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Members include Marcos Curiel, guitar; Sonny Sandoval, vocals; Traa (born Mark Daniels), bass; Wuv (born Noah Bernardo, Jr.), drums. Addresses: Management--Tim M. Cook/Cook Management, LLC, P.O. Box 1413, Bartlesville, OK 74005-1413. Website--P.O.D. Official Website: http://www.payableondeath.com.
Both in appearance and sound, P.O.D. belies the stereotype of the mild-mannered Contemporary Christian rock band. By combining a blistering sonic attack and streetwise attitude with fervent spiritual messages, they have reached out from their Christian fan base to attract a growing secular audience. In the process, they have earned considerable interest from the mainstream media through their ability to churn out hard-driving rock/hip-hop without losing their Bible-based message. The gold sales-level success of their 1999 CD, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, confirmed the strength of P.O.D.'s genre-transcending appeal.
In the early 1990s, Marcos Curiel and Noah "Wuv" Bernardo, Jr. started their band in a gritty section of San Diego, California, known as South Bay or Southtown. Only a few miles from the United States-Mexico border, Southtown was populated by a mixture of Hispanics, Filipinos, blacks, and whites, and was considered to be a tough place, filled with drugs, gangs, and violence. Wuv and his cousin Sonny Sandoval grew up next door to one another in Southtown. They both experienced a harsh childhood. "Our dads were 15, 16 when they had us," Wuv explained to Rolling Stone's Mark Binelli. "They were still kids, still doing their partying, and me and my cousin grew up in that scene. People used to break in and put my mom and dad down with a gun, looking for drugs." Wuv's parents separated and his father lived on the streets for three years, homeless and addicted to drugs. His dad finally turned his life around after attending a Christian music concert and converting to Christianity. Eventually the whole family converted. "We didn't grow up religious, in Christian homes. We came to find God later in life and we're grateful for it, so that's what we sing about," Wuv told Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times.
Sandoval turned to Christianity after his mother died of cancer. He had witnessed the comfort Christianity gave her and his other family members and decided it was time for him to change his life as well. Sandoval played hip-hop music with friends before his cousin, Wuv, invited him to join his group. But Sonny was a shy kid and not very comfortable in front of people. "He's one of those guys who'd take a lower grade on a paper just because he didn't wanna go in front of the class and read it," Wuv told Binelli. "At the band's first show, Sonny sang his lyrics from a sheet of paper with his back to the audience." Singing became the perfect outlet for Sandoval's grief. Such tracks as "Full Color" (on P.O.D.'s 1996 CD Brown), in particular, dealt with his mother's death and his spiritual conversion in powerful terms.
By 1993, the band had added bassist Traa (Mark Daniels), a Cleveland native who had been playing in a funk band led by Wuv's uncle. As its lineup solidified, the group adopted the name P.O.D., an acronym for Payable On Death. Wuv recalled in an interview with CCM writer Lou Carlozo that his wife-to-be had suggested the moniker: "She was working at a bank and she said, 'Why don't you call it Payable on Death? That's a banking term--it's a document that appoints everything left behind to another person, like a will.' We said, 'Yeah, that's just like what Jesus does with our sins.'"
P.O.D. quickly began to develop a local reputation for playing ferociously energetic live shows. Wuv's father financed their first three independent albums--Snuff the Punk, Brown,and Live at TomFest. The band performed almost anywhere they were invited--YMCAs, church basements, skate-parks, beds of pickup trucks, and even farms. They made a point of spending time with fans after their concerts and built up a loyal legion of devotees who took to calling themselves "The Warriors." "I'll spend hours talking after a show," Sonny stated on the group's official website. "That's what this band is about--we're just honored to have that kind of opportunity to connect with young people."
Although P.O.D. was growing in popularity, it was sometimes hard to see where fans were coming from. "When they started out, [Christian music audiences] absolutely hated them," Tim Cook, P.O.D.'s manager, told Lewis. "It was a group of multiethnic guys playing this Latin, reggae, hip-hop, real hard music, and people just hated it." On the other hand, they were losing gigs on the indie rock circuit because they pushed their religious beliefs too fervently on stage. The band began to change their approach in order to reach more people. "Every song might not say 'Jesus' in it," Marcos told CCM writer Gregory Rumberg. "It might not have a spiritual overtone, but the passion and emotion behind it, the chords--I'm playing that to the higher power above, which is God...."
P.O.D. got its big break in 1997 when the group captured the attention of John Rubeli of Atlantic Records while performing at a West Hollywood, California, showcase. Steadily building their grassroot support and word-of-mouth sales, they released The Warriors EP on the independent Tooth and Nail label before signing with Atlantic in 1999. With the release of The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, P.O.D. received accolades from both the rock community and such Christian music publications as HM and 7ball. Band members pushed hard to have "Southtown" as their first single off the album, although the label preferred "Rock The Party (Off The Hook)," seeing it as more radio-friendly. As the single was building, Pat Martin, assistant program director of mainstream rock station KRXQ in Sacramento, California, remarked to Billboard writer Carla Hay about "Southtown's" staying power: "The song is hard and edgy, and it generates good phones. More than anything else, this band is getting popular because they've been generating a great street buzz."
Others recognized the band's growing popularity as well. "P.O.D. has had a strong word-of-mouth following from the beginning," Natalie Waleik, music buyer for Boston-based retail chain Newbury Comics told Billboard's Hay. "Sales really started to take off for P.O.D. when they were on [nationally syndicated radio program] The Howard Stern Show in February, and sales have increased since then because there's more awareness for the band at radio and MTV."
P.O.D. signed on with a number of high-profile concert packages during 2000, including the Primus "Anti-Pop" tour and the Ozzfest 2000 tour. The latter concert engagement raised some controversy--Ozzfest's namesake, Ozzy Osbourne, was the former lead singer of Black Sabbath and had been associated with demonic imagery in rock music for nearly 30 years. Christian radio talk show host Dr. James Dobson accused P.O.D. of forsaking their religious beliefs; concerned evangelicals approached them at concerts and questioned their integrity. "A lot of Christian kids have a hard time understanding how we can go out into the world and play our music and get along with all these bands," Wuv told CCM's Rumberg. "It's because of our love for God. God has been so real in our lives that we are enabled to do that. There is no way any band is going to rub off on P.O.D. more than P.O.D. is going to rub off on another band because ... we've already been there."
Winning comparisons with such mainstream rock acts as Rage Against The Machine, Limp Bizkit and Korn, P.O.D. increased its visibility by contributing to soundtracks for such films as Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, Little Nicky, and Any Given Sunday. Appearing on everything from MTV to Jay Leno to the Howard Stern Show, P.O.D. remained true to their beliefs no matter what the setting. "We play concerts full of [other bands'] acts telling kids to put their middle finger up in the air, sleep with women, and do all the drugs they can," Sandoval told Revolver. "When you get up and talk about love, people say, 'What do you mean? Rock and roll is about anarchy.' They say there's no room for God in rock. So you look at it and tell me who's the rebel. Who's the one looked down upon because of what he believes?" In his Rolling Stone interview with Binelli, Sandoval expanded on this theme, pointing out that "Ninety-five percent of Bob Marley's lyrics are straight Scripture. There's people walking around singing 'One Love,' and they have no idea it's Scripture. We come from the streets ... and we bring it to the kids tastefully. We don't come off all TV-evangelistic. That's how the world stereotypes Christians. We're just real people who love God."
In 2001, P.O.D. received several Dove Award nominations, including ones for Artist, Group, and Rock Recorded Song of the Year. Such recognition hasn't altered their priorities. "The most important thing, man, is my love and respect for God and what I believe to be true," Traa told CCM's Rumberg. "My love and my respect for my wife and my family and the fact that P.O.D. is even out here is a privilege. All that keeps me straight." As their popularity continued to spread, the group affirmed its desire to testify to their personal faith rather than aggressively evangelize. "When I talk to someone who's not a Christian, they shouldn't feel automatically alienated," Sandoval told Billboard's Hay. "We're not ashamed of our faith in God, because our faith is what motivates us to write music. We're not here to judge people or to say we're role models. We just say that this is what works for us, and if it works for you, that's great."
by Janet Ingram
Group formed in San Diego, CA, 1992; released debut Snuff the Punk on own Rescue label, 1993; released Brown on Rescue, 1996 and Live at TomFest on Rescue, 1997; signed with Tooth & Nailand released EP The Warriors, 1999; signed with Atlantic and released The Fundamental Elements of Southtown,1999; released Satellite, 2001.
- Selected discography
- Snuff the Punk Rescue, 1993.
- Brown Rescue, 1996.
- Live at TomFest Rescue, 1997.
- The Warriors (EP), Tooth and Nail, 1999.
- The Fundamental Elements of Southtown (includes "Southtown" and "Rock the Party"), Atlantic, 1999.
- (Contributor) Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows (soundtrack), Emd/Priority, 2000.
- (Contributor) Little Nicky (soundtrack), Maverick, 2000.
- (Contributor) Any Given Sunday (soundtrack), Wea/Atlantic, 2000.
- Satellite Atlantic, 2001.
- Billboard, March 18, 2000; October 28, 2000, p. 27; February 24, 2001, p. 47.
- CCM, March 2000, pp. 38-39; January 2001, pp. 24-29.
- Christianity Today, January 8, 2001, pp. 90-91.
- Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2000, p. 56.
- Rolling Stone, March 30, 2000, p. 31; December 14-21, 2000, pp. 101, 103.
- Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2001, p. B1.
- P.O.D. Official Website, http://www.payableondeath.com (April 21, 2001).
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