P.O.D. – Coming Full Circle

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P.O.D has spent three decades writing uncompromising music without limitations of genre or style incorporating rap, reggae, rock, metal and whatever else they want into the fold.  They started independent and modest, eventually touring the world, playing any and all size stages from clubs, to arenas to stadiums.  Never forgetting their working class roots while keeping accessibility open, sharing time and testimony with fans of all ages.  Gaining fans and helping souls to cope with daily struggles through 10 records to date.

Their new record Circles, is another tour de force of the sound honed by the So-Cal guys still happy to be here.  Vocalist Sonny Sandoval talks about the process, “In between touring we were recording here and there, writing demos, trying to get a feel for new songs,” he says.  “We’re a blue collar working band.  You don’t tour, you don’t eat.   We went in with a lot of ideas, then wrote and finished it in the studio.” They worked with several producers including L.A’s The Heavy.  Ideas were put on the table with more of an open collaborative mindset this time.

The cover art set the vibe for the record, “Its new life, a new cycle, and new beginning where we are 26 years later,” Sandoval reflects.  “We’ve come full circle and are grateful to be doing it.” They’ve done their own thing regardless of genre labeling, “We’ve never been your typical rock band.” There’s a lot going on in the music.”

The video for Rockin’ With the Best was filmed with two rising ring contenders. “It was a last minute thing, we were on tour.”  They filmed two Golden Gloves fighters during a sparring match and recorded the live band footage around it.

The song Circles talks about unhealthy situations we find ourselves in.  “All of us go through that state of confusion when we’re just lost.  We’re just trying to figure out this life.  The chorus is spinning in circles. It wasn’t an intentional concept but does mean new life and new beginnings.”  There are dark themes but meant to be introspective.

Their multi-genre sound’s always been with them, “It’s just natural.  If you listen to demos from the early ‘90s, we’ve always incorporated reggae and hip hop influence, punk, hardcore, whatever.  We’ve always mixed it up.”

Their home town So-Cal crowd is a different vibe than anywhere else.  “I’m proud to be from here.”  He says some scenes are spoiled with the amount of bands that come vs other areas and countries that are starving for it.  “We go to South America and they’re like man, you haven’t been here in years. I gotta get to that show.  We’re very spoiled as fans and music goers.  In Southern California it’s definitely a different vibe.  There are so many amazing bands.  We definitely take pride in that.”

Sandoval continues to venture into the crowd during shows. “That’s just the band we are,” he says.  They still hold old school values from the indie days.  “There’s no us without the fan base.”  They remember the fans that came to the middle of nowhere when they were independent.  “We don’t know how to be rock stars.  We never thought we’d sell a million records and go on MTV and become this.  We come from that hardcore scene.”  They sell their own merch then go to Denny’s.  “That’s just what we knew.” Fans say they should do VIP packages and they laugh. “Dude, do you know how accessible we’ve been for so many years?  You have to survive anyway you can and make it as special as possible.  We’ve always been that way.  You’ll never catch us hiding in the back.  Stop by the local food vendor, you’ll find us or walk around the parking lot.  We’ll be hanging out skating.”

There’s always been inherent darkness in rock and metal but they made a conscious decision to stay in the light and be positive.  Whether or not butterflies blend into the rock and metal scene they’ve always been who they are.   Whether it’s a softer ballad or an aggressive loud anthem it’s always in your face and what they believe in, blending their sound into any show.

They’re always progressing forward, “We’re always moving.”  They’ve had enough ups and downs earning the right to call their own shots.  The days of catering to specific genres and labels are over.

Eventually all bands come to a career crossroads and Sandoval’s happy with what they’ve accomplished, “If it ends now, we accomplished all we want.  We wanna keep moving forward of course.  Do we wanna pack out huge shows, of course but we’re not gonna follow this so called recipe to do that.”

In the beginning their first Christian festival experience was Cornerstone in ‘94, “It was an eye opener.  We weren’t used to playing Christian festivals.  It was our first tour a few weeks out of the summer, playing their new band stage.” It was an awakening for them seeing similar bands with similar beliefs looking and sounding different but still hardcore, punk and street.  “It’s wasn’t DC Talk or contemporary worship music.” It was a collective experience of similar beliefs and ideals.

Sandoval says technology’s taken away the mystery from the live experience. “For kids it’s like fast food these days.  When I was a kid, dude, I’m driving hours to see this band because they may never play here again.  Or, it’s rare to see these guys.  If you go you know everything about them.  I’m saving up my money, buy me the hoodie, the latest album, the shirt, I need it all.  I’m supporting them.  This band exists because of fans like us who support them. There’s more of that kind of connection.”

He says the intimacy of the live show has been been lost through live streaming and staying home to watch a show instead of being there not getting the full experience.

Fans of all ages still come up and share stories with them, “Every show man.” Helping that kid, soldier or adult still fuels them to creative and perform.  From helping fans fight through depression, difficult times, even saving lives through music their fans are truly dedicated.  Sandoval recalls a fan saying, “Dude I was gonna blow my head off when I was 15, and I saw you guys.”  Another time he talked to the opposing coach of his daughter’s team.  “I saw you guys at a festival in Northern California, I was 15.  You went out of your way and talked to me for hours.  Nothing else existed and I’ve never forgotten that day and everything we talked about.  Because of that I didn’t do certain things.  Keep it up.”  Sandoval doesn’t need an ego boost but still loves to hear the stories told by inspired and affected fans.  The music comes from the heart, body, mind and soul, spreading love and positive energy among the world’s ongoing chaos with a multi-decade career of real conversations with real people dealing with real situations.

They want Circles to be well received by everyone from the die-hard’s to casual fans.  “If anything I really hope this record puts us in a different kind of groove.  We’re so used to touring with metal bands or jumping on these metal fests.  We show up and we’re like, my god did you see the bands on this festival?”  They break out their heaviest songs when they’d prefer to play a seasoned blend of everything.

They’re not scared to play softer material embracing their more mellow side, even the jazzy tunes. Playing with metal bands is fun but they don’t need or want to be heavy constantly.  Though they want the younger generation to listen and pay attention so they know where the sounds they like came from.  Sandoval wants kids to know the classics and the musicians that influenced them along with modern day bands.

They’re eternally grateful to all fans for their ongoing support.  From the casual to the hardcore faithful, whether they only know the hits or every song on every album.  After 26 years they’re still stretching to introduce new sounds and elements into their music to help fans appreciate the sights and sounds on a deeper level.  In an instant digital world, they want people to go back to the artists on CD, cassette, even 8-track and listen to the roots of the genre for better understanding of what’s on stage and digital today.  Know where the music you love came from.   “Get to know your music again.”

He’s a happy man at home, balancing music and family life, “Musically we’ve been so lucky traveling the world.  Playing big stages, smaller stages, everything intimate you can imagine as far as music goes.  I take it one day at a time.  I get a kick out of being a husband and a daddy.  I enjoy my time at home and coaching my kids.  I’m trying to balance it all out.  Music is not always permanent, I try to enjoy it and be in the moment while I can.”

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