P.O.D.: From boys into men7/10/2015
Since its formation in 1992, Payable On Death — more commonly known as P.O.D. — has benefited from a level of stability that can be difficult for many musical acts to maintain. In the 23 years of the band’s existence, there have been two lineup changes: bassist Traa Daniels joined the band in 1994, and guitarist Marcos Curiel left the band in 2003 — only to return in 2007.
“It’s more like family than a band,” Curiel said of the dynamic within the group after all these years. “Like brothers, we love each other, we argue, we disagree. It’s blood sweat and tears together.”
The brotherhood was strained in 2003, two years after the release of “Satellite,” the band’s biggest album to date. When Curiel was replaced by Jason Truby, the band called it “spiritual differences,” while Curiel at the time simply said he was kicked out. The band soldiered on and released two albums with Truby; 2003’s self-titled effort, and 2006’s “Testify.” Then on Dec. 30 of that year, Truby called it quits and Curiel asked to rejoin. P.O.D hasn’t looked back since.
The group’s first effort with Curiel back in the saddle was 2008’s “When Angels & Serpents Dance,” which debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard charts and remains the band’s best reviewed album. There have been two albums that followed, not including “The Awakening,” due out August. And while P.O.D.’s core sound has remained mostly the same, this latest effort is pushing the band into uncharted territory.
“Let’s set the record straight, it’s a concept album,” Curiel said. “Think ‘Tommy,’ or ‘The Wall.’ It’s like that, but in the P.O.D. Style.”
“I was staying I touch with our producer, Howard Benson,” he continued, explaining how the band decided on such a different direction. “We started throwing some demos around in the studio. We weren’t’ really on the ‘concept’ trip yet, but Howard was checking in with me, talking about possibilities for the future. I said, ‘Maybe we can do a concept album some day,’ and Howard was like, ‘You’ve got to do it now. Nobody’s going to expect that from you guys.’ From there, it grew a life of its own.”
Concept albums are tricky things. While the ones that are done right can be truly great, it is just as easy to trip down a bottomless pit of narcissism and self-indulgence. It is a tightrope walk that P.O.D.’s members were well aware of.
“It’s really hard, man,” Curiel agreed. “You can go really progressive and have eight, 10 minute songs. But we still want to have some catchy stuff that can maybe be played on the radio. It was a lot harder than I expected to be.”
The band gives a lot of the credit for the final sound of “Awakening” to Benson. The long-time A&R man has worked with the likes of Motorhead, My Chemical Romance and Daughtry and was in charge of four previous P.O.D albums, including “Satellite.”
“(Benson) understands the band,” Curiel said. “We were his first to go gold and platinum. He’s a good fit.”
“Ultimately, it’s all about progress,” he continued, talking about “Awakening”. “I wasn’t there for two records, so when I went into “…Serpents Dance,” you know, every album is a reflection of where you are at that moment in your life. Some paintings are darker, some painting are beautiful. We’re a band that’s going to keep moving forward.”
The band dropped the lead single from “Awakening” in May, with the rest of the album due in August. Curiel says that the band has already incorporated three or four songs into its live set, and fans are responding well.
P.O.D has made a move in a bold direction with “Awakening.” Time will tell if it is a step in the right direction or not. But even if the album doesn’t reach the same level of success as “Satellite,” P.O.D will keep moving forward. It’s what a family does.
“I think we’ve grown from boys into men,” Curiel said. “The respect factor that maybe wasn’t there at first, has come around. There’s a lot more freedom to try to explore more. We’re all on the same page.” CV