What Makes Him Pop: An interview with Pop Levi

M Beaches Esq.

interview by Rory Raabe

Pop Levi stands out from other artists. His new album Never, Never Love is a fantastic mix of upbeat dance and poppy love songs, along with a few powerfully rocking ballads. His entrancing live performances include hitting high notes, groovy dance-moves, and intense on-stage staring competitions. He is a force to be reckoned with. The Los Angeles Times has said he’s “Like every kind of great pop you’ve ever heard -- and all at once!” I had the pleasure of catching up with Pop Levi before his performance last Friday in LA at The Echo, where he will also be performing again this Friday, August 15th.

Rory Raabe: How would you describe your music?

Pop Levi: It’s pop music. I think it’s definitely pop music because pop music is a way of referencing all manner of genres that become popular. There are so many different genres that are called pop music. I would call The Beatles and Marvin Gaye pop music. I wouldn’t call Sun Ra pop music. I would call Bob Dylan pop music around the times that he was making what I would call pop music. I don’t think Desire is pop music. I think that Bringing It All Back Home is pop music because of what he’s doing with it at the time. But also I’m not really into naming stuff I just hear sound and I like the look of sound and the aesthetic of specific sequences.

RR: Your new album Never, Never Love is very different from your first album, Blue Honey. Did you go about recording Never, Never Love differently?

PL: Never, Never Love was made totally differently from Blue Honey. I must point out there is no sampling on any record that I’ve ever made. Blue Honey was made in a series of single takes because I wanted to give it that fresh, very loose, natural feeling. I wanted to make Never, Never Love the total opposite. We made it in Quincy Jones’s studio where Michael Jackson’s Thriller was made. Missy Elliot and Timberland make their records there. I love those records. Everything we recorded, I insisted that it was all digitally combed so the idea is that the record sounds like Japanese toys falling in and out of love with each other. I wanted to have a kind of soullessness so it’s almost like some kind of anti-soul. If Tamagotchi’s could make music it would sound like that.

RR: What’s the main message of Never, Never Love? What is the inspiration behind it?

PL: There is not one specific message throughout the course of Never, Never Love. A lonesome and sad doo-wop feeling inspires the new album. That kind of yearning for love feeling that you only get in doo-wop. I don’t think any of the songs have any message. They’re not saying anything other than what they are. Like the song “Semi-Babe” is all about having things in half. Everything about the song and the video are about having half of a person.

Rory Raabe

RR: Considering the complexity of the sounds on Never, Never Love, do you have trouble reproducing your music live?

PL: Don’t even make any effort. Unless you record a performance that can be performed again in exactly the same way onstage, then it’s always going to be different. I’m in love with making records so a lot of the time I make records that can’t possibly be played live unless you have an unbelievable amount of money. One day I’d like to make a record that could totally be played live and which would be. I would form a group or do it solo. Something that is just recorded and it’s always exactly the same. But I haven’t done that with Never, Never Love. With this, I wanted to make kind of an R & B record.

RR: What about your other musical project, World Empire Inc.?

PL: For my band World Empire Inc., I’m making a feature film this year that’s coming out next year. All I’ve ever wanted to do is make films and do the soundtracks. Make the kind of films other people don’t make. I’ve made the opening sequence that is on YouTube, it’s called “Welcome Song.” If you type in “World Empire Inc,” it’s the first result that comes up.

RR: What other material are you releasing in the coming year?

PL: There’s hopefully going to be a release of a double album of my personal set recordings during the making of Never, Never Love. Hopefully that will come out next year, it’s called Micro-Sex Tapes. I’m going to release my third album called Records. I haven’t really recorded much but I’m writing the songs. I always have the songs finished first. I like a song to at least be around for a few months, so I’ve changed all the bits I’ve wanted to. It’s how I want it to be.

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4 Comments

  1. Martha Kelshaw
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Love the Pop Levi sound. Looking forward to the films. After reading Rory Raabe’s Pop Levi interview on the KEXP blog I want to hop the next plane to LA LA land to catch his Friday night performance. Many thanks to Rory Raabe for giving this artist the attention he deserves.

  2. Darcie
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    This is an AMAZING interview. Wonderful job Rory!!!

  3. Liz
    Posted August 15, 2008 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    This is a really good interview. So many intriguing responses from the artist. He’s someone I’ll definitely be paying more attention to.

  4. Scott
    Posted August 17, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I am so glad I found this... solid and to the point interview. Thank you for asking the questions I would have wanted to ask!

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