Reggae/punk/metal/rap band P.O.D. just released their ninth original studio album, The Awakening, and frontman Sonny Sandoval took some time out to talk about the concepts behind the record, an upcoming tour with Insane Clown Posse, and still having tricks up their sleeves after 23 years. (part 2)
The Awakening debuted on August 21, and so far critics and fans alike have been raving about what appears to be one of P.O.D.'s most unique albums to date. The record is marginally different than their last release, Murdered Love, with fans likening it closer to Fundamental Elements of Southtown.
"So far the response has been awesome. If it's creating dialogue it's a good thing," said Sonny. "Being that it's a concept record there's so much depth to this album, so many hidden treasures. The message is deep, the story is deep, it's honest, it's real. "
P.O.D. hopes people will keep drawing new things out of the album for years to come and pray the message remains relevant.
Sonny knows with record sales way down these days the goal was not to bank too much on a certain number of buys, but rather for more people to connect with the record so they walk away "changed."
"We're a working band. In 23 years we've never been handed anything," Sonny said fervently. "It doesn't matter how many albums we sold, or how much success we had, P.O.D. will always continue to be that band that has to prove themselves not only to the mainstream world, the rock and roll world, but we'll always have to prove ourselves even to the church cause that's the kind of band we are I guess."
When asked about the storyline and concept of The Awakening, Sonny did not want to reveal too much about the new album, and stayed very vague suggesting people have their own interpretation. The main plot of the record follows a male character around as he faces struggles and chaotic situations.
There are so many different things going on, even voiceovers. "This is a story, this is a book, this is a movie, you have to finish each chapter to finish the book. You don't just jump in to chapter two or chapter eight of a book."
"We want people to read the liner notes, and to read the thank yous. You're going to come across names in POD catalog, in POD history..." he continued. "There is so much more to the back story because we're trying not to be so literal because it's not open for you to put things by yourself. You gotta do things together and translate it, and how it speaks to your heart."
The reason for silence on exactly what's happening in the story is because Sonny has grander plans. He would love to get together and do a short film on the album and already has all the backstory and pieces to make it possible.
He admitted one of the cooler aspects of this release is watching fans piece together the story. Online he is already seeing people asking questions relating characters to other people in the P.O.D. timeline. Someone came up with something that was not intentional but actually works. They equated the kids in the background and the birds chirping on a track to two other songs in the band's catalog.
"'Hey man, I love the way the kids from 'Youth of a Nation' sample and the tweeting birds from 'Panic and Run' relate." Sonny, never noticed the correlation and could only respond with, "You're actually right."
Sonny said the album is more literal than most concept albums, but they don't "want it to be so mysterious that it means nothing."
As mentioned, there are dialogues and speaking interludes cut throughout the record. All of these spoken parts and interludes were done by actors P.O.D. used for the record. Most of the people used were people they knew as the band was not looking to sample anything.
While the The Awakening sticks to P.O.D.'s signature reggae-punk/rap rock stylings, one song on the album sticks out like a sore thumb and for good reason – "Want it All." The song has a dabbling of jazziness and blues, and is soothing in a way a lounge plays calming music.
"'Want it All' was quite a surprise even to us" shared Sonny. His daughter and nephews, whom he described as "little hipsters" said, "'Dude that's my favorite track'."
"It was just intended to be kind of a movement in the album. It was a motion, when you follow the concept and storyline, as we're writing kind of creating a sound track to the story," shared Sonny. "At this moment and time, what the character is discovering and going through, the trouble he's in, he's faced with choices..."
"Want it All" was not a track that was forced, it came about organically after guitarist Marcos Curiel began fiddling around with a "cool riff."
"It was a beautiful moment in the record," gushed Sonny who said the band still had a little something up their sleeve.
As far as promoting The Awakening, the band was out all summer long prior to the release, and they just got back from overseas. After a short break they will then be doing a three-week run of the West Coast, because he feels that side is "neglected." They will then move through Canada with their buddies in Islander and beginning in October will be on tour with ICP into November.
Sonny said they were asked to do a number of tours and they weeded through to see which ones they wanted to do. "I didn't want to do the same old tour. ICP has a built-in fan base and it's definitely the opposite end, and that in a nutshell is the whole reason why I make music."
He continued, "music allows you to get in front of people and I get to share my heart and my faith, get to share my ideas and opinions that I believe are a good things and hopefully the music will come across."
ICP fans are called Juggalos and are known for raucous and sometimes violent behavior. They are die hard cult followers of ICP who even wear the black and white face paint of the hip-hop group. They usually do not take kindly to other acts at shows and have been known to throw rocks and other objects at the stage when others perform. However, the fans are actually excited to have P.O.D. on the tour. "We were one of the only requests when ICP announced the tour."
P.O.D. had previously played The Gathering with ICP and admitted at that time it was tough, "They try to get you off stage. They want you to get off stage with your tail between your legs, but that's not the case with P.O.D. and by the end of the set, they were chanting 'Family'."
The tour starts in Chicago and goes down through Florida and then up through Rochester, NY with the final date being a Halloween homecoming show in Detroit, MI.
Read part 2 with BREATHEcast to hear more about Sonny's heart for his fans, the gospel, and the period around the time they got signed here.