Q & A with A. Jay Popoff
Q: First of all, I am a huge fan. I remember watching your music videos and listening to your songs on repeat. Can you describe the unique style lyrically and stylistically that Lit has?
A.Jay Popoff: We never really fit in with any format. We are four guys that always had the same end result in mind, and we all knew what we thought it would take to get there. We are not only four great friends, but we are four great business partners that have the same vision. We all knew it would take a lot of work, and we all stuck to our mold throughout. It took us 10 years to get our first record deal. Of course, we hoped it would happen sooner, but we were okay with the process happening as it did. There’s a lot that goes along with building a brand. That’s how we always looked as our band—as a brand. From the way we looked, to the way we rolled, to our sound, getting drinks, promoting—there was always a plan. It was always, “Are we going casual?” or “Are we going to dress it up a little bit?” We always tried to make an impression. In a nutshell, we are very calculated. Sure we are a party band, and when you hear our music it sounds like we just drink a lot—but it’s much more thought out than that. We take pride in our brand.
As far as songwriting, my brother and I do most of the songwriting. We always have. There were so many artists that influenced us from so many genres and we took bits and pieces from each. The guitar riff always comes first, then the melodies, followed by the lyrics. Lyrics are a challenge. When I hear a song on the radio, I try to apply it to what’s going on in my life. When I’m writing songs, that’s not always the case. If a friend’s going through a hard time, sometimes I’ll draw from that. When things are going well for me—I become less inspired. My lyrics are definitely more melodramatic.
Q: Was it really hard to be different—especially in a time when “pop” and “pop-punk” were kings?
AP: It was definitely a time when KROQ and a bunch of record labels were into attaching “pop-punk” to a bunch of different bands, and we got lumped into this Blink 182 kind of thing. There weren’t many bands like this when we came out. The funny thing is—we were never a punk band; we’re a rock band with some pop overtones. We were still called “pop-punk” though. When we went on Warped Tour, people kept saying, “This isn’t punk rock unless you say this,” or “You should do this to be more punk.” I was like, “Dude, we aren’t punk. I’m not trying to be anything. I’m just putting my music out there.” That being said, we’re just a rock band that does our thing—we’re not trying to fit a mold.
Q: Obviously your music is a major influence behind your salon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but can you explain why you incorporated styling into your rock star lifestyle?
AP: We’ve always had these transitional periods when we’ve opened businesses, bought a house, or had our kids. Music is very important, but so is family and life outside of music. When you’re on the road, you have to feed your soul but the fire can sometimes fizzle out too. With music timing is everything, but with hair—it’s always there and it’s always something I’ve loved even since I was a kid. My mom was a hairdresser and my dad was in radio, so I had a huge music influence but also a huge hair and fashion influence as well. I even cut my band’s hair when we were on the road. I never really had time to have a parallel career to learn hair until a couple of years ago. I went to hair school and got a license because I knew I was going to open a salon. I wanted to be legitimate, and I wanted my staff to respect me too. I don’t cut hair full-time—I do it when I can. I run the business, I’m still with Lit, and I cut hair when I can. My fiancé helps a lot.
Q: I have to ask—what’s the inspiration behind the name?
AP: Our partners thought of the name, but it came from the Specimens song “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” It just encompasses the edgy side of our culture here. We’re very accepting and open to all walks of life here. Many people on our staff come from different backgrounds and lifestyles. We love that. Some people come in tattooed from their fingertips to their faces, which is awesome! As long as they have a good work ethic, they are on board with what we do, and they get the culture—everyone gets a fair shot.
Q: Describe your typical client.
AP: It’s pretty mixed up. We get a lot of edgy people because we are really known for our vivid colors. Our stylists are really fantastic with that—I’ve never seen people achieve brighter colors. The other 40 percent of our clients are young business people with a natural look too. Let’s face it; we’re close to some colleges so the crowd is pretty mixed.
Q: You have traveled all around the world on tour. Which countries are really ahead of the curve when it comes to style, but more specifically hairstyles?
AP: I think Australia has always been trend-leaders when it comes to hair and fashion. They look to America for a lot of influence, but they always seem to jump on things a little quicker. I’m not sure if they are ahead of the time or if they are just louder about their style. They are always winning fashion awards though.
Q: Would you say Orange County is moving away from the stereotypical long, blonde, beachy waves?
AP: I feel like we are seeing a much more natural look. People are straightening their hair less—people that have wavy or curly hair are just kind of going with it now. Warm tones are part of the look—just a more natural beachy look. I think we are going to start seeing more of the punk rock and edgier looks coming back too though because with the state of the world right now, people are frustrated. With that comes rebellion. People are fed up with structure, the government, and the economy—when you feel like the world doesn’t have your back your look reflects that. That’s just what I anticipate.
Q: Ok, I keep reading about unicorn and galaxy hair everywhere. How realistic are these looks? What is the expectation with these looks?
AP: Today people are getting their hair done so much more than they were a few years ago. It reminds me of the ‘80s. People want styles that are more involved, but in this case I think social media and celebrities are behind these styles. When people go through their newsfeeds daily, they see these styles and those that are more daring will be more likely to try them or put their own spin on them. Our color line is Kevin Murphy and we use Joico for our really bright colors. They are both great lines. Although I haven’t seen the unicorn or the galaxy styles carried out here, these are the best lines to successfully put it off. These products also help the color last longer because the shampoos, styling products, and so on are just such a high quality. When you take care of your hair; it really makes a difference in how long your color lasts. So many people invest so much money in these bright, vivid colors and they spend $5 to $10 on shampoo and conditioner at the store, but the ammonia in those products is killing their hair. People should invest as much in post-care as they do when they invest in their hair color while they are getting styled. It’s worth it.
Q: What are some of the styles you are known for at KKBB?
AP: We have a couple girls that are badasses with men’s hair, and we also have our girl that is awesome with Betty Bangs. She has girls driving from all over the place to get Betty Bangs because she kills it. She also does some of the edgier cuts like the pixie cuts and such. I would say, as a salon, we are really known for our color. We are constantly bringing educators in—we have some sort of education once a week for our staff whether it’s a business class or a technical class like more effective products to use or how to achieve quicker blow dries. We have Kevin Murphy sent educators in all of the time. We want to get the best out of the product.
Q: I saw that KKBB offers a bunch of different packages that are labeled “Level 1,” “Level 2,” “Level 3,” etc. What is the difference between all of these packages?
AP: We keep it at three levels based on experience and their understanding of our culture. Everyone starts at a “Level 1” unless they are coming in with a ton of experience. To me, I think someone that has 10 years of experience and someone that has 2 years of experience are a different price point. If you are looking for a really fashion-forward hair cut and something that’s a little more complex, you might opt for a “Level 3” stylist that has more experience with a more complicated style.
Q: If a bride wants to get ready for her wedding full rock star status and have a live band perform while she and her posse are getting psyched for her big day—is that possible?
AP: Absolutely. We do blow dry parties whenever we can. We close down roughly an hour early and have a private party for 10-15 women. We bring in wine and appetizers, and crank the music up. They get full scalp massages, shampoo, blowouts—the full treatment. We haven’t had live music yet—I think that would be killer though. That’s a great idea.
Q: I read that KKBB believes that art, music, and fashion are not only inspirations for the salon, but that they are also “bound together by a common thread.” How do you put all of these disciplines into practice at your salon, and can you describe why you think these art forms are so closely linked?
AP: I think the reason I get this business so much is because of this analogy, “Building your clientele is the same as building your fan base.” The way we market the salon is the exact same way we market the band. Social media is great, but I have never received the best results from my band or the salon from it. Posting a picture and getting a lot of likes is great, but when you go out, hit the town, and meet people face-to-face—there is something about shaking their hand and telling them your story in person that connects more with them. Getting someone in your chair is like getting someone to your show. If they visit you once and they enjoy themselves, they’ll come back again. It’s just like your fan base when they see you in concert. I’d say we are one hundred percent street marketing. For new guests, we offer a complimentary haircut with a color service, so that’s pretty cool too.
Q: How do you balance your music career along with being a business owner?
AP: I have a calendar and a music manager (laughs). Luckily I have enough help here that if a show comes up I can step away and know that there is a great team in place. That’s one of the things about our culture; from the ownership, to the stylists, to the front desk—everyone works together as a team. If the girls don’t have a guest in their chair, they’re assisting each other. There is always a great energy here. We have a zero tolerance for drama, which is tough when you have a lot of women working together, but if something does come up they address it with each other immediately and move on. We don’t want our guests to feel any bad energy and we don’t want our staff to feel bad energy, so that’s something we are always keeping in check—even when I’m not always able to be around.
Q: Your older brother and band mate, Jeremy, is a business owner too—right across the street in fact. Can you describe your tight relationship?
AP: Jeremy and I are the only two kids in our family so we grew up really close—he’s two years older than me. We started when we were kids, I was six and he was eight. We’d pretend to play guitars and pose for pictures—all of that stuff. The whole, “Fake it ‘til you make it” saying is something we’ve lived by since we were young. We’d always say, “We’re going to be those rock stars!” We’d be jumping off our beds pretending they were speakers in an arena—we visualized it for such a long time. Because we were so close and had the same dreams, we kind of just rode that campaign together. There are a lot of great things about being in a band with your brother and a lot of things that make it difficult to be in business with your sibling, but we’ve had a pretty good go. We still call each other for business advice and write songs together—it’s a really good relationship.
Q: Why Fullerton?
AP: It’s just kind of where we ended up. I went to Savanna High School in Anaheim, so we lived close to Fullerton growing up. Right out of high school I moved to Yorba Linda, but we always came into Fullerton to hang out. We had our watering holes and frequented Rockin’ Taco back in the day. When our music career took off, we literally went from living with our parents to buying our own houses and heading off on tour. I always knew that Fullerton was a great place to raise kids when I was ready to have a family. The school districts are great and we just kind of planted our roots here. The people are great, there’s so much to do—there’s a little bit of everything here.
Q: Any big plans for the future of KKBB?
AP: Just to continue to get the word out and grow our business. We want to become everyone’s favorite salon. We definitely offer something different here. Our atmosphere is very laid-back, but we also have a structure here too. We pamper all of our guests. We are very rock n’ roll, yet we also aren’t out of control either.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Salon
229B E Commonwealth Ave
Fullerton, CA 92832
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