P.O.D is … Wuv (drums) • Marcos Curiel (guitar) • Sonny Sandoval (vocals) • Traa Daniels (bass)
Music magnifies purpose. It globalizes intent in the form of action. Since 1992, P.O.D. have globally rallied audiences around a hypnotic hybrid of hard rock, hip-hop, reggae, and alternative punctuated by a message of unification and a powerful pledge to persevere. The San Diego quartet—Sonny Sandoval [vocals], Marcos Curiel [guitar], Traa Daniels [bass], and Wuv Bernardo [drums]—rose up from a tough neighborhood just four exists north of the Mexican border into a three-time GRAMMY® Award-nominated multiplatinum mainstay. Moving 10 million-plus records, selling out gigs on multiple continents, logging four Top 10 debuts on the Billboard Top 200, and collaborating with everyone from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame® inductee Carlos Santana to Katy Perry, the group continue to bring people together everywhere.
“We come from South San Diego right next to Tijuana, and it isn’t a rock ‘n’ roll town,” explains Wuv. “It blows my mind to this day that we’ve been able to take our style and message not just across the country but around the globe. It’s a blessing.”
“Through all of our struggles, triumphs, good times, and bad times, I still believe this band has a purpose,” states Sonny. “It started from such a pure place as teenagers. We still meet as brothers who want to leave a positive and lasting mark on the world. As much as music has changed, we keep doing it, because we know somebody’s listening. It’s one thing we decided as a band. We want to make you smile, believe you’re worth something, and have the strength to get past this moment in time. We know we have the capability to write a song that can speak to a person for the rest of their life. All four of us are grateful to contribute.”
From day one, they equally contributed a singular vibe to what would become P.O.D. As the story goes, Marcos and Wuv developed an unbreakable musical bond in a high school thrash band inspired by Metallica and Slayer. With Wuv and Sonny cousins, Sonny often attended gigs to cheer them on. At the same time, he went through a series of trials and tribulations. Exposed to “getting in trouble” at a young age, he witnessed divorce, drugs, and street life all “by association” much like his future bandmates. At 19-years-old, he endured the passing of his mother due to Leukemia.
“It was a turning point for me,” he admits. “I decided to stop some of the things that might have gotten me in trouble. It was a wakeup call. We didn’t grow up in a religious home, but in her last few days, my mom was reading her Bible. I watched how her life changed. We started going to church, and I saw how a new state of mind healed my family. When she died, it led me to get on the straight and narrow and make her proud. Wuv and Marcos had wanted to go in a new direction musically, mixing metal guitar with reggae, rap, and punk, which I was more into. In a way, I believed this band would keep me out of trouble. The next thing you know, we just started jamming.”
They played everywhere. Hundreds of sweaty basement gigs, backyard parties, and club shows followed in between opening for the likes of nineties-era Green Day. Along the way, Traa joined the fold on the bass, widening the sonic palette with a distinct soul jazz funk slap. As much as P.O.D. represented a union of styles, it also represented a union of cultures. Sonny is Pacific Islander, Italian, and Mexican, while Wuv is Pacific Islander, Marcos is Chicano, and Traa is of African descent.
“I was a reggae and hip-hop guy, but when I realized guys of color like Bad Brains could do this, I related,” adds Sonny. “We are this big, beautiful, and flavorful gumbo of race and culture personally and musically.”
Recognizing their hustle, Wuv’s dad founded Rescue Records to release P.O.D.’s Snuff the Punk  and Brown . Hitting the road nationwide, they organically attracted a fervent following, selling CDs out of the back of the van in order to get to the next city.
“By 1996, we all quit our jobs and just toured our asses off,” recalls Marcos. “My family thought I was crazy, but there was a movement happening. We’d go to a city and play to 20 people. The next time, there would be 100 and then 350. Soon, we were in warehouses with 800 kids rocking out. We did it the hard way, and it started to pay off.”
Landing a deal with Atlantic Records, the grind continued on 1999’s major label debut, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown. It established the group as a platinum-selling force anchored by anthems “Southtown” and “Rock the Party (Off the Hook)” as the guys toured tirelessly. Plus, it set the stage for Satellite in 2001. Not only did it bow at #6 on the Billboard Top 200 and go triple-platinum, but it also yielded four signature singles “Alive,” “Youth of the Nation,” “Boom,” and “Satellite.” In its wake, the band garnered GRAMMY® nominations in the categories of “Best Hard Rock Performance” for “Alive” in 2002, “Best Metal Performance” for “Portrait” in 2003, and “Best Hard Rock Performance” for “Youth of the Nation” also in 2003. Not to mention, the band joined Carlos Santana on stage at the Latin GRAMMY® Awards to perform the collaboration “America.”
Through and through, they embodied a musical universality, holding their own on bills with everyone from System of a Down and Ozzy Osbourne to Korn.
“We’ve always tried to break the mold,” says Marcos. “P.O.D. was never one thing. We’ve found a way to universally give hope inside of the music without judgment. We’re just a rock band, at the end of the day.”
Three top 10 albums followed with 2003’s gold-certified Payable on Death, 2006’s Testify, and 2008’s When Angels & Serpents Dance. The latter boasted “dream collaborations” such as “Kaliforn-Eye-A” [feat. Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies], “I’ll Be Ready” [feat. Cedella & Shannon Marley], and “God Forbid” [feat. Page Hamilton of Helmet]. Logging a Top 20 debut, 2012’s Murdered Love included fan favorites “Eyez” [feat. Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed] and “West Coast Rock Steady” [feat. Sen Dog of Cypress Hill]. After 2015’s conceptual The Awakening, Circles earmarked the start of a whole new chapter in 2018. Signing to Mascot Label Group, the boys extensively collaborated with production duo The Heavy and popped off with a dynamic distillation of their trademark style. Billboard claimed, “P.O.D. takes a leap forward with ‘Circles’,” as “Listening For The Silence” [4 million Spotify streams] and “Always Southern California” [3.2 million Spotify streams] lit up DSPs.
As they continue writing music, touring across continents, and progressing, P.O.D. maintain the same purpose that united them in the first place.
“If you really listen to our records, there’s a lot of soul,” Marcos leaves off. “We’re a hardworking band, and we’re here for the people. We want to inspire without an agenda. We want to show love and light.”
“I’m still surprised we’ve been together for almost thirty years,” smiles Wuv. “I think it just comes down to growing and learning to move forward as one.”
“P.O.D. is a family,” Traa exclaims. “It’s as much a part of me as my wife and children are. Being able to be a part of something that has touched crowds is an honor. We’re blessed to do this.”
“We always want to be meaningful on the next record, tour, and season,” Sonny concludes. “Honor and integrity are more important than anything. As long as I’m breathing and making some music, I’m good with it.” — Rick Florino, August 2020