LOS ANGELES — After a difficult few months, P.O.D. are feeling, well, so alive.
Guitarist Marcos Curiel's controversial departure in February raised questions about the San Diego band's future, but they were quickly answered when former Living Sacrifice axeman Jason Truby joined the group to write a song for "The Matrix Reloaded" and was a perfect fit.
"With Jason, it's like a fresh new vibe for us," drummer Wuv said on the video set Saturday for the soundtrack single, "Sleeping Awake." "It's something that's welcome and something that we've been yearning for for a long, long time. So it's working out great."
So great, in fact, that the new P.O.D. have already penned 11 songs for their next album, due November 4.
"We've always been like family, so it's jelling up great, and then musically it's jelling up even better," said Truby, whose previous band toured with P.O.D. years ago. "It's a blending, not a changing. I bring what I have to bring to the table, without [compromising] what they are, and it's working out really well."
Singer Sonny Sandoval described the new material as more mature. "I actually thought that with him coming in we might have problems being a little bit too heavy, but the stuff's not really coming out like that," Sandoval said. "I mean, the guitars are heavy, but it's still very melodic, still very beautiful. I think with Jason's influence it actually drives us to step it up a notch."
"When he came into our situation and became our guitar player, it was almost as if he had always been there," bassist Traa added. "We are so comfortable with him playing it's unbelievable, on top of him being an amazing guitar player."
While P.O.D. said Curiel left to join another band, the guitarist insisted he was kicked out, at least partially for differences in religious beliefs (see "P.O.D. Split With Guitarist Marcos Curiel").
Sandoval, Wuv and Traa described the situation as heartbreaking and said they are still supportive of Curiel despite his remarks that P.O.D. were not as righteous as their reputation.
"I love Marcos," Sandoval said. "He's my bro. I've known him for a long time. I thought that this would make him happy to do what he wanted to do and he was doing it and all of a sudden he didn't sound too happy to me. But you know what? Our friendship and all that stuff, it's bigger than that. I'll be better. Right now, I just think it's a healing process."
Part of the process for the remaining members was throwing themselves into recording "Sleeping Awake" (see "P.O.D. Record 'Matrix Reloaded' Single With Marcos' Replacement"). "The Matrix Reloaded" producers originally asked for a remix of a previously recorded song for the movie, but P.O.D. suggested doing something new, even if they only had a week to write and record it.
"What turned them on to us was a lot of our biblical concepts and themes, and this movie has a lot of biblical themes, and so they wanted to keep that vibe," Sandoval said. "I kind of got the concept from Daniel interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar's dreams in the Old Testament and ... then all of a sudden I go back and watch 'The Matrix' again and that's what Laurence Fishburne tells Keanu Reeves, that the Matrix is a computer-generated dream world. So I was like, 'I'm onto something.' "
The Wachowski brothers, who created "The Matrix" and its sequels, had ideas for a video, but scrapped them when director Marc Webb submitted his treatment, which creatively portrays P.O.D. in parallel universes.
" 'The Matrix' has a lot of references to other classical literature, so one of the things I kind of picked up on was this life through the looking glass thing, this 'Alice in Wonderland' thing," Webb explained. "I kind of like the idea of doing something that happens on the other side of the glass. So we decided to do a concept with two identical performances on either sides of a mirror."
Webb even configured the cameras so the two shots look like reflections of each other. In one the band is playing right-handed, in the other, left-handed.
"One setup is like the Nebuchadnezzar, which is the ship from 'The Matrix' in the real world, and the other side is this kind of 'The Matrix' reality, which is a little bit more stylized," Webb said. "Everybody's wearing black and is cool. They move a little bit faster and look a little bit glossier and do some crazy, crazy stuff. We're doing some stunts with the guitar player smashing his guitar against the bass player and Sonny does some stuff with blocks."
Webb's original treatment required the bandmembers to shave their heads, but that concept was quickly vetoed.
"I've been growing these dreads for six years," Traa said. "No way!"
P.O.D. will enter the studio in May and play some warm-up shows with Truby on the San Diego club circuit later in the summer.