By Paige Montgomery
Few bands work harder than Pop Evil. It may stem from the band’s blue collar Michigan roots, or it may be the nature of rock music in today’s music industry—but despite the hardships of being an emerging band in rock ’n’ roll, Pop Evil has found a way to make 2014 the biggest year in the band’s career.
The band’s 2013 studio release, Onyx, earned the Grand Rapids rockers their highest charting album to date, debuting at No. 39 on the Billboard Charts and multiple tracks cracking the Top 10 on Active Rock. This summer Pop Evil has secured their place at the top of their genre as a main stage artist on Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival—one of the hottest tickets on the planet for rock enthusiasts.
So what does the band attribute to its recent success? Hard work.
The lead single off of Onyx wasn’t called “Trenches” for nothing. And providing the beat for Pop Evil’s trek through those trenches is one of music’s most driven artists—Joshua “Chachi” Marunde. The Michigan-born drummer has earned the respect of his peers and fans for not only being one of the most entertaining drummers in the game, but one of the most professional in the business.
Chachi’s passion for music and zest for life, love of fitness, and pure motivation translate into an almost superhuman performance level that has helped Pop Evil become one of the best live bands in music. We caught up with Chachi to talk about how he landed his gig with the band he used to hate, his passion project Dreambeat, and his unique ink.
Paige Montgomery: Pop Evil has been on so many diverse tours the past several years. Are there ever any doubts, stress or fears in the back of your mind when you jump on a new tour, especially when it’s a bit out of genre? Or are you comfortable enough in your skin to play alongside anyone?
Chachi: I think we tend to believe in ourselves, who we are, and what we are going to do. We definitely adjust our set list accordingly but at the same time, playing what we feel are the best songs for us. I’m not going to cut my hair off because we’re on tour with a Top 40 band. We’re going to do what we do and be who we are and at the end of the day be responsible, professional, and put on a great show. If people like us, that’s awesome. If they don’t—well, we’re not for everybody.
I want to know about you. What was your journey to get to Pop Evil?
Well, it’s not a very long story. I’ve only been drumming for seven years. I was in about a thousand extracurriculars growing up, including band—I played saxophone. My senior year of high school, two of my best friends started jamming together, and at the time, I was singing. We started doing covers and every once in a while me and the drummer would switch. He owned a drum set and I always wanted to make noise on it. We did that for our senior year and then two of us went to college so we broke up…I don’t know if you could really call it breaking up because we weren’t really a band [laughs].
We were about half way through our first semester or so and I thought, you know what? We should just start a band together here. It was a way for us to make some cash on the weekends and probably drink for free at the bars. That band ended up accelerating and getting pretty serious. We had really good local and regional action, started to get onto pretty good shows, and we ended up doing more than a handful of local shows with Pop Evil—we even opened for them on a regional tour. I did my best to network with those guys because they were the biggest band in Grand Rapids.
I worked hard to accelerate us to get to where they were, which put us on stage with them a lot and me in front of the band a lot. I ended up forming a really good relationship with Iteen, Pop Evil’s Tour Manager, and Dave, our guitar player. When they were off tour, we would all hang out together. So when the band was in need of a drummer, Dave immediately went to bat for me. The label and the manager at the time really weren’t into it…at all. They wanted to bring in a hired gun from LA. They were like, “Who’s this kid? He’s just some young kid from nowhere.” So the band ended up taking a chance on me.
So you guys just kept it “Pure Michigan”…
We kept it Pure Michigan [laughs]. And hey, me and Nick (guitarist) were roommates in college in Michigan.
Is it true you didn’t like Pop Evil before you joined the band?
Of course [laughs]. I was jealous. I remember the first time I heard “Somebody Like You”—I really liked that song. I didn’t want to like them at all. I wasn’t into the radio rock thing. I do remember though, specifically going to watch them—whether it was out of curiosity or spite— and when I got to the show I was really impressed with their stage presence. I remember thinking that they were really good live—that was definitely when they earned my respect.
Now that you’ve secured your place with Pop Evil, have you had that “ah-ha” moment yet on stage where you feel like you’ve “made it”?
I don’t feel like I’ve made it at all—or that the band has. We’ve accomplished things that we’re very proud of but in the grand scheme of things, there’s so much more to accomplish. I’m very happy but very unsatisfied with where we are and where the band is in terms of success.
I’d say, if I had to think of one moment, it would be at this last Rock on the Range (Columbus, Ohio). That was pretty insane. I’ve played ROTR before but it wasn’t the same—I didn’t get the same feeling. When we first played it we were pretty green, or at least I was. I felt like people pushed us around, nobody really cared—it felt like an icebreaker. The way we’ve been treated at festivals this year, both on and off stage, has been completely different. And even more than it feels good to be liked or for people to like our music, I appreciate professionalism.
I feel like we’re finally earning people’s respect.
In a lot of ways we probably didn’t deserve it before. We had a reputation as kind of having a good time all the time, which is fine, but you can only get so far that way. I think that since the release of Onyx (2013), the band has really made a big step in the level of maturity and professionalism, and making an obvious statement to ourselves that this is a career.
Speaking of careers and new steps, tell me about Dreambeat.
Dreambeat is a brand that I have recently released. It’s a lifestyle brand. There are so many kids out there, and adults, who give up on their dreams or don’t dream—they just don’t believe in themselves at all. I come from a town of 1800 people, neither of my parents went to college, we were a very poor family, very blue collar… I’m just such a believer that if people work hard, it will happen. Good things happen to good people that work hard. So, it’s more of a message than anything else.
Right now, Pop Evil takes up the majority of my time but as soon as I have less on my plate, I’ll be able to start working on it more, pushing it out there more, hopefully getting involved in events, and who knows what else—the options are limitless.
I know you are a huge health and fitness buff—especially CrossFit. Are you actually certified to train?
I have not gotten my L1 yet for CrossFit certification, so I’m not certified. The only bad thing about CrossFit is that it’s not that hard to get and a lot of people that do have it probably shouldn’t.
So why CrossFit?
I don’t really know why. I’ve never really been into labeling a workout. Like, I’ve never said that I do P90X or anything. It sounds so limiting. It’s like saying I’m a “rock drummer” when really a drummer can play anything you want. With CrossFit, its just constantly varying functional movements—there’s something new every single day. Whether its gymnastics or yoga, strength training, power lifting, it has running, it has rowing—you do everything you’ve ever done and more. It’s such a community and a family. It’s so supportive and team-driven—it’s really for everyone that wants to do it. We’re all going through the same hell together and there’s just such a camaraderie. And its not just national, its global.
It’s really just one of those things that you can’t just do once and stop.
So let’s talk about your tattoos. I know you have one arm dedicated to cartoons and one with a water theme…
Yeah. My right arm is the beginning of all my favorite cartoons and video games. Its almost half done, I still have a few left to do. On my left side, I do have a flower and a couple small things that are dedicated to my Jessica, but the rest of it is entirely a nautical theme. The water has just always been my favorite place. And it doesn’t have to be the beach—I just love being in the water.
I have a couple of family tattoos on my legs. My dad and my brother and I all have matching tattoos that we got for Father’s Day one year. I have a heart with “Mommy” on my right leg. It’s actually one of my favorite tattoos I got done in Colorado. I have a gramophone on my left rib cage. It was a three-and-a-half hour sit and I had to go straight from there to the bus to get ready for the show. It was miserable. I was exhausted trying to play that night. Words to the wise—I would not do that again.
Any plans to add more in the immediate future?
Yeah. When I get home to Kalamazoo, I’ll go see my artist there who does all of my cartoons—I’d love to get more of that done. I have Bubble Bobble currently uncolored on my arm, which drives me crazy. I want to add the Kool-Aid Man, Bam Bam, and Dizzy Devil. I have a few in the works but a lot of them have been pretty unplanned. We get somewhere where there happens to be a shop next door…it becomes really spur of the moment.
Who is your artist in Michigan?
His name is Earl Cronkright and he owns a shop called Body Armor Tattoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s a killer shop—all the artists are great.
Catch Pop Evil on the 2014 Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival. Tickets and dates are available at RockstarUproar.com.