Alicia Hauff

Interview: P.O.D – Sonny Sandoval “If I’m loved by God, it teaches me to love others, even when I don’t know how or when I don’t particularly want to!”

When an email asking Devo if she’d like to interview P.O.D lead vocalist Sonny Sandoval popped up on screen, she answered immediately. Well, after picking herself up off the floor after falling from her chair in shock, at any rate, yes. YES!!!! YAAAAAAASSSS! This is P.O.D., dammit! P.O.D as in ‘Youth of the Nation’ – which has almost 274 million Spotify streams. P.O.D., who have recently unleashed the album’ Veritas’ Latin for eleven tracks of power punching nu metal-infused positivity. Or is it Latin for ‘truth’? Who can say?

So, join Jo Wright as she has a life-affirming chat with Sonny about friendship, families, and making music behind masks. Here is a frontman who loves his fans, adores his family, and whose gratitude is infectious and endearing. He is the sweetest soul and such a pleasure to chat to. And he’s ready to tell us firsthand how ‘Veritas’ is going down…

‘Everybody who’s heard it is digging it. We’re pretty blown away and grateful!’ Sonny tells Devo. Devo’s thoughts? When ‘Drop’ erm, drops, she’s blasted back to her student life when she worked nights in a canning factory – coming home at 6am and watching music tv before going to bed. And what was on rotation? ‘Alive’ by yer boys P.O.D. Good times. Great music. But how about the band themselves? What do they think of their 11th release? ‘We’re extremely happy,’ smiles Sonny. ‘We weren’t really in the mood to make a record. We’d been going through so much as individuals, as a band, and collectively in the world too, because it was all during the pandemic. We had to chip away at it. Normally we would have a bunch of songs and we’d bring them to the studio, then record them all. ‘Veritas’ was made piece by piece. Me and Marcos (Curiel, P.O.D’s lead guitarist) would drive up to LA and spend the day with the producers. We would start with guitar ideas as usual, and maybe get on the microphone and hum some vocal suggestions and come up with lyric ideas, and we’d piece it together and create the album song by song. We did that for a year! I remember going to the studio and we were still wearing masks. But we were more than happy with what came out of it all!’

P.O.D have never been shy about experimenting with different styles and shades of music, but there is something truly special about the way ‘Veritas’ manages to kick up more than memories – it evokes actual feelings of being back in nu-metal’s early era, despite being a brand new, fresh-sounding, crisp and clear piece of communication. It’s flippin’ visceral! And it’s solid P.O.D stuff. Take over please Sonny. Yer girl’s gone on long enough. ‘P.O.D have used all different flavours and spices and thrown it all in the mix. You hear it [‘Veritas’] and you know it’s P.O.D, but it’s not an overload of this type of spice and that kind of spice. It’s our meat and potatoes! We’re so proud of it.’

Musical lifers (not Devo’s words, but a great description worthy of repeating), P.O.D are more than thirty – THIRTY – years on the scene. Did Sonny see this longevity coming? ‘No!’ he laughs, ‘I never planned on this. I was just a young guy who’d lost his mum and got asked to scream into a microphone to let out my frustrations. I never thought we’d leave San Diego. It’s been a crazy journey!’ Sadly, Sonny’s mum was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was aged just eighteen. He tells Devo, ‘Back in the mid to late 90s we were on tour, and I used to always share the story of how my mum passed away and how I came to find faith. One night a young kid came up to me and thanked us for our music. He said, ‘I’m so sorry about what happened to your mum, but if that had never happened, you’d have never found your faith’.’ P.O.D’s young fan pointed out that without Sonny experiencing one of the saddest things someone can ever go through, the band would probably have never existed. ‘He was, like, a ten-year-old kid, and he broke it down perfectly,’ says Sonny.

We all have something we believe in. Something that lifts us. Influences us. Pushes us on when the going gets tough. Be it music, nature, religion, none of the above but something personal to yourself – there is something. Touchingly, Sonny shares his inspiration. ‘There are the times when we have to think, ‘what hope do we have? What’s the point of the life we’re living? If you believe in eternity and you believe in a God who has created us and loves us, and gives us purpose, we try our best to live our life with a purpose. My love for God is gratefulness. When my mum passed, I saw that, and here I am 32 years later still trying to do the best I can. If I’m loved by God, it teaches me to love others, even when I don’t know how or when I don’t particularly want to!’

Sonny has kindly taken the time to chat with us while touring ‘Veritas’. ‘We’re on the road at the moment,’ he tells Devo. ‘We’re about a week and a half into it! It’s great. We’re just warming up and figuring out the new songs and getting back into the swing of things.’

New song getting the best reception? ‘Afraid to Die’ (featuring Jinjer’s Tatiana Shmayluk on the album) according to Sonny. ‘It feels like an old song,’ he says. ‘We get the same reaction as we do for ‘Youth of the Nation’!’ And how about the age of the audience? The P.O.D pit must be home to two generations now? Sonny nods enthusiastically. ‘The other day there were some younger people in their mid-twenties on the barrier, and I was watching them singing all the new songs. I was like, ‘we’re getting a younger audience’. That was refreshing! We see the little ones on the shoulders of their daddies. We’ve been in this game for so long that now these people who came to see us as kids are raising kids!’ It’s like me; the music I grew up listening to, I share with my kids. My kids love the same music as I do, and they find their own thing too.’

Sonny is thrilled to tell Devo his 16-year-old son is currently out on tour with his dad’s band and is drum tech-ing for them. He clearly adores his family – both his family at home and his fan family who he gets to see at times like these when P.O.D hit the road. But both touring and staying home have their pros and cons. ‘It’s a love hate relationship!’ he laughs. ‘It’s like, you’re home and you miss touring, and then you go out on tour for two weeks and you miss home. It’s always been that way for me. But during Covid I didn’t know how to act. They cancelled all the tours, and everybody had to stay home. To me that was a blessing – I always say that this band doesn’t define who I am. But I realised real quick that I’m so used to doing this thing – it’s such a huge part of who I am. In the past, touring with the guys, we’ve seen so many faces and we’ve made so many friends. To think that, for a moment, this might end, it made me really appreciate touring.’

‘Veritas’ on record – the listeners are loving it. ‘Veritas’ on tour – the travelling fans are loving it. ‘Veritas’ on stage – the band are loving it! ‘We’re smiling more!’ Sonny tells Devo. ‘I have a good friend who I met on tour around 1994 and he’s been following us ever since. He came to last night’s show, and he said, ‘man, you guys look like you’re really enjoying it’!’

Times are good for P.O.D. They have stayed on their hustle for the past three decades and they have no intention of stopping. The young kid Sonny used to be may now be grown, but the man he’s become is as driven and determined as ever. So how about hopes for the future. More massive albums? What do you reckon Sonny? Once again, his love for his family and his unwavering gratitude for life shine through in his answer. ‘I can’t wait to be a grandad!’ he grins.

‘Veritas’ is out now on Mascot Records.

Interview By Jo Wright

Photographer Credit: Alicia Hauff