P.O.D. & Flyleaf
Stars In Stereo
20 Market Place
Baltimore, MD, 21202
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM
"Music comes down to passion," says P.O.D. frontman Sonny Sandoval. "There are not a lot of bands out there
today who have that. But I think that feeling is coming back around again."
P.O.D. (Payable on Death) certainly has the right to talk about passion in music. Passion has been front and center since the band formed in 1992 in San Diego, CA, and all the way up to the release of their eighth and latest record, Murdered Love. Over the last two decades, the group has sold over 10 million albums (including 2001's triple platinum record Satellite), garnered four No. 1 music videos, three Grammy nominations and over a dozen rock
radio hits, including "Southtown," "Alive," "Youth of the Nation" and "Goodbye For Now." Music trends have come and gone, but P.O.D.'s fanbase has seemingly only grown stronger.
Still, after the release of 2008's When Angels & Serpents Dance, the band took a lengthy hiatus. "You can blame me," says Sandoval. "The record business was changing, and we all wanted to get back to our personal lives and families.
When we do P.O.D., we want to enjoy what we're doing, and not to do it to pay the bills or tour just to tour." Fortunately, the time off served the band, and Sandoval, well. "Yeah, I got in a good place again. P.O.D. means so
much to us and our fans – there's a lot of love for what we do. I wanted to keep inspiring and encouraging people."
The band initially reconvened with a few jam sessions and the intent to put out a hardcore, Bad Brains-style EP and tour a little bit. But the initial recordings were strong enough to convince the group to tackle a new album. "By taking a break, we kind of got back on the same page," says guitarist Marcos Curiel. "Now, everyone has the same attitude going forward, the same feeling we had when we did those first two first two big albums The Fundamental Elements of Southtown and Satellite."
The most startling aspect of Murdered Love lies in its diversity and the band's songwriting having penned every track on the album. The opener "Eyez" might be the band's heaviest song yet, with a cameo by Hatebreed's Jamey
Jasta. It contrasts sharply with "West Coast Rock Steady," a playful hip-hop ode to their San Diego roots featuring Sen Dog of Cypress Hill. Meanwhile, "Panic & Run" is full-tilt punk, "Bad Boy" brings a funky swagger and first single "Lost in Forever" ties it all together with an equal mix of aggressiveness and melody.
"The band is a fusion of all our musical passions," says Curiel. "We can jump from punk to reggae to rap to metal. And funk -- people forget we had a little funk on our first few indie releases. So on a few songs here, we took it
back. The whole process was really organic."
Lyrically, the record finds P.O.D. at its most thoughtful and introspective as the band contemplates their lives and the world around them. On "Lost in Forever" Sandoval shows a mixture of hope and unease to questioning the
cruelty of man, as the band also does in the brutal title track "Murdered Love." "It's about people who have died when all they brought was love" explains Curiel. The sparse, catchy "Beautiful," contemplates the afterlife while
the teeth-rattling album closer "I Am," finds Sandoval opening with the vivid line: "I am the murderer, the pervert, sick to the core" and never lets up. It's the band at its darkest and most confrontational.
"I had been doing a lot of outreach to kids, talking at a lot of schools," says the singer. "I see what they go through – suicide, rape, addiction –and that song is just about being vulnerable and honest. They're wondering if they're screw-ups, if they're deserving of love and compassion. "
The band recorded Murdered Love with Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson (Kelly Clarkson, My Chemical Romance, Daughtry), a long-time friend of the group and the man behind three of its biggest records. "He's family," says Sandoval, then laughs. "He has the power to choose who he wants to work with, and I think he wanted to go back and make a real rock record."
To promote the record, the band has already set up a late spring/early summer headlining tour, as well as hitting a number of festivals and larger shows this year. "It seems like there's Warriors in every city," says Curiel, noting the band's affectionate nickname for their diehard fans. "They're loyal. And it's great, because we'll see people who loved us around the Satellite era bringing their kids." Given the closeness between the band and their fanbase, it's no surprise that P.O.D.'s new logo was the result of an online contest with their fans.
In the end, Murdered Love showcases a band at its most energetic and vital, nearly two decades after its debut. Sandoval agrees.
"This is the best record we've ever done," says the singer. "And that can only come from what we've put into this. We're the same four down-to-earth guys we were when we were putting out indie records. There's an honesty and
an underdog vibe to everything we do that you can definitely hear in our music."
Music comes to life when it must. It lies dormant and then blossoms in its creator at just the right moment. For Flyleaf, that was definitely the case when they began making their fourth full-length album and first for Loud & Proud Records, Between The Stars.
You could chalk it up to serendipity, but it simply feels meant to be. Seizing that spirit, the band— Kristen May [vocals], Sameer Bhattacharya [guitar], Jared Hartmann [guitar], Pat Seals [bass], and James Culpepper [drums]—immediately thrust themselves into the creative process.
"When we started writing this record, we had a common hardship," admits Kristen. "Their singer had quit, and my previous band had broken up. As writers, we weren't really sure how to move forward. At the same time, we all had this shared feeling of hope and a second chance. Music came out of those experiences from coming together and persevering through whatever doubts and trials we faced in our lives. It felt like home once we began making music."
Sameer concurs, "It just worked. We were bringing in different perspectives and ideas from earlier times. It was a new beginning for all of us."
That new beginning also entailed another first for the group. They sought out the production talents of the iconic Don Gilmore [Linkin Park, Three Days Grace, Avril Lavigne], holing up in a Los Angeles studio with him for a month during the spring of 2014. With Gilmore behind the board, they captured a certain "magic" that proved both passionate and palpable.
"Don's always looking for the magic," smiles Sameer. "It wasn't about making things precise or perfect. For the first time, we went into the studio and let things happen. It was about the energy and the spontaneity of a song more than anything. It was a very refreshing approach."
"It's the most emotional album I've ever been a part of," she declares. "There are some really heavy things and lyrics that weren't easy to say. Everybody tried to be as raw as possible when we were writing and recording. That all came out in the songs."
At the same time, the lyrics and Kristen's delivery matched the heavy, hypnotic soundscapes that the band conjured up in the studio. Everything solidified into a clear and cohesive vision.
For proof, look no further than the first single "Set Me On Fire." A brooding bass line builds along with an entrancing verse before igniting an undeniably incendiary chorus. For the lyrics, the band found inspiration within a rather unconventional place. "Pat, Kristen, and I had just finished reading Veronica Roth's Divergent," recalls Sameer. "Something in the story resonated with us. It's that moment of finding yourself. C.S. Lewis said something really powerful. He wrote, 'The two most important days of your life are the day you're born and the day you find out why.' 'Set Me On Fire' represents that realization."
Kristen continues, "At first, I was really inspired by Divergent. This girl is out of her element, but she feels the most alive when she faces her fear. As we started writing the lyrics, it became a narrative of our lives. You've got to dive into the unknown, and you can do it when you've got someone with you who makes you feel like life is worth living."
On the flip side, "Traitor" might just be the group's heaviest salvo to date. Combining a delicately destructive riff and a punch-y refrain, it immediately hits. "It's about knowing which people in your life aren't good for you," sighs the songstress.
Then, there's "Thread," which weaves together a spiraling melody and an uplifting message. "It's another journey," Sameer says. "It's got a great message that sometimes you can't only rely on yourself."
"You feel lost and like you're hanging by a thread," continues Kristen. "In those moments of fear, anxiety, and depression, you've got to reach for something bigger than yourself. We all collaborated on that, and it just fit."
Throughout this entire process, Flyleaf engaged its devout and diehard fan base. Launching an extensive PledgeMusic campaign, the quintet was able to crowd-fund some incredible opportunities for listeners. Fans got the chance to hang in the studio while the band worked on Between The Stars and had the opportunity to hear the music first at an exclusive listening party. That immersion will continue as they head out on the road in support of the record over the course of the next year.
Those fans have been with Flyleaf for the entire ride, beginning over a decade ago. Along the way, their self-titled debut went platinum and yielded the hit "All Around Me," which also moved over one million digital downloads. The record spent 133 weeks in the Billboard Top 200, climbing to the Top 15 of the Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts as well. Its follow-up, Memento Mori, saw the group crack the Top 10 of the Billboard Top 200. They've touched down for shows everywhere from Afghanistan, where they played for the troops, to sold out gigs around the U.S. alongside everybody from Rage Against The Machine to Deftones to Cage The Elephant.
Ultimately, that audience remains closer to the musicians' hearts than ever before. "We've always felt like everybody else's stories are just as important as ours are," Sameer leaves off. "We're in this together with each person who has supported us. This album is a reminder that we're alive. Embrace life now. That's a recurring theme since our inception. We want people to know they're alive, they're loved, and there's hope. That's what we want to share."
Kristen concludes, "I hope it's an album people can listen to for years to come. We put our hearts and souls into it, and I want them to hear that."
Stars In Stereo
Proving to be unstoppable L.A. based Stars in Stereo have been enjoying a summer of relentless touring as they criss-cross the county winning over legions of new fans. The band shows no sign of slowing down as they gear up for September dates with The Used and an October trek with Blue October in anticipation of their self-titled debut album coming later this year.
The band has been touring nonstop all year with bands like The Used, Foxy Shazam and Hoobastank to get their insatiable music out to the masses. "Raw, sexy, and talented is all you need to know about Stars in Stereo" said Target Audience Magazine and Social Symphonies says "Stars in Stereo started the night out on the right foot. They packed hours worth of energy into their half hour set… definitely a band to watch out for."