P.O.D.’s return to music is paying off

Photo by LEANN MUELLERP.O.D.
Photo by LEANN MUELLERP.O.D.

After growing from a hard-working indie hard-rock-metal band to a major-label act, after selling millions of records and receiving Grammy nominations, San Diego’s P.O.D. hit roadblocks that could have led to the group’s demise.

“The music industry can consume you,” singer Sonny Sandoval said this week from Boston, where P.O.D. played that city’s House of Blues.

“It’s a selfish, jaded industry,” Sandoval added in tones neither angry nor bitter. “It wants to take everything from you. It’ll destroy you, if you let it. But that’s not who I am.”

Following the release of P.O.D.’s 2008 album, When Angels & Serpents Dance, Sandoval and his bandmates — drummer Wuv Bernardo, guitarist Marcos Curiel and bassist Traa Daniels — took an indefinite break.

“I just needed to go away for a while,” the singer explained. “Honestly, in my heart, I laid P.O.D. down, not knowing if I’d ever pick it up again. It was a release doing that, a burden lifted off my shoulders.”

Years went by with only silence from P.O.D.

“I’m a husband and I’m a daddy first,” Sandoval said. “I love my community. I’m a man of faith. But that industry stuff was getting to me. So I went home to reboot. I allowed myself to just kind of be with my family, be a part of a lot of cool charities and organizations and do stuff that wasn’t selfish. It was nothing but giving, so no one could say anything.”

When P.O.D. regrouped to make new music after a nearly five-year hiatus, it was on the band members’ own terms.

“No one else called the shots,” Sandoval said.

The group called upon a previous collaborator, producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson), to helm what became P.O.D.’s eighth album, Murdered Love.

“We’re Howard’s first gold and platinum band,” Sandoval said. “He’s got a soft spot in his heart for us. And we don’t just work together, we’re friends. He knew that we were taking a break and he was like, ‘Hey, take some time. When you guys decide to do a record, I’m gonna do it. I wanna do it.’

“Howard does so many records, but he knows that when he works with us that it’s honest, it’s authentic,” Sandoval said. “And it’s not like he tells us what to do. He’s the super producer to every other band after us, but we came up together with him, worked hard together, learned the ropes together.”

Sandoval and his bandmates insisted upon writing all of the songs that appear on Murdered Love themselves. They made the album, first of all, to please themselves.

“There were no expectations for it,” Sandoval said. “It’s not like we have to top our million-selling records. We did it because we love it and it’s fun.”

Fun is the simple reason P.O.D. began 21 years ago in San Diego.

“It started off as just an outlet for us, just being young and crazy, making a stand doing this kind of music. We never thought we’d leave San Diego. So, the fact that we’re still doing it all these years later is mind blowing.” More than a year after Murdered Love’s release, the band continues its album-related national and international touring. The group performed in Europe in June, its stops including Moscow, the U.K’s Download Festival and Hellfest in France. Dates in Asia and the South Pacific are on the books. There’s also talk of another European jaunt.

“We took some time off but now we’re hitting hard again,” Sandoval said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for us and we love playing live. It’s not just about banging out record after record. We put so much heart and soul into the records and now it’s just paying off. Every day’s a blessing.”