Los Angeles hardcore metal band Phinehas released “The Last Word is Yours to Speak” on Tuesday and a video four days earlier. Caught up with lead singer Sean McCulloch in Tupelo, Miss. on Thursday, after a show with The Great Commission.
When you see the fence shaking, that’s my 5-year-old metal head Spencer keeping himself entertained past his bedtime.
The Protest lead singer, Josh “Shred” Bramlett, has been in the rock game for nearly a decade. And he’s only 22.
The band is gaining huge momentum and is as busy as ever, about to take their hard rock message on The Black Out Tour with The Letter Black and Spoken.
Until then, there is pre-production to be done on a new record. Bramlett hopes to be recording by Decemeber, working with Letter Black’s Mark Anthony – Anthony co-wrote on current album Game Changer.
“It’s a huge honor and blessing for a guy who is so busy and popular in the Christian rock industry to take time out of his career to help us out,” said. Bramlett.
That record produced a song that has put The Protest in a lot of ears, “Throw the Roses.” “Pull Me Away” is the last single released off the current record. It was released with a live fan-shot video from the Rise Above Tour.
There is another tour, a headlining gig, scheduled for September, right after the Black Out Tour.
“We’re letting God steer this band,” Bramlett said. “It’s very surreal. I never thought in a million years when we started this band when I was like 13 or 14 we’d even go this far. God’s been so good. He’s kept the band together. He just keeps building us up. It’s nothing that we’ve done. It’s all God, brother, all of it. We’re just stoked.”
A statement on their Website (TheProtestRocks.com) clearly state’s the band’s mission. But while the goal to spread the Gospel is clear, it’s an organized approach. The Protest plays churches, but also a lot of bars.
“Our take on preaching the Gospel, it’s obviously what drives this band. I’ll say that til the day I die,” Bramlett said. “It’s why we do this. Our approach on stage is not to shove Christ down people’s throats. That doesn’t mean we dull down our message. I tell them the truth, that there’s a God that loves them more than anything.
“Every guy on the stage, we sin every day. I screw up every day. We’re human. I let them know that this God that loves them so much has the keys to forgiveness and a life free of guilt and an awesome life.”
The band’s songs are targeted to people going through tough things, to relate with them and show them the hope of Jesus.
A confessing 80s metalhead, Bramlett says God snatched up his life and led him to start a music ministry at a young age. This is what it’s become. The five-piece also includes his brother, Jarob “Animal” Bramlett (drums, vocals), TJ “Texas Two Step” Colwell (guitar, vocals), Chase “Sludge” Reagan (bass, voclas) and Adam “Sarge” Sadler, who gave Josh Bramlett guitar lessons as a middle schooler, on lead guitar.
“We say this all the time. We’re not holding anything back. We’ve got one life to live,” Josh Bramlett said. “There are people that need to hear God. Right now, this is where God wants us. Now, if God tells us to quit the band and start a llama farm, we will.”
If an album has ever been able to tattoo your ear drums, this is it.
I first heard the We As Human single “Fly” more than a year ago and immediately fell in love. It was a long wait for an EP, then another wait for the band’s full-length.
But boy was it worth the wait for a band primed to take over the rock charts very soon. Two songs that helped the band onto the map are on the 10-track self-title, including “Dead Man,” a story of Jesus’ pulling the old self out in place of the new self.
The disc riffs you in with its first single, “Strike Back,” with lead singer Justin Cordle drawing you in with vocals suited only for a rock band. “Bring To Life” sensibly follows. Skillet buddy and tour-mate John Cooper lays his raspy vocal mark on the album with “Zombie,” another piece of the puzzle that sees a “Dead Man” rising to new life. Cordle and Cooper plead you to wake your Christian zombie.
Cooper’s guest appearance is stellar and is at the least equaled by former Flyleaf first lady Lacey Sturm, whose screams only add to Cordle’s on the very heavy “Take The Bullets Away” for arguably the best song on the disc.
That title is tough to decipher though and is in a tight race with “Zombie” and “I Stand.” “I Stand” is the album’s closer and it will be a crying shame if it isn’t soon a walk-out tune to any given player in Major League Baseball. The song is an honest head-banger dedicated to the open Christian beliefs of the band. If there were ever a song made for mosh pits, this is it. And the lyrics – inclusive of the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection and God’s stance against abortion – only add to one of the most substance-filled metal songs you’ll hear this year.
I’d have paid the full album price for “I Stand.” But don’t drive or operate heavy machinery while listening to the song. It tends to make you lose all self-control of the gas pedal and your neck.
We As Human seems to have found the perfect blend of boys for a near-flawless debut. Catch them on the Carnival of Madness Tour, but bring your neck brace for the ride home.
Had the amazing privilege to sit and talk with P.O.D. frontman Sonny Sandoval in March. You’ll notice the whole front of the site is dedicated to our lengthy, incredible, very open and very honest conversation, that I finally had time to post in its entirety. Here also is the video of the talk from the P.O.D. bus on Mar. 15 in Jackson, Miss.
A couple of stories follow, but here is a Q & A with Sonny Sandoval. And the children in the background, Sonny’s JD Whosoever and my Spencer Whosoever (having a blast)!
On the Whosoevers …
“I think when it just comes to young kids, we’ve been through so much and we’ve experienced so much, with a lot of these bands and just rock n’ roll, I don’t have the luxury to hide in church. Even when I went home and took five years off from this band, I was asking God, ‘What do you want me to do Lord? I see so much stuff here on the road. My faith is being tested all the time. I’m tired. I’m just getting caught up in a routine of my Christianity…’ I went home and I’m like ‘whatever you want me to do. I’ll go back to construction…what is a good Christian?’
“So many different theologies and views, from California to the East Coast and all around the world. It had just gotten confusing to me. For me, I just wanted to go back to the basics of when I first gave my life to Jesus. That’s kind of how the whole Whosoever vision came about. Even then, just being discipled and having my accountability and even doing a lot of stuff for the churches, I felt like God had restored a lot of things in my life and renewed my love for His church, but He had already given me a platform. So for me, it was like God was whispering in my heart, for me and this goes for nobody else, ‘I don’t need another pastor.’ Everybody’s striving to be a pastor, start their own church, move somewhere, start a megachurch somewhere, be somebody and that just wasn’t me. God had given me a platform to hang out with these bands. I’ve already built 20 years of relationship with every band out there. And if anything, I hope to be the one constant thing in this rock n’ roll game and that’s just becuase I’m sitting at God’s feet.”
On the notion that “Come as you are” may not seem real to kids …
“…I’m tired of defending that. It’s just like, Hey, I get it. But it all comes down to the cross. It doesn’t come down to he said, she said. It doesn’t come down to Pastor so-and-so. The world feels like they have to get their lives together before they come to God’s throne and that’s just the exact opposite. So again, I just think it’s honesty and being an open book before anybody.”
On sharing Christ and the stories of the rock lifestyle …
“I think a lot of that’s a facade. I mean it does exist,” he said, then laughed. “It depends on the people you’re with. When everybody says, ‘Tell me your craziest rock n’ roll story,’ I really don’t have one. I mean, you hear stuff and you know stuff that’s going on but again, it’s how much you want it and how much you don’t. You are tempted. It’s your choice. We’ve been around for 20 years and it really just comes down to how much do you not want that and how much do I want to live out my faith? It all exists, but surround yourself with good people and you have accountabiltiy like the Whosoevers.”
Fourteen years have passed since “Southown” …
Southtown hit the MTV airways in 1999. Sandolval said the band was having a recent discussion about how fast the time has flown by.
“It seems like yesterday. It’s been quick but we’ve all grown in so many ways and our experiences have grown just tremendously. All our experiences from being new Christians to experincing Christianity outside our little bubble and going around the world and being in a rock band and having success, having the ups and the downs, Our experiences are huge. When you have these experiences, you have to constantly go through them and weed through them all the time, because I myself, like I said, I’ve had a lot of hangups about the “institution of Christianity” and religion and I know the guys have too. We were just having an honest discussiion about our love for the Lord But it really does seem like we were teenagers yesterday starting this band. But I know we’re here for the right reasons.”
On Murdered Love …
“We had taken almost five years off. For me, it was me saying. ‘Lord, I just want to do whatever you want. I want to be in Your will. I don’t want to be in a band just to be in a band. I had gone through so much in those years, two trips to Isreal, this whole Whosoever thing started and just my accountability group, going back and forth to Raul Ries’ church and experiencing a lot of outreach in that way. So I had been sitting on a lot of stuff. And when I felt like God was telling me, ‘I need you to go back ot there, be the light of the world,’ and a lot of things were just sitting on my heart, but even with the whole thought of “I Am,” that was a demo that we had almost over a year and had sat on that forever.”
On social media’s affect on spreading the Gospel …
“Like everything before social media, before Internet, God is in control. That’s it. He’s gonna do what He wants to do. We don’t convert. We don’t save anybody. It’s the Holy Spirit that does that. I think if anything, we get in the way of it, because we like that ole pat on the back. We like to think, as just human nature, we like stealing God’s glory in so many different ways. God’s gonna get his point across to whoever He wants to in His perfect will, His perfect timing, in the way He wants. I can rest in that. I don’t have to stress about how many times I said “Jesus” from the stage or if I said an alter call at Ozzfest. It’s that institution of Christianity that kind of brainwahsed me into thinking ‘What am I dong for the Lord. If I’m not serving God, if I’m not saying this, because I have a microphone,’ that all became confusion. But if I’m just in God’s presence, and I’m doing what the Lord wants, the Spirit is going to minister and speak to whoever it wants. And I believe that more now than ever. It’s the only reason I’m here. Jesus was the perfect example of building relationships with His boys and His brothers and just the ministry of reconciliation, and all that stuff’s happening. Look at Head with Korn, even me and my own guys. And so God’s in control, regardless of all that, man.”
Brian “Head” Welch may have had the most public Christian conversion since Paul. But before anyone knew, P.O.D. frontman and Sonny Sandoval was on the front lines of the transformation.
Sandoval had just had a conversation the Korn guitarist, who had left his life of drug addiction and bondage found Jesus and hadn’t even told his bandmates yet.
Sandoval offered his adivice – take it easy. Next thing he knew, Larry King had Welch sitting in the chair.
Korn had taken P.O.D. to Europe in 2000, where the two had brief, but telling interactions.
“I remember interacting with him just very briefly because he was going through his own things. And I remember I was sitting at catering with my wife and my six-week-old daughter and he had come out,” Sandoval said. “At the time he was all strung out, he mentioned my baby and said he had a daughter and I was like ‘Awesome man’ and we kind of related there.”
Welch reached out to Sandoval after his conversion, sharing what God had done in his life, likely at the time debating on leaving his musical love, the band he had made his living with.
Sandoval said Welch was also talking about seeing God in his (Sonny’s) life.
“Here I am humbled because I’m going through struggles and things myself, thinking, ‘How could God use me?’ and here he is encouraging me,” Sandoval said. “I remember just telling him, ‘Dude,’ because he was just like ‘once I come out to the band and to the world…’ he already had that religious mentality, ‘What do I do? How do I start preaching?’ All this stuff and I was like ‘Bro, the world is gonna be watching you and you’re going to be leaving one of the biggest bands in all the world to follow Christ. You don’t have to say a word. You don’t have to say a word.’ He was just like, ‘Will my parents think Im a freak?’ And I’m like, ‘because you are,'” Sandoval said, then laughed. ‘That’s OK.'”
Sandoval said once someone in Welch’s position gets saved, they come from such an extreme lifestyle, and the immediate reaction is to go to the other extreme. His advice to Head was to sit at God’s feet and take it easy.
“We had this awesome conversation,” Sonny said. “The next thing I know he was everywhere, CNN, Larry King, and they just labeled him as this huge freak. I remember just like ‘Wow.’ And so he did his thing, I didn’t have any conversation with him.”
Whosoever starter Ryan Ries had been impacted by Heads’ book and asked Sonny to get ahold of him. The two got in contact. Welch called Sonny, actually.
“The first thing he said was almost comical, something like, ‘I really got crazy huh bro. I got ahead of myself huh.’ And I just started laughing. I was like ‘Bro, God will never fault you man for just being excited about Him.’ He’s come so far from then,now he’s had his own experience with religion, I always say the “institution of Christianity” and the “institution of church.”
Welch has bypassed that institution, and like his fellow Whosoever, fostered his relationship with Christ, not a religion.
Welch has been busy since, with the Whosoevers and releasing Love & Death’s first full-length, to touring like crazy, the latest with the likes of Thousand Foot Krutch and joining his former band on stage on a European tour with his new band.
Sandoval said the two share texts of prayer requests and just checking in on each other.
Two Whosoevers keeping each other in check.
“Dude, he’s come so far. I’m so proud of that guy and again, that’s where the Whosoevers is real. It’s real,” Sandoval said. “There’s nothing fake. There’s nothing phony about it. There’s nothing showy, nothing about self. It really is because we love each other and that’s, again, how the Whosoevers started.”
P.O.D. is still riding high, touring the globe after the release of Murdered Love more than a year ago.
Twenty years in the business and as strong as ever, Sonny Sandoval and the boys are spreading their Christ-centered message like never before and they’re doing it with the edgiest lyrics to date.
The controversial “I Am” is the center of the controversy.
“I Am” was taken off Lifeway Christian Stores’ copies for its dicey lyrics, that include a scratched out curse word and verses like: “I am the murderer, the pervert, sick to the core. I am the unclean dope fiend, I am the whore,” the song says before asking, “Cause if You knew who I am, would You really want to die for me?”
Sandolval opened up about the single and the disc in March, chatting with me before a show in Jackson, Miss.
“I don’t want to offend Christians, I don’t, but at the same time I think sometimes when people are, not necessarily offended, but when they’re uncomfortable, I think that’s a good thing,” Sandoval said. “I think that allows you to get out from where you’re at and really check it out and see what’s going on.”
P.O.D. is out to reach the sometimes unreachable. This song is getting their attention, attention Sandoval helps direct to a belief in Jesus.
“I knew gong into P.O.D again this time, I knew we were going straight into the world. I know we’re a band and it’s not like we’re playing these Christian festivals and getting paid Christian dollars. It’s not. And I love the church and I have a love for God’s people, but we’ve experienced so much more and it’s like we’re in the middle of what’s going on. It is what it is.”
Had the privilege back in March to talk with a guy I’ve respected for 20 years, P.O.D. frontman Sonny Sandoval, in Jackson, Miss. Such an open and inviting guy, honest and faith-driven. Finally getting around to posting more of our long conversation.
by brandon speck
The Whosoevers movement is growing. The Rep and Ryan Ries are about to embark on the “War For Your Soul Tour.” Papa Roach lead man Jacoby Shaddix was wearing a W shirt at a recent show. Brian Welch and Love & Death are tearing it up in Germany for troops on the Fourth of July.
One founding member, Sonny Sadoval said it all started as a brotherhood.
“For me, it really is just getting back to the basics of loving Jesus and being broken,” the P.O.D. frontman said before a March show in Jackson, Miss., “just being in the presence of the Father and letting Him do what He wants to do in me.”
Kids have turned to the Christian group as a source of hope, some a source of reassurance, others a source of accountability.
Sandoval, Welch, former Flyleaf lead Lacey Sturm, Ronnie Faisst and Ryan Ries played the major roles in getting The Whosoevers going.
It’s more than going now. It’s rolling.
But exposure isn’t the point. It’s about reaching kids for Christ – young kids and old kids alike.
Kids are drawn to the experiences of the group.
“We see so much and since I’ve been in this game so long, it really comes down to how much you want Jesus,” Sandoval said.
A lot of the draw is arguably to the star-factor of the group, but that may be the trigger some need to pay attention to their message.
Sandoval says he grew tired of defending churches that let kids down or simply aren’t doing enough to reach the sometimes-difficult to reach.
“It comes down to you having a one-one-one love affair with Jesus Christ. It’s not asking them, ‘Let me see your resume before God will ever speak to you or listen to you.’ It really is, come as you are. I know that churches preached that forever but I don’t think the world feels that way,” Sandoval said.
“As the Whosoevers, I think God’s been doing so much in our own lives personally that kids can see that and it is honest. When you have guys that have been there, not that I’ve overcome everything in my life, but it’s a journey that I’m going through with the Lord and hey man, I still mess up and I struggle with things all the time, but I’m constantly at the throne of grace with God and these kids can relate to that.”
jackson, miss. – Church services aren’t overflowing with youth and young adults. In many cases, it’s hard for churches to fill even a pew or a Sunday School room.
But rock concerts are tipping at the brim with young people, eager to soak in the message coming from the speakers.
Sonny Sandoval confesses a heart for people, especially young people. From rock stages, Sandoval and his rock band are bridging the gap between Jesus and people, a gap often unreached.
Sandoval has been on that mission as the lead singer of multi-platinum selling P.O.D. (Payable on Death) for two decades. For the last few years, he has been doing the same as a founding member of the Whosoevers, a non-traditional Christian organization trying to reach people who aren’t being reached for Christ.
“When we talk to young people, they just want honesty, man,” Sandoval said Friday on the P.O.D. bus before a show in Jackson. “There are a lot of things they can’t talk to their parents about or even their youth group leaders.”
The Whosoever movement – the name taken from John 3:16 – is about meeting people where they are, no matter their circumstances. The movement has distanced itself from organized religion and embraces a relationship with Jesus Christ.
P.O.D. doesn’t frequent Christian festivals, not because the band is opposed. Sandoval says God has called his band straight into the world, directly in front of people who aren’t going to Christian concerts or church, people with real issues that many times aren’t met by the church. The church is still vital for Christians, but Sandoval says he has been given a platform to speak to people who need to hear about Jesus and aren’t going to church to seek him.
Some people are drawn to church through hymns and Bible School. Some are drawn through tattoos and rock n’ roll.
“I’ve been a Christian a long time and God knows I’ve had my ups and my downs and my confusing points,” Sandoval said. “I never subscribe to the ‘institution’ of Christianity. But I want Jesus. And I think these kids do too. I think a lot of them don’t have a problem with God. They don’t have a problem with Jesus.
“They have a problem with the churches that have let them down. They have a huge problem with people that have claimed Christianity all their lives and they haven’t seen it in their lives, and they’re over it.”
POD has sold more than 12 million records. Before the eighth and newest studio album, “Murdered Love,” was released in 2012, the band took some five years off, Sonny says a time to find out if God still wanted P.O.D. to be P.O.D.
The answer was yes and a new album has made the band as popular as ever. There’s no confusing the lyrics on edgy “Murdered Love,” and obvious play on Jesus’ death of the cross. The strongest lyrics come from “I Am,” an ode to everyday struggles.
“I am the murderer, the pervert, sick to the core. I am the unclean dope fiend, I am the whore,” the song says before asking, “Cause if You knew who I am, would You really want to die for me?”
P.O.D and the Whosoevers are seeking those seeking God, real people with real problems. Sandoval doesn’t find any issue too tough to talk about.
“I don’t want to offend Christians, I don’t, but at the same time I think sometimes when people are … uncomfortable, I think that’s a good thing,” Sandoval said. “I think that allows you to get out from where you’re at and really check it out and see what’s going on.”