In their 13 years together, the members of P.O.D. have never denied their faith. And frontman Sonny Sandoval says the group never will.
“It’s going to come out, whether I build houses or collect garbage,” he says.
Spirituality and positivity have saturated the band’s material to date and have helped turn P.O.D. into a multiplatinum-selling act in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.
With the new Atlantic effort, “Payable on Death,” both band and label hope that the faith of the 2.7 million U.S. fans who bought P.O.D.’s previous album also remains intact, as the new set – the group’s sixth overall and third for Atlantic – features a stylistic change brought on by a shift in personnel. And to ensure that the group’s fan base continues to testify in a time marked by decreased record sales, the first 1 million copies of the album will include a second disc with a multitude of value-added components, including a videogame.
“They’ve made an exponentially creative leap from ‘Satellite’ to ‘Payable on Death,”‘ Atlantic co-president Ron Shapiro says. “P.O.D. has transformed themselves from a rock and rap band to what I think is a global rock band, if not a pop band. Sonny has become an extraordinary rock singer, and their lyrics remain as important and as brave as ever for anyone making music targeted at the world.”
The transformation Shapiro refers to is due in part to new guitarist Jason Truby, who joined the band earlier this year after the exit of original guitarist Marcos Curiel.
Committed to writing the lead single for the “Matrix Reloaded” soundtrack and strapped for a guitarist, P.O.D. called Truby, whom the band’s members knew from his former group, Living Sacrifice. Collaboration on the song, “Sleeping Awake,” went so well that he was asked to work on the new album as a permanent band member.
Rap/rock has met with diminishing returns in 2003, and Sandoval says that the lack of rap on “Payable on Death” comes as a result of adding Truby.
“There might be less rap vocals, but there’s no less of a hip-hop influence,” he says. “There’s still the attitude and style. But Jason’s guitar playing and the beauty that he adds just call for a different road, vocally.”
Truby draws from his background in jazz, classical and hardcore to flesh out the sound of the band, which includes bassist Traa Daniels and drummer Noah “Wuv” Bernardo.
Truby says his first album with the band is deceptive: “When you first hear it, it may not sound as heavy, but the rhythms are heavier and have more melodic melodies going over them.”
While P.O.D.’s first album for Atlantic, 1999’s “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown,” sold 900,000 copies in two years, the band did much of that without the support of radio.
That all changed after “Alive,” the first single from the “Satellite” album. Radio embraced “Alive” as a healing anthem after the tragedies of Sept. 11.
While P.O.D.’s spiritual nature and lyrics praising “Jah” have led some to call it a Christian band, Sandoval says he and his bandmates don’t necessarily want to be labeled as such. “If someone wants to know my personal beliefs and I have joy in my life, then I want to share that with them, too. But if you just want to rock out and listen to music, then by all means, let the music take you.
“We’re the types of guys that want to say something positive with our music, and we felt that way before the tragedy,” Sandoval says. “When the healing process began and we started to get feedback from people saying the record really touched them, that’s what music’s really about.”
The album’s first single, the driving “Will You,” is performing well at rock radio. It is No. 13 at modern rock and No. 12 at active rock.
“Payable on Death” is the first CD to be packaged with a videogame, an expansion to the music-oriented “Amplitude,” for Sony’s PlayStation 2. The band got involved with Sony through its inclusion of a song on the original, full version of the game.
“It wasn’t like a typical, shoot-’em-up videogame,” Sandoval says. “It was more about music and rhythm and timing, and it was creative.”
The version of “Amplitude” included in the package will feature an unreleased P.O.D. song, “Space.” Shapiro says that the fact that videogames aren’t downloadable has helped that industry boost sales.
“The gaming industry is exploding for that reason, and with a million P.O.D. CDs, if you want that song or game, you have to buy it,” he says.
In addition to the game, the second disc includes a DVD portion, a key to a Web site that will unlock unreleased music and three art cards by painter Daniel Martin Diaz, who designed the album’s artwork. Of those cards, 500 of each of the three designs will be signed by the band, which Sandoval likens to “getting a gold ticket from Willy Wonka.”
Stateside, the band will play radio station holiday festivals and will begin a tour with Linkin Park in January 2004.
Which is fine with Sandoval. “We want the music to speak for itself,” he says. “As people first, we’re always going to be looking for love and hope and faith and the beautiful things of this world – and that’s going to come across in our music.”