It's been over a decade since P.O.D. was the hottest hard rock band on the planet. Their triple-platinum album, Satellite, had released on Sept. 11, 2001, a day when the world desperately needed some good news. The band became a mainstay on MTV and rock radio, and their songs made the soundtracks of blockbuster movies and TV shows.
Things have simmered down for the band since; Testify (2006) sold about 500,000 copies, and When Angels & Serpents Dance (2008) sold about 200,000. Around that time, lead singer Sonny Sandoval told his bandmates that he desperately needed a break, to spend time with family and to revitalize his walk with God. Save for a few scattered shows, P.O.D. has mostly been lying low for the last four years.
But now, 20 years after the band formed in San Diego, P.O.D. comes back with a new record deal (with Razor & Tie) and a rock-your-face-off new album, Murdered Love, releasing today. We recently caught up with Sandoval, 38, to talk about what he learned during the band's hiatus, about the new album, and about one song on the new record that includes a particularly naughty word—and how they thought Christians might respond to it. (Note: the song is not included on the album version released to Christian retail.)
The band is 20 years old this year. And you're getting to be an old man!
I am, man! (Laughing.) Problem is I feel young. Until I bust up my back jumping off the stage. But it's been a great experience.
What's been the best part?
Seeing the impact that our music has. It's always been my heart that God would save people through this crazy music somehow, someway, his way. All we know how to do is write music and love God. When some kid comes up after a show and says he was contemplating suicide or he got saved or he felt like the Lord showed him something through our music, that's the only reason I continue to do it. That's like fuel in our tank, because we run on empty so often that it's like, I'm ready to quit and be home with my family. [Sandoval and wife Shannon have three young children.] But then a kid shows up with a story—and it's not just one. It's over and over.
What's been the hardest part?
Experiencing the real world. We have to walk out our faith out there. When we're out there, it's like all of a sudden everybody wants a piece of you. Our faith isn't necessarily tested, but our flesh is tested—our strengths, our weaknesses. It's been an up-and-down ride, and everybody's been through their own struggles. And at the end of the day, I know I have to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, and I have to walk out my faith with God and with my brothers.
The band has mostly been on hiatus for a few years. Why?
I had to take a break. I had reached a point where my Christian walk had become a routine; I didn't feel like I was in his presence anymore. So I just wanted to come home and be a good husband and daddy. I wanted to hide myself in his Scriptures and draw close to God. And in that process, God reminded me of the platform that he's given me with P.O.D., and that we need to go out there and keep being a light in this crazy world.
Was there a time in recent years where the band thought about quitting outright?
I don't think so. When I brought it up with the guys that I was tired and wanted to go home, I think they were tired too, but I think we'd just been so programmed to keep pushing forward—like the show must go on. But I had reached a point spiritually that I was willing to give up anything, to lay it all down. This music doesn't define who I am. I'm blessed to do it, but it's not my identity. Christ is my identity. I just needed to get back to my roots, having God remind me of my priorities and my first love.