They may have lost one of their founder members but P.O.D. have come bouncing back stronger than ever. Tony Cummings reports on the continuing hard rock phenomenon that is Payable On Death.
When the founding member of P.O.D., Marcos Curiel, parted ways from the band in February this year, many close to the group were sceptical whether P.O.D. would continue. Suddenly the announcement that Christendom's most famous rock band had been asked to contribute the lead song for The Matrix Reloaded movie soundtrack seemed to be a cruel joke. What should have been a publicist's dream offer suddenly looked like a task impossible to fulfil. With Marcos' mercurial guitar licks giving the band much of their unique hardcore sound suddenly some figures in the industry were predicting the group couldn't survive. Now, however, P.O.D. have proudly proven their detractors wrong. "Sleeping Awake" from 'The Matrix Reloaded' is shaping up to be the band's biggest ever hit while bringing into the band guitarist Jason Truby (one time member of veteran Christian heavy rockers Living Sacrifice) has proven to be an inspired decision. Frontman Sonny Sandoval admitted, "People in the industry were going, 'Aww, P.O.D.'s done with.' We had to prove ourselves all over again."
Not only did the wheels click back into motion, they started spinning at warp speed. As this is being written, the band is in the recording studio with producer Howard Benson, who worked on P.O.D.'s multi-platinum album, 'Satellite', and their 1999 breakthrough CD, 'The Fundamental Elements Of Southtown'. The band have started laying down drum tracks for 17 new songs for an album that's scheduled to be released in the USA on 4th November.
"We went into the studio with more songs this time than we've ever gone in with," bassist Traa said. "We normally go in with like seven songs and write in the studio. There are some bands that go on tour, and they write their songs in the back of the bus. For us, that's too old. People write songs a year ago and try to put them on an album. That doesn't work for us." While the band's final months with Curiel were fraught, now P.O.D. are excited and hungry. "We're so energised, dude," drummer Wuv said. "We feel reborn and we can't wait to play new notes for people to hear."
Many artists who join established acts have to contend with egos and chemistry issues. But thanks to Jason Truby's strong Christian faith, he has had no problems vibing with his new bandmates. And he brings a new palate of colours to the P.O.D. portrait. "The bottom line is, I don't play like Marcos. I play like I play, and these guys have been cool with that," Truby said. "I've got a whole lot of interesting influences [to add to the picture] like the Police or U2, and then when you fuse that with things out of jazz or classical music, you got a little flavor. These guys are top-of-the-line professionals at what they do, so that's made it really easy to fuse with them."
Many of the new P.O.D. songs are informed by the differences between Truby's eclectic style and that of Curiel, who added a Latin flair to his nu-metal jams. The changes have given the band the opportunity to grow musically. "Our new music is different than anything we've ever done and we've tried to portray that all the way through the album," said Traa. "We definitely don't want to recreate the old. There are still some of the old influences whether it's Bad Brains or U2, but there's also even more of a reggae vibe."
As with "Sleeping Awake", which casts aside Sandoval's hip-hop delivery in favour of a more melodic approach, the new songs are vocally straightforward. There's some screaming and a little rapping, but mostly Sandoval tests his vocal abilities like never before. "When we first started and I jumped in this band, I was like, 'I'm not a singer, '" he said. "I didn't go to school to sing. I just played to have fun. But these guys teach me and they show me stuff and give me courage to try new stuff. The new songs are still heavy, but we call it 'beauty heavy. ' The notes are beautiful and there's a lot of melody going on, but at the same time, the P.O.D. intensity is always going to be there." P.O.D. have thrown around a few ideas for album titles, but have yet to agree on one, and they're not ready to announce the names of any
tracks. Sandoval did, however, reveal that the songs will be heartfelt and will confront some of the band's recent frustrations with the departure of Curiel. "Right now it's a life-changing situation that we're going through, so there are a lot of emotions involved," he said. "But still, man, a lot of these songs are coming out fun. We're not a downer band."
The band have come a long, long way since their beginnings in Southtown, San Diego. Their tireless touring and early recordings like 'Snuff The Punk' (1993), 'Brown' (1996) and 'The Warriors EP' (1998) gave them a huge cult following before signing to mainstream major Atlantic Records. With that deal the band exploded into the big league with 1999's 'The Fundamental Elements Of Southtown'. P.O.D. are still very conscious of their dues-paying small beginnings. On the fan website www. warriors4jah. com Tim Palmer reminisces with Sonny and Wuv about playing a gig at Drexel University, Pennsylvania to 50 people. Responded Sonny, "We'll play for five kidsÉ you know what I mean? We're blessed every day to be able to play music." In that same interview Sonny spoke boldly about the band's spiritual priorities. "Our passion is to share our faith with the world. Each of us made a choice in our life to serve God. I have friends and family all around me and I want to share this goodness with them. How it started was if we play this music, hopefully someone will listen and we'll be able to share that goodness. It's just cool to be a good influence on somebody. We love to see people who have changed their lives."
Wuv took up the story there. "We don't force our beliefs on anybody. We've come to believe because of personal experience, situations and struggles in our lives what we1ve really found to be true. We just tell people what we've found. When we were down and out or our families were down and out, God was there for us. It's not like some religious thing that we go through. It's more of a personal experience that touched our hearts individually."
Sonny interjected, "Nobody can tell us any different. These are our own personal experiences of what we know to be true. But we know as even four individuals, it's hard to make it out there and do the right thing all the time. But that's where we just rely on our faith and our trust in God that we can make it through." "You don't have to meet God anywhere, man," commented Wuv. "God meets everybody where they're at. You don't have to change. You can just be yourself. And that's how we found God, man. We were ourselves and we came to a place where God had to come down to us because we couldn't go to him. And that's what's so cool about our God, man. He doesn't pressure you; he doesn't do anything, man. He wants you to come with a willing heart."
In an interview with FamilyChristian.Com, Wuv expanded further on what he sees as P.O.D.'s mission. "I think what God did last year was the best mission we could have possibly been on. To get in front of millions of people and just basically rock a show and at the same time have them see what a Christian is and being able to relate and not feel like they can't be one. When they see P.O.D. they see us padded up, they see us rocking out, having fun, they're like, 'Dude, if they can love God and have fun, then I can love God and have fun too. ' God's the King of fun. He's the one that made everybody's personalities. He's the one that created music, he's the one that created the way we act and the way we look. A lot of times the world sees the stereotypical Christian, all stiff like a cardboard cut out. P.O.D. just shows them the real deal. You can look any way [and] God will meet you where you're at. You don't need to look a certain way, you don't need to act a certain way. You can be who you are and God will meet you right where you're at.
The opinions expressed in this article are
not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed
views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may
not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a
"We're just thankful for what God's done today. We never even expected or even strived for P.O.D. to be like this. It was just something we were having fun with in a garage. Now we finally get a chance to be home and look back and see all the things that God's done. It's amazing to us and we still just sit back and laugh. Whenever we're asked what the future holds, we're just like, 'Dude, I don't know, man. ' Whatever it is, I'll be happy changing diapers in the nursery at church. If God were to have it done now, it's all good."