American SoCal band P.O.D (Payable On Death) will be releasing their ninth album on August 21. The Awakening is a follow up from Murdered Love (2013), with a different conceptual format for the group who has never strayed from their message. The album plays as a whole following one central character.

Our own Dylan McAteer spoke with Sonny Sandoval and Marcos Curiel about the record, to check out the theme for the album and the highs and lows the band has been through as a traditional group in the modern music scene. Sandoval and Curiel explore the band’s progression without losing their true identity.

What makes The Awakening stand out from your other releases?

Sonny: I personally think it’s a progression and maturing as a band. You can definitely here it in the tunes we put on there.

Marcos: It’s a little more outside the box for us; it’s been crafted as kind of a story threaded through sort of like a concept record. That’s different for us and I don’t think a lot of people would be expecting that from P.O.D.

The idea of decisions and their consequences is the central theme for the album, where did the idea come from?

Sonny: The story-line is basically a character who has been dealt a bad hand or a crazy hand. A lot of people are going through struggles whether it’s addiction or suicidal thoughts; it’s everything that strikes us as human beings. The character has to make decisions as things come his way threaded through the whole album and the concept. At the end we are a band of hope, we are a band of faith and positivity. With the character making choices finding forgiveness, redemption and hope, the idea is for our fan base to really look into it. It’s about the hidden treasures found in the record as a whole, not just one single off ITunes. It’s like we are trying to create a piece of art and the real music fans are like “I need to own this album”. They don’t want to pick it apart and steal little pieces of it, it all goes together as a whole. It’s like a throwback to the way music used to be, we grew up listening to albums, reading cassette jackets, reading what instruments they used and I think that’s died down. The new 13-year-old fans are so used to just getting songs here and there in this fast paced social media world. They can be fans of the band on Friday and be on to something else by Monday. This is for our fan base that wants the album as a whole piece of art.

What makes this the right time for this message?   

Marcos: We’ve always been a band about hope and positivity and we chose a different format. There’s an actual story with this album. I think it’s lacking out there, people are reaching out and taking a single. We’re reaching into our roots, we’re grabbing from whom we’re influenced by. For example, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Who’s Tommy and a lot of those bands made stories and you had to listen to the whole record. They never lost sight of the song and that was kind of the classic album. So we felt along with our producers that it was the right time to put this record out.

Sonny: To finish what Marcos was saying, we’ve always done that in our band and it has always been one of our goals. We’ve been influenced by certain artists that made us feel good or gave us hope. It was this vibe that they had in their music that was part of our upbringing, we just happen to be somewhat of a heavier band. I mean look at the world around you, I mean that’s what we need. One of the reasons P.O.D. was popular in 2001 was because of 9/11, the world was desperate for answers. They didn’t want the rest of the garbage that was out there feeding chaos into their lives through music. They shut it out because they were desperate and needed hope. Now we are back in another age where we forget and everybody’s back into their same old stuff and the world hasn’t gotten better. Truth and hope, everything we’ve put into our message isn’t necessarily the trend. People don’t always want to hear that, but that doesn’t change us. Hopefully they will be trendy one day, you know what I mean? Talking about these things, that’s substance. We’ve said where are all the great hip-hop artists that spoke to us and the teachers in music that taught us something? Today it’s all about big booty music and how can I screw you over to make tons of money. There’s just so much negativity out there, but we’ve never been a part of it. I don’t think we’d even know how, it just isn’t in our soul. It’s never really changed in our music, but changed in that it’s a concept and that’s exciting for us.

For each of you personally, what was the most challenging part of making the album?

Sonny: I mean for us it’s always been fun, I think it was kind of easier because we had a little guidance. As far as the storyline, it really did come naturally. I guess the hardest part is finding your niche and place for the kind of record you want to make. I don’t want to sound like this older guy, but I look around at music and there’s no substance because it’s oversaturated. There’s so many musicians, but where are the Led Zeppelins, the ACDCs or the Police? We don’t have bands like that and the new young fans don’t realize that. So you can sit here as an older band and decide if your going with what’s cool or do we keep with our pioneered sound? You can sell out and hope you get popular again or you keep grinding it out with the hopes that we made the record we wanted to. Maybe it’s to mature for younger crowds, but people can see this band progress since they were teenagers, perfecting their craft. The 13-year-old might not get that, but you’ve got be true to yourself. We’re just hopeful we can change the new mentality of new fans.

Marcos: I found the most challenging part was trying to write within the realm of P.O.D. and keeping us in the story of the album. Yet at the same time not losing sight of good songs and choruses. We didn’t want to go too far in drifting to the left or the right, which comes with being progressive in conceptual records. I think some people get so locked into the story the songs lose their feel or their groove. I think we did a hell of a job, we’ve got a bit of everything and I’m really proud of it. Sonny did a hell of a job with the lyrics and the melody. As a band we all just put our heads together, whether it’s relevant to skinny jeans and what not I don’t know. I think we created something very clever and that’s lacking in music. Our record will make a point and our producer felt the same way, so we did it.

At any point, did you envision being where you are today?

Sonny: Never man, we were just playing for our friends at backyard parties and playing in bars we weren’t even old enough to be in. The bars had Battle of the Bands and we never thought we’d even get out of San Diego. You get invited to crossover into Phoenix to do a skate park and it’s like wow we’re going out of state. It was always just a progression for us. One of the neat things about this band is we’ve always hustled and it wasn’t an overnight thing. I always say, especially now, you see these bands take the elevator to success and they don’t learn anything. They lose themselves and they lose it all. With us, we’ve taken the staircase and learned with every step. What it looks like, tastes like, sounds like and feels like. It sucks sometime because this industry changes and it isn’t always progressing in a good way. It’s getting oversaturated by who can we find to make money, it isn’t about the music. At the end of the day you have to live with your integrity and your honor. As Marcos said, you have to put out the music you want to put out.

Marcos: I called a friend last night and he was asking about what life is like on the road. So I told him to go back and listen to “Working Man” by Rush. That’s what we’re doing out here. Straight up we’re very fortunate and privileged to be doing this, but it isn’t easy. A mentor and a friend of mine, Carlos Santana told me “It’s like a roller coaster, there’s highs and there’s lows.” When he was winning all those Grammys and people were saying he’s making a comeback, he disagreed. He said “Man I’ve been doing this the whole time, it’s not a comeback. That’s how I look at our band, we’ve had some highs and we’ve had some lows. In the end, things go and in the way we hope they would. You get there and you look back at the good and the bad we’re still here. It’s a privilege to still be here doing this as a unit with the same guys and I don’t know how many bands could say that.

Check out the lyric video for “This Goes Out to You”:

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