Tony Cummings reports on the hard rocking San Diego hitmakers P.O.D.
What with the spectacular decline of the nu metal genre and the prolonged personnel problems experienced by the band, more than one critic wrote off P.O.D. as yesterday's men. These prophets of doom are no doubt currently eating their words as the new P.O.D. album 'When Angels & Serpents Dance' has proven to be an immediate success, initially entering Billboard's mainstream albums chart at number nine and number one on the Christian music chart. The mainstream success of 'When Angels & Serpents Dance' is in fact the fourth top 10 album for the San Diego quartet, following on from 'Satellite' (2001), 'Payable On Death' (2003) and 'Testify' (2006). Said lead singer Sonny Sandoval, "After 16 years of being in P.O.D., the loyalty of The Warriors continue to make us look good. We are truly grateful and blown away to see another top 10 debut."
'When Angels & Serpents Dance' has got hugely enthusiastic reviews. The Oakland wrote, "The band deliver their most mature and ambitious outing to date. It's a fresh start to P.O.D. rather than merely returning to the good old days"; San Diego Union Tribune said, "It's during the softer moments, such as the questioning acoustic ballad 'Tell Me Why' and the meticulously layered 'Rise Against', that P.O.D. best demonstrate its new maturity, dynamic range and emotional and musical depth"; while Christian Retailing wrote, "The band sounds less nu metal and more Red Hot Chili Peppers. And that's the easiest way to describe this album: Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes that are equal part head banging and foot tapping."
Journalist Andy Argyrakis asked the band's frontman Sonny whether their current audience are more familiar with the underground Christian beginnings or the secular scene? He responded, "It's definitely split, but there's always been a loyalty of Warriors that get it completely. Those are the fans that love us for what we're about more than just the music. If we do a huge radio show with 50,000 people, the whole crowd sings along to the radio songs, so P.O.D.'s definitely known and recognised. Believers continue to come out and support us, and they keep doing so after such a long time, which we continue to be grateful for. We're fortunate that believers come out and support us even when we play secular venues. We've also been asked to do more conservative Christian events, like a Billy Graham crusade. We'll pray about it, but generally haven't really done them because we know people are going to come whether we're there or not and it also doesn't really seem the right fit as far as our music goes. When we're playing [more mainstream minded venues], hopefully people understand where we're coming from and see our hearts."
A lot of fans were surprised when P.O.D. signed with CCM label INO. Sandoval spoke about the decision, "We had been approached by a bunch of different labels and were given the same old run around. But then I met [INO President] Jeff Mosley with no idea who they had on their label. We had dinner, he hung out with my family and we were ultimately really moved by him and the heart of the label. We decided to go with them, not only because they stood on integrity and the word of God, but they were honest people who weren't trying to rip us off. They wanted to do a deal like every band where we're going in as partners - once we recoup the money [to make the album], we [split the profits fairly]. Plus they have an awesome relationship with Columbia, who's been on board with us since day one."
One of the things long term P.O.D. Warriors are most excited about is the return to the band's line up of guitarist Marcos Curiel. Said Sonny, "He had actually reached out to us when [Pantera's] Dimebag Darrell was murdered, which really struck a chord with him. Pantera broke up and Dimebag was with another band when he was shot on stage, which led Marcos to think, 'Wow, that could've happened to anybody.' He reached out to us two years ago - the first time we had all spoke since he left - because he missed his friends and wanted to put all our past stuff aside. He was the bigger man who did that. So we started hanging out again and at that time, none of us had any idea that Jason [Truby, Marcos' replacement] was considering leaving to spend more time with his family. At first we concentrated on working on our friendship, but then once Jason decided to stay home, we said, 'Here we are - let's hang out and jam!'"
Sandoval went on to explain why the axeman left in the first place. "[Success] was such a whirlwind for all of us and things happened so fast. We were basically four ghetto kids from the streets who were touring non-stop and it became exhausting. Everything flairs in that situation and I know he wanted to do other things. It was the height of P.O.D. and we didn't want him to leave, but when it was all said and done, he went out on his own. We're still in the process of just getting to know each other again. As you get older and things change, you have different views and opinions. But the more time we spend with him, it just fits so naturally. Sometimes you don't always agree on everything, but at the same time, that's the reason why your love for each other is like brothers. We know each other's hearts and it's awesome because that rekindled friendship translated right into [our chemistry] in the studio."
Working as they do in the hard music arena P.O.D. are very aware of their responsibility to write songs that express hope rather than despair. Marcos Curiel brought an intriguing insight when he spoke to HM magazine. "I was talking to a friend who was hanging out with a certain artist who was bummed because this artist can't check their Myspace because they get a lot of suicide letters. When you think about it, the reason is, the music that comes out of that artist is really depressing. P.O.D. has been blessed to have tons of letters from people who were thinking about committing suicide but our music got them through it. Now they are so thankful, and they are lifelong fans. That's what it's all about, man. We're here to encourage and inspire. That's what Bob Marley did. That's what U2 does. That's what Santana does. We just want to spread positivity. There's just way too much negativity going on in our everyday lives. When you can hear something that's going to uplift you like 'Alive' or something that's going to bring out knowledge like 'Youth Of The Nation', we've done our jobs as an artist. We're trying to be relevant with the people. I joke around with this all the time, but I really do think that P.O.D. is the band for the people, dude. It's sounds cheesy, but at the same time, it's not, man. When we shot the video for 'Youth Of The Nation', we had a girl sitting on the hood of the car going down the highway trying to be free-spirited, you know? Don't think there's anything wrong with that, right? But, Viacom and MTV had us edit that out because kids are so easily influenced. It's on shows like Jackass where they have to put out those warnings. Kids will actually try to do what they see on TV. So, if kids are going to copy what they see, don't you think they are going to copy what they hear? I'm not saying that's for everybody, but in certain cases there's going to be a song that's going to make some people sulk in negativity."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 later date.