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More than two decades into their career, P.O.D. enjoy the kind of popularity most rock bands would envy. The San Diego quartet continue to be a rock radio staple, with newer songs "Lost in Forever" and "Beautiful" drawing the kind of airplay the band's early hits "Alive," "Youth of the Nation" and "Boom" once did. On the touring front, P.O.D. have performed at the best festivals around the world—to name a few, Download Festival, Hellfest, Rock on the Range, River City Rockfest, Carolina Rebellion, and Aftershock Festival—and have done shows with In This Moment, Prophets of Rage, Shinedown, and Five Finger Death Punch.
However, P.O.D. has built this successful career by never letting themselves be pigeonholed. "If you listen to all of our songs side by side, we don't focus on one style of music," says frontman Sonny Sandoval. "We have reggae songs; we have punk rock songs. We've done jazzy songs. We've mixed in loops and DJs, and we've experimented."
P.O.D.'s tenth studio album, Circles, marks another leap forward. The band members decided to shake up their creative process by collaborating with an L.A.-based production duo called the Heavy, who provided behind-the-scenes musical tweaks, and served as a sounding board for vocal and melodic ideas.
The results are contemporary-sounding without losing any of the band's core sonic signifiers. "Rockin' With The Best" is described by Sandoval as having an "old-school P.O.D. sound, very rap-driven and Beastie Boys-ish" vibe; the reggae-inflected rocker "Always Southern California" has a massive sing-along chorus; and the groove-heavy "Soundboy Killa" is the kind of chugging hip-hop/metal hybrid at which the band excels.
Other songs find P.O.D. pushing themselves into slightly new territory. The midtempo "Dreaming" mixes snaky blues guitar with glacial digital programming, while the Linkin Park-reminiscent "Circles" shows off P.O.D.'s command of dynamics: Moody electronic flourishes, glassy piano and laid-back rapping verses give way to a bridge that explodes with chugging guitars and ferocious drumming.
Sandoval's long-time collaborators in P.O.D.— lead guitarist Marcos Curiel, bassist Traa Daniels and drummer Wuv Bernardo—were fully on board with this forward progress.
This versatility was a big plus on Circles, since P.O.D. didn't have any preconceived notions about what the new music should sound like. But as it turns out, working with the Heavy brought out the best in the band, and gave them a new perspective on their own work.
From a lyrical standpoint P.O.D. kept a similar open mind. As per usual, Sandoval didn't scribble ideas in a journal or notebook in advance, with plans to write songs around a set theme. Instead, he let inspiration come to him as the music evolved.
In many cases, Circles turns to optimism for inspiration. The title track addresses trying to get out of an unhealthy cycle in which someone feels stuck, while "Dreaming" envisions seeking out a brighter future even if the present day is tough. Other songs grapple with how to navigate life's biggest challenges. "Home" emerged after Sandoval suddenly lost a close friend who was more like a brother to him. "Fly Away," meanwhile, acknowledges that all of us sometimes struggle, and need to rely on others for help.
Above all, Sandoval always wants P.O.D.'s songs to resonate with listeners on a deeper emotional level, and make people see their lives—or challenges—in a positive light.
Being open to new experiences and sounds is just one more way P.O.D. has continued to thrive and reach new fans, even as they keep challenging themselves to become better musicians.
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