The members of P.O.D., or Payable on Death, are Christians. And while they don’t preach or try to ram their spirituality down anyone’s throat, they hope that their positive message will have an influence on rock fans.
The band is likely to draw listeners who enjoy groups like Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, and Korn. Though that rap-rock style has become wildly popular fairly recently, P.O.D. has been working at it for about eight years. Way back when, drummer Wuv was jamming metal with guitarist Marcos. Sonny, who was more into reggae and hip-hop, joined in on vocals. “It was like, just do what you know how to do over our music and it will be different,” Sonny remembered.
P.O.D. has been gaining industry attention since it started in 1992, opening for the likes of Green Day. However, the most positive thing in the members’ lives – their faith – turned out to be somewhat of an obstacle in their career. Several labels came through with offers early on, but on one condition – knock off the religious lyrics because that’s not popular. “So we just thanked them for their time,” Sonny told POLLSTAR.
“We thought the only way we’re gonna be able to do it is if we do it by ourselves; so we scraped out whatever change we had and went into the local studio.”
The band released three independent albums and toured on its own for years before scoring a deal with Atlantic in 1998.
Atlantic was psyched about P.O.D.’s DIY philosophy and the label was looking to broaden its horizons. “They didn’t have any acts like this on their label,” Sonny said. “They were more known for Jewel, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Brandy. They were kind of looking to change up their roster a little bit.”
Plus, Atlantic was different from the companies that wouldn’t accept P.O.D.’s hard rockin’ positive message. “They never asked us to change. They kind of respected the fact that we’d been around for so long doing it on our own that they just wanted to come behind us and help us out.”
Another obstacle the band had to overcome was ignorance at retail. Some record stores figured since the members of P.O.D. were Christian, they should get shoved into the gospel section.
“You don’t see the Beastie Boys in a Buddhist section,” Sonny said. “That’s somebody’s personal opinion. That’s somebody that thinks they have the right to make that decision, I guess. But for us, we don’t go around and say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re a Christian band,’ or, ‘We make Christian music.’ It’s like, we’re four Christians without a doubt but we make music for everybody, not just for Christians. We make music that hopefully someone will like and if they like it enough, they’ll actually take a moment to think about what we’re saying.”
The majority of P.O.D.’s fans are kids. When the band is headlining, it makes a point to play mostly all-ages shows. Tour stops have included skate parks, county parks, coffeehouses, colleges and local youth centers. “Man, it’s the 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds that are so loyal,” Sonny said.
The band’s connection to its fans is so strong that oftentimes, the performance only counts for part of the show’s events. After a set, it’s not uncommon to find the members drawn into long conversations with kids, whether it’s about music or personal issues.
The dedication of those fans has led to the creation of the P.O.D. Warriors crew, a loosely affiliated team of dozens of fans from across the country who take an active roll in promoting concerts. The band believes it takes a warrior to turn the other cheek and represent what may not be the most popular attitude.
“Being a Christian, it’s not a crutch or being a goody-goody two shoes,” Sonny said. “We’re not perfect by any means but we want to watch the things that we do and we want to try to love our neighbors when they hate us. We want to try to do the positive thing when it comes to everything from every decision you make. Whether it comes to drugs and alcohol, sex before marriage or relationships, we want to make the right decisions. There’s these kids that are out there and they’re doing what’s right and what’s good but yet they’re the ones that are being persecuted for it.”
P.O.D. has been spreading its music and its message to wider audiences recently, opening for Primus, Sevendust, and Kid Rock. Sonny said the band doesn’t hesitate to open for groups that have different beliefs because it’s a good opportunity to try and reach their audiences.
“It’s not new to us when someone starts to cuss or lights up a joint or gets hostile in the audience. We weren’t born in the church and we weren’t even raised as Christians, so it’s like, man, we’re the real deal,” he said. “Ultimately, we’re trying to win you over with the music and it’s up to you to think about what we’re talking about.”