially during live shows, in a soundscape evoking Elvis Presley (cue Frazier’s intense gaze and hip-swiveling), Rockabilly, overt hints of Pop and elements of Glam Rock.
He describes those first songs as being “poppier” and “dancier” and better befitting a potential side project. The Dukes are Dead disbanded in fall of 2012 and Frazier quickly moved in his new direction.
“Once the idea of the band formed, (it was like) you know, ‘pop,’” Frazier says with emphasis, “‘goes the evil.’ What I wanted to do was make some sort of pleasantly, pleasurably sadistic songs that aren’t too out there. I just kind of wanted to delve into the taboo a little bit, write some lyrics that would make people be like, ‘Eww,’ but, ‘Ooh, I still kind of like it,’ because the music behind it is fun.”
Guilty, infectious fun. Songs like “I Got Crazy,” about a murder by way of lovers’ lane, and “Love and Gold,” full of euphemisms for, ahem, bodily excretions, can cause a double-take at the risqué lyrics, but Frazier’s cavernous voice and Freddie Mercury-esque vibrato, the fast-paced guitar lines, raucous drumming and upbeat, definitive bass lines wrap them in such a jaunty, quirky, tongue-in-cheek package, you can’t help but dance along — grinning.
To flesh out this vision, Frazier recruited Evan Roberts, also currently the keyboardist with progressive Doom Metal band Grey Host (nominated for a CEA in the Best Metal Band category this year), as bassist and drummer Jacob Grove, formerly of Yankee Go Home, through a mutual friend. Roberts is the quietest one of the bunch, but when he does speak, he lets drop that prior to joining Pop Goes the Evil, he had actually never played bass with a band before. (He’s proven himself up to the challenge.)
“We spent months preparing for our first show and our debut — we wanted to do it right, you know?” Frazier says. “I saw this band as an opportunity to present ourselves as a thought-out and professional group before we presented ourselves to the public.”
Hints of days to come began during the Last Band Standing competition, hosted by Downtown lounge-bar FB’s, during the summer of 2013. Pop Goes the Evil was a last-minute addition to an empty slot; they found out they were playing the day of the first round, performed that evening and subsequently won. And then they won the next round — and the next and the next — until they were one of two bands left, going up against fellow local rockers Lemon Sky. Pop Goes the Evil won again.
“That whole competition, that whole experience, was really, really, really fantastic,” Frazier says earnestly. “Just the love and support that we felt, there was a real sense of camaraderie. That whole thing and whole time for us was probably the best time of our career (in 2013).”
This year, too, holds big things for Pop Goes the Evil. After performing at the CEA Best New Bands showcase at Bogart’s this Saturday and the CEA ceremony itself at Madison Theater on Jan. 26, they will be going immediately into the studio to work on their second album, to be released in late spring. After the release, Pop Goes the Evil is hitting the road, touring as much as possible over the summer.
Of their double CEA nominations, the band is taking it in stride.
Says Frazier, “It would mean a lot to us if we did win. It would mean, ‘Shit man, I guess we did a really good job, we’re gonna have to do even better this year.’ But if we lose, it’s kind of the same thing. ‘Well, I guess we didn’t do good enough. We’re going to have to do better this year.’”
There’s nothing taboo in saying it’s a sure bet they will keep growing either way.
POP GOES THE EVIL performs at the Best New Bands showcase at Bogart's Saturday, Jan. 18. Click here for show info and here for more on Pop Goes the Evil .