The members of P.O.D. may be feeling like Neo in "The Matrix." They've gone through a major transformation, and now they've been reborn in a whole new way.
When founding guitarist Marcos Curiel parted ways with the band in February, even representatives at the group's record label were skeptical about whether P.O.D. could continue. They'd been in talks to renegotiate their contract, they'd been invited to pen the lead cut for "The Matrix Reloaded" soundtrack. Then, all of a sudden, they were in limbo (see "P.O.D. Call Marcos' Departure 'Heartbreaking,' Jell With Their New Guy").
"People in the industry were going, 'Aww, P.O.D.'s done with,' " frontman Sonny Sandoval said. "We had to prove ourselves all over again."
Since time was critical, the bandmembers called up their friend Jason Truby (ex-Living Sacrifice), invited him to join them in the studio, and wrote and banged out "Sleeping Awake" for the "The Matrix Reloaded." Soon after, they started working on three other songs (see "P.O.D. Record 'Matrix Reloaded' Single With Marcos' Replacement").
Not only did the wheels click back into motion, they started spinning at warp speed. The band is currently in the recording studio with Howard Benson, who worked on P.O.D.'s last album, Satellite, and their 1999 breakthrough LP, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown. They've started laying down drum tracks for 17 new songs for an album that's scheduled to drop November 4.
"We went into the studio with more songs this time than we've ever gone in with," bassist Traa said. "We normally go in with like seven songs and write in the studio. There are some bands that go on tour, and they write their songs in the back of the bus. For us, that's too old. People write songs a year ago and try to put them on an album. That doesn't work for us."
While the band's final months with Curiel were fraught with tension and dread, now P.O.D. are excited and hungry.
"We're so energized, dude," drummer Wuv said. "We feel reborn and we can't wait to play new notes for people to hear."
Many artists who join established acts have to contend with egos and chemistry issues. But Truby, who has never played an arena show, has had no problems vibing with his new bandmates. And he brings a new palate of colors to the P.O.D. portrait.
"The bottom line is, I don't play like Marcos. I play like I play, and these guys have been cool with that," Truby said. "I've got a whole lot of interesting influences [to add to the picture] like the Police or U2, and then when you fuse that with things out of jazz or classical music, you got a little flavor. These guys are top-of-the-line professionals at what they do, so that's made it really easy to fuse with them."
Many of the new P.O.D. songs are informed by the differences between Truby's eclectic style and that of Curiel, who added a Latin flair to his nü-metal jams. The changes have given the band the opportunity to grow musically.
"Our new music is different than anything we've ever done, and we've tried to portray that all the way through the album," said Traa. "We definitely don't want to recreate the old. There are still some of the old influences whether it's Bad Brains or U2, but there's also even more of a reggae vibe."
As with "Sleeping Awake," which casts aside Sandoval's hip-hop delivery in favor of a more melodic approach, the new songs are vocally straightforward. There's some screaming and a little rapping, but mostly Sandoval tests his vocal abilities like never before.
"When we first started and I jumped in this band, I was like, 'I'm not a singer,' " he said. "I didn't go to school to sing. I just played to have fun. But these guys teach me and they show me stuff and give me courage to try new stuff. The new songs are still heavy, but we call it 'beauty heavy.' The notes are beautiful and there's a lot of melody going on, but at the same time, the P.O.D. intensity is always going to be there."
P.O.D. have thrown around a few ideas for album titles, but have yet to agree on one, and they're not ready to announce the names of any tracks. Sandoval did, however, reveal that the songs will be heartfelt and will confront some of the band's recent frustrations with the departure of Curiel.
"Right now it's a life-changing situation that we're going through, so there are a lot of emotions involved," he said. "But still, man, a lot of these songs are coming out fun. We're not a downer band. We're not trying to get too deep."