When you're a member of a '90s/early '00s hard-rock band like P.O.D., finding your footing in 2012 can be tricky.
But the San Diego-based group, which exploded into mainstream consciousness through radio hits and caller vote-in shows like MTV's "Total Request Live," has always been a proponent of fan outreach. "[Before the Internet] I'd sit at the merch table with something called the Warrior List," frontman Sonny Sandoval says, describing how he'd collect contact information from fans. "That was our Internet."
After a five-and-a-half year hiatus, a complete upheaval of its management in 2010 and a record deal on the rock-oriented Razor & Tie label, the group is releasing its sixth studio album, "Murdered Love," on July 10.
The album was recorded at NRG Studios in West Hollywood with producer Howard Benson. Known for his work with "American Idol" alums like Kelly Clarkson and Chris Daughtry, Benson's earliest success came as producer of P.O.D.'s 1999 platinum "The Fundamental Elements of Southtown," then the 2001 smash "Satellite" (3.2 million sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan). "We're kind of like his illegitimate children" Sandoval says.
Razor & Tie senior VP of marketing John Franck feels a charge coming from the new work. "It's [three] singles deep, and we're going to be working this album for the next 18 months," Franck says. "This is a band that had multiformat, culture-changing hits. The [fourth single] is 'Beautiful,' which we feel could potentially be another culture-changing record."
Early singles "On Fire" and "Eyez" didn't gain traction, but "Lost in Forever" is No. 12 on Billboard's Active Rock chart. P.O.D.'s biggest hits - "Youth of the Nation" and "Alive" off "Satellite" - both went top five on the Alternative and Active Rock lists and reached Nos. 28 and 41, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100.
Though the band was an arbiter of a shift-change in popular rock - namely, that a Christian-leaning act can make heavy music - the culture of the industry has evolved since the group's downtime started in 2008. The Internet is a more powerful entity and artists in other genres are becoming more prolific through single-track freebies distributed on Twitter and Tumblr. It could make the pace at which P.O.D. is releasing singles seem sluggish, with "Beautiful" slated for August and its follow-up not coming until winter.
Manager Sarah Deibel of Career Artist Management knows that's how rock radio works, though. "Active rock radio is still a format," she says. "'Lost in Forever' went to radio in April . . . [it's] jumping up higher on the charts now, but it's a slow climb. We'll keep pushing it. We'll keep doing radio. We'll keep doing acoustic in-studios."
Team P.O.D. understands that a legion of marketing solutions helps bolster awareness. It's not just radio appearances, preorder bundles and connecting with fans through Instagram and Twitter. The team knows licensing is paramount to boosting the group's profile and reaching new audiences.
"We're going to heavily license this album," Franck says. Early synchs include "Higher" during coverage of the 2012 NFL draft and "West Coast Rock Steady" on ESPN's "SportsCenter." "Beautiful" will appear on Comedy Central's "Workaholics" in tandem with the album's release.
For the band's fans, however, the live show is what's most important. P.O.D. - which includes guitarist Marcos Curiel, bassist Traa Daniels and drummer Wuv Bernardo - will play a few one-off gigs starting June 30, including an album-release show at the Roxy in Hollywood. August and September will be spent headlining a side stage on metal-leaning touring festival Uproar. While happy to connect with fans through social media, Sandoval knows how important these concerts can be.
"When we play shows, we're cheek to cheek with the kids who love our music," he says. "Someone turns 14 every day. They've got to experience it for themselves."••••