Akron’s Big Pop brings its explosive rock sound to Cleveland’s Brite Winter
Cleveland’s Brite Winter music and art festival returns to the West Bank of the Flats on Saturday, featuring nearly two dozen local and national acts.
Among them is Akron’s Big Pop, a five-piece, pop-rock band formed in 2021.
Longtime Akron musicians Jeri Sapronetti and Corey Jenkins both saw their successful bands fizzle out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sapronetti’s psych-rock group Time Cat was touring nationally and had the chance to open for Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders in Akron in 2016.
When Time Cat and Jenkins’ group Fancy Legs disbanded, Sapronetti reached out to Jenkins, whom she’s known since 2009, about collaborating on new music.
“Obviously it's like neither of us are playing shows, and Corey's writing a lot of material just with himself solo, and he'd send it to me. So then as soon as Time Cat broke up, I picked up the phone,” Sapronetti said. “I was like, ‘All right, Corey, let's do it.’”
Starting a new band during a global pandemic
Sapronetti already had a Time Cat gig booked at Akron’s Lock 3 park that summer.
“I was like, ‘We got like four months to pull a whole set and band together.’ So we just did it,” she said.
She and Jenkins brought in additional local artists to fill out the supergroup, which they named Big Pop.
“I had my eyes on some particular people, including Robbie Keith from the Electric Company. His music studio is right around the corner from my house, so it's like walking my dog, I'd see him. So it's like, naturally that happened,” Sapronetti said. “And then I've always wanted to play with Holbrook Riles, and he said yes.”
After the Lock 3 show, they continued playing gigs around Akron and Cleveland.
“We’ve both been chasing this our entire lives, so it made sense for us to both just jump in with both feet."Corey Jenkins
Now Big Pop is finding its sound and solidifying itself as more than a supergroup, but an actual band with a fresh lineup and new material.
“We’ve both been chasing this our entire lives, so it made sense for us to both just jump in with both feet,” Jenkins said.
Big Pop’s current lineup includes Samantha Grace on vocals and synth, Shaun Berringer on bass and Mike Karl on drums.
“Now it feels like Big Pop. It's not like we're just kind of playing these random shows as disjointed people from other bands,” Sapronetti said.
Creating an episodic music video series
Big Pop has recorded and released several of its original songs, which have a distinctly ‘80s sound with prevalent synth and Sapronetti’s epic rock vocals.
Each of these tracks has been paired with an accompanying music video, which the band has been putting out over the last few months.
The episodic videos are complete with scripted dialogue, characters, costumes and larger-than-life visuals. There will be seven videos in total.
To date, there are five episodes available on YouTube, with the most recent video for Big Pop’s song “Coming Down” heavily inspired by the television series “Twin Peaks.”
“In my day job I do a lot of marketing stuff, and I thought, well, maybe if there's a story with a hook there, people will be inclined to want to see them all and they'll look forward to there being a new episode,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said the videos begin as “broad strokes,” then Sapronetti and director David Burdge bounce ideas off each other to flesh out the concept.
Each video is shot in and around Akron, highlighting the city’s distinct landmarks and local businesses.
“I wanted to show off a lot about these different places that I love in the city,” Sapronetti said. “Going to Baxter’s Speakeasy or Flury’s [Café] and places like that. So I want to show off my friends’ businesses and places that I like to go.”
Sapronetti received a grant from Akron Soul Train’s artists-in-residence program to screen all seven of the videos at Akron's independent cinema the Nightlight.
“We're going to play in the pit to it, and I'm planning on filming like, like a final video that's being filmed that day while it's happening. So, it's just like another level of meta,” she said.
Recording a full-length album
Big Pop is recording its debut, full-length album, which is set to be released this year.
"I feel like now, since we've actually been a band, we're not just like making these songs apart from each other. They're starting to take this kind of interesting turn."Jeri Sapronetti
“These five songs that we've put out so far, these are the ones that we made in our basements during COVID,” Sapronetti said. “I feel like now, since we've actually been a band, we're not just like making these songs apart from each other. They're starting to take this kind of interesting turn.”
Big Pop has been recording new songs at the Rialto Recording Studio in Kenmore.
Jenkins said a new sound is organically emerging from the band as members bring their individual styles to the new music.
“There’s an excitement that comes with the ones that are the newest that we've written most recently,” Jenkins said. “But there's also an equal excitement to something you've been playing for a year or two years.”
Sapronetti said Big Pop will continue releasing singles throughout 2023.
“We're just going to have songs on songs,” she said. “I'm like, ‘How many albums can we make? Like, how fast can we do it?’”
Big Pop will make its Brite Winter debut Saturday, Feb. 25. It marks the first time the band has played a large-scale festival for Cleveland audiences.
“We played like the Grog Shop and the Happy Dog, and they were both dope shows, dope bands,” Sapronetti said. “ But Brite Winter, I was like, ‘Whoa, dude, I've never played it before.’”
Big Pop will perform at 7:20 p.m. on the Riverview stage at the West Bank of the Flats.
“What a cool Northeast Ohio thing to do… having this festival in Cleveland outside in February,” Jenkins said. “Like it's such a cool thing, and it's exciting to get to be a part of it.”