At their June 21 tour date in Huntington, NY, Kate had a chance to sit down with P.O.D. vocalist Sonny Sandoval. Guitarist Marcos Curiel also dropped in for a few words.
New England Music Blog: So you guys have a new record coming out, The Awakening. Tell me about it.
Sony Sandoval: It’s a conceptual record; it’s a little bit different for us, never done that. [It] started with an idea with our producer, Howard Benson, who spoke with us and with the state of music, it was something that was more geared toward our loyal fan base ‘cause everybody these days are so used to going on iTunes and picking and choosing of what favorite they want and he was like “Why not…we need to do something different, that’s more like a piece of art.” And Marcos has been saying this too so Marcos had the conversation with him, started talking with the band, it was more of something that our fans could grab and say, “I want this whole thing.” Any listener… [laughs] For the record, Marcos [Curiel]…
Marcos Curiel: You really wanna know how it went down?
SS: …he wrote and directed, filmed, starred [laughs]…just kidding.
MC: Those are just the facts…if you really wanna get down to the nitty gritty…
SS: Marcos did start the idea with Howard about someday doing a conceptual record and Howard said, “Why not do it now?” and once we started throwing ideas around…like I said, it was more for our fans to say, “I want this whole piece of art, not just one song.” And hopefully, it is trying to create a mindset of even today’s new fans, they’re so fast food as far as music goes too…and it was fun for us to just do something different and kind of put together a storyline and hidden messages and cool little interludes…who knows? Maybe it’s just for us, just to do something different. We’ve done a lot of records and we’ve been around a long time.
NEMB: What are your thoughts on the music industry today?
SS: I mean for me, I think I’m just more old school. We’re four guys who started playing in our local clubs back home in San Diego and put out demos and people started talking about you back then, before internet and they started inviting you to their shows and their clubs. We put our pennies together and traveled outside California and started touring on our own and doing a lot of things on our own. We’re very grassroots, and we’re a hard working band. So It’s a little bit difficult when it’s so saturated with just anybody now and then its become so commercial and you have…we always say this…and you have the same four guys from Hollywood writing everybody’s record and now it’s crossed over from rock to pop…its all the same. I guess we grew up on those old stories when it was like, “Man, these guys got in and did it!” It’s not like that anymore, you have some kid who’s lucky enough, I guess, to have rich parents and just grab his computer and create his band right there and make it and hire people to play his music. It’s different but I guess I’m more old school…
NEMB: What advice would you give to new and upcoming bands?
MC: Don’t suck… [laughs]
SS: First of all, don’t suck [laughs]. If anything, have fun doing it.
MC: You gotta suck to learn, right?
SS: Even when we do these rock festivals and some of these new bands are walking around and trying to be that true Hollywood story or behind the music…we see these bands and like yesterday, we were looking and we were looking like, “I think I know this guy…but I don’t…” and you have to Google because the last time you’ve seen him, he looked completely different, wearing completely different clothes and now it’s just whatever is hot and trendy for the moment and it’s this kind of Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood…you’re just playing a role and if you’re gonna play a role, then be an actor and go be on Broadway. But for us, it’s like, this is music, like at least the way we’ve grown up and these guys put their heart and soul into what they do…it sucks to have someone try and imitate that and not be real about it, but I don’t wanna sound…I ain’t mad…
MC: One thing I do like…I like that P.O.D. is from SoCal and has its own thing going on…we’re not trying to be the Stones…like we’re not dressing up like the Stones, walking around with the cigarette, like Mick Jagger, like all of these bands out there, like “dude, you’re a wanna-be this, you’re a wanna-be that!” But I got the moves like Jagger [laughs].
SS: It’s so obvious but the 13 year-old and 14 year-old fan doesn’t know that…they’re like “He’s so cool!” It’s just so watered down and we’re the old school guys looking like, “This sucks…” it’s like, this band is selling out like arenas and it’s like, “Dude, you’re just a copy of our favorite bands…” but the 14 year-old fan doesn’t know it, the one that’s going to Hot Topic and it’s just mall business. I think we’ve settled for ourselves and it’s like…I guess it’s like pioneers…there are bands that we like and they’re pioneers and they’ve just realized that’s what they are and everybody else is roots…if you wanna be happy about that or call it a compliment, cool. But I think for us too, it’s just we realized that we’re a pioneer of a certain sound and a genre and it is what it is now. So sometimes you just gotta take that integrity and dignity and keep it and not sellout and do something different.
NEMB: How do you feel about “Youth of the Nation” still being as prevalent today as it was 10 years ago?
SS: I mean, it’s awesome that people still relate to it and I think they just relate to certain things that go on in the world and sad things. For us, when we wrote the song, we were two blocks away from this school shooting in San Diego. I like telling stories and we always try to give a positive outlook and a message and there are still some people who just gravitate towards that. It doesn’t have to be exact to the story but these kids now that are younger and going through stuff that are kind of seeing it for themselves, even when it comes to bullying and stuff like that, there’s still some stuff that is just relevant to today. Then you go overseas and it’s like, [laughs] they just love the music regardless, you know? It’s like, “Dude, P.O.D. has come to South America, let’s go to their show,” you know? But then, now, what’s cool for us is that we see a lot of our old school fans and we’re all parents and we all have kids now, and they’re bringing their kids out and their kids are still singing it and it’s like, “This is cool.” So when I see some little kid out there, who I know the song is older than that kid and he’s singing his heart out and it’s like…that kid right there is not listening to the radio, he’s not being told what to listen to, it’s like he’s listening because his pops is listening to it, and he’s like, “Dude I like this band.” That song is…gotta be going on 14 years old. Even yesterday, there was a kid and he must’ve been like, 11 or 12, and he’s just like telling me all of the lyrics when we were doing autograph signing and he said, “I just love the song!” And I said, “That’s cool, man!” And that’s why I get frustrated because I think that’s what this music thing is supposed to be, when you see that it doesn’t mean the same to the new fans that it did to us, it’s like it’s just watering down that power of music. It gets a little frustrating because we really do become Hollywood…just another source of entertainment that’s not really…because I never really looked at music as far as, the way I see music, entertainment even though I know it is, all the music growing always meant something to me from the lyrics to what this band is into, what they think about the world [chuckles] not that that even matters, but you wanted to know, what this person’s mindset is and I guess because I was more into the positive type of stuff but when you see it’s not the same, it’s like “Oh, this kind of sucks…” I see the same thing…older fans, well not older, my age! When that song did come out, they were younger and so it does bring back memories…some lady said last night, “The first time I heard this song was in the movie Blue Crush,” it was the part of the movie where the chick takes off on the wave, and she [the woman] was like, “…and ever since then, I’ve been a fan.” Because they played the whole song, and I was like, “Man, this is some long wave that this chick is surfing because the whole time she is shredding it up…” Dude, I don’t think in the history of movies and soundtrack that they ever play a song like all the way out, like usually it’s like snippets but I think they played it again in another segment and I was like, “Oh this is overdoing it now.” [laughs]
NEMB: What do you guys usually do on your day off?
SS: When we get days off, it’s usually…I don’t know, trying to get out of this bus, actually do, see some things. It’s different because in the States, we’ve pretty much been there done that but when we’re overseas, we’ll seize the moment to just walk and see the sights just so you can check things off your bucket list and say, “I did it, I was there.” This last time, in the UK and we got to see Stonehenge and we went to Nottingham Castle…so those are just kind of the perks but for now, with my son being out and younger, I get to Google stuff and say, “Ok, we’re in this city, what’s this city known for and what relevance to history does this have?” So already, I’ve been homeschooling him since he was in kindergarten so now he’s going through Philly and DC, Virginia, all of these places, so when he finally does go to regular school, he’ll be like, “Dude, I’ve been there! I know about that stuff!” And it refreshes my memory [laughs] …history…
NEMB: What’s your favorite song to play live?
SS: Obviously, the songs that the people know, like “Youth of the Nation” and “Alive,” are always crowd-pleasers but a lot of the heavier stuff I dig, “Southtown” always has a great reaction, it just depends on the fan, you know? Sometimes, I tend to forget that there are new fans that are kind of checking you out because I’m so used to having people go off and go crazy in the pit because that’s what we did. I always have to be reminded, “Just take it easy, let them have fun and let them experience their own rock n roll show.” But it’s different because you’ll go in one city and there are guys and girls bouncing off the walls having fun, and you’re like, “This is how I remember it,” then you’ll go in another city and it’s more of a spectator. Even like the Shinedown/Three Days Grace was like that for us because there are a lot more songs on the radio so a lot of times you’ll get fans that’ll just wanna bob their head and that’s perfectly ok, but when we get up there…we have our soft stuff and our mellow stuff, but we also have our heavy stuff…and I guess you sometimes forget that you’re not known all that much for your heavy stuff, it’s just the stuff that does get played on the radio and that crowd…I think we kind of scared them a little bit so…and they dig it because it’s still rock n roll but they’re used to them sing-a-longs with Three Days [Grace] and Shinedown. I don’t know why we did it but we were on a tour with 3 Doors Down and Daughtry and we just got asked and we were like, “Dude, we can do that!” And for some reason, probably not the smartest business move, we played like, “We’re gonna play what we wanna play,” and what we should’ve done is played the softer, mellow because it was all soccer moms, American Idol fans [chuckles]…and I think one show out of the whole tour, only one show, had no seats and it was a tight club and it was probably the most fun but every other place had seats and so I think we got more frustrated and like, “Ah, this sucks…” so right off the bat, you have one of our heaviest songs. And it was literally like old folks on date night and we felt like we just ruined their date night because they’re just looking at you like, “What the heck is this…?” So we should’ve played more of our mellow stuff but it’s kind of like you love us or you hate us, we do what we do.
NEMB: Favorite part about touring?
SS: Obviously traveling, and overseas is the best because it is more unfamiliar than the States. Now and then I’d bring my son and my wife and kids come out too, you know, they’re not in their routine of school…but as long as the fans keep coming out, it’s still fun. But as we were saying earlier, it’s an iffy thing these days because, music is just different. One day you can play to a sold-out house and then play and no one shows up, like tonight, it’s a big venue, it’s Father’s Day, who’s gonna show up? I wouldn’t show up! [laughs] I’d be with my kids. I mean, we get it but this is the nature of the business but we were just saying that in the last interview, you can totally have this high off a show, like “Man, this was bananas, crazy!” Then play one show and it’s like, “Man, this is not the same…” So it’s an up-and-down thing [chuckles], I guess it’s that excitement that keeps you going, keep searching for that show that continues to be amazing.
NEMB: Tell me about the Whosoevers.
SS: When we took some time off the music for a little bit, it was just more of a soul-searching thing for myself and just getting back to the basics of my faith and my belief in God and just kind of doing a house cleanup spiritually and in my heart and in my mind, which allowed me to team up with some awesome friends of mine, like Brian from Korn and couple of guys from the metal militia, Lacey who used to sing in Flyleaf. We’re all Christians and stuff but we live and work in the real world and sometimes I don’t speak that language of conservative, Bible-belt church and sometimes those same churches don’t understand what we do and don’t believe that you can have tattoos and can be in a rock n roll band and here you have in every industry from rock n roll to extreme sports, you have these believers out there that are just doing what they do and being excellent and loving God but still having to go through normal struggles and crazy stuff. It was more about forming a brotherhood and a sisterhood with people who love God and get it and a lot of these guys that are trying to stay sober or they just want that accountability in their life, going through struggles and stuff, it started off like that then once people started to see us as a group, it opened up doors for us to go into from rehabs to group homes, youth homes, get in front of kids that will actually give us a few seconds of their time but listen to it because they think you’re somebody. So when you go into this rehab for kids and they’re like, “These guys are cool, they’re P.O.D. and they’re Korn!” Then you get to share your story, it’s not preaching anybody, it’s not trying to push your belief on anybody, it’s just saying, “Dude, this is my story…” mine just happened to be surrounded by a bunch of these guys that were whackos, so that their story is that much more powerful. Someone like Head who can say, “Dude, I was tweaked out for so many years, I don’t even remember half of my career but this is my story and this is how God helped me.” So these kids listen, and it’s a positive, it’s a good thing, we’ve been able to do a lot of community stuff and we get to throw shows, it’s something we do when we’re together and we speak wherever they will have us and it’s been an awesome thing. Before he [Head] even went back to Korn, he thought he’d never go back because in his mind, it’s like, “I’m a Christian now and I can’t do that…” and so he struggled with a lot of that stuff but through this movement and our brotherhood, it’s like, “Dude, you have to be excellent, you have to love God, no matter what business you’re in…” Even though sometimes the ideas are different from how he feels now about how he believes what Korn is known for, but it’s still an opportunity to love people, not on this mission or ministry opportunity, but you’re not just speaking from a pedestal or a pulpit, you’re like, “Dude, I’m down with these people, I’m loving them where they’re at…” And so now that Fieldy’s a Christian and Head’s a Christian, they have each other, so they keep each other accountable to stay sober, to do all of these things and because they’re so excited about their faith and I’m excited about my faith, you want to share it. But you want to do it in a way where it’s not so cliché that it has this American Christianity that has pushed away people for so long. It’s a religious thing, we’re out there saying, “That’s not who I am and that’s not who I believe my God is and Jesus is but this is what I do know and here is my story, this is the way I felt, I gave God a chance and it’s working out,” [chuckles] and maybe a kid relates to that, like, “Dude, I get it…” So that was their thing, so like man, if we’re gonna be on this tour, we know that most of the fans that come out here that they’re going through some things and if we’re out here, we’re gonna use this opportunity to share our story and it’s a lot easier to say, “Hey, can I share my story with you?” than “Hey, can I tell you about God?” It is the way it is.