Incubus' Brandon Boyd: "The Shit We've Been Screwing Around With Has Been Really Exciting"

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Incubus' Brandon Boyd in his art studio
After year-long hiatus from touring and recording, Calabasas, Calif.-based rockers Incubus have jumped back on the road to promote their first greatest-hits collection, Monuments and Melodies. The band is using the time on tour to workshop new material for a release said to be hitting the streets next spring or summer.

It's been a long and varied career for the band, who started in 1991 as little more than teenagers armed with a Red Chili Peppers tab book and unfinished algebra homework. By 1995's self-released Fungus Amongus, the young band had melded into an affable funk-metal outfit with pronounced spacey tendencies. In 1997 they came above ground on debut Sony EP, Enjoy Incubus. Incubus' first proper full-length, S.C.I.E.N.C.E., followed the same funk-metal course and the band toured heavily with bands like Korn and the like-minded 311.

But the next album, Make Yourself, turned the band away from the monotony of punk-funk into more soulful, organic territory. Overnight, Incubus seemingly took a turn from mookish modern rock into straight-up makeout-core. Singles "Stellar" and "Drive" ruled the radio waves and pushed the album to sell nearly three million units. Follow-up Morning View (2001) took that template to the nth degree, and, with its lush sonic textures and singer Brandon Boyd's surfer-soul vocals, remains the band's magnum opus. If Make Yourself was a makeout record, then Morning View was full-on sex.

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2004's A Crow Left of the Murder was a politically-minded synth album, less interested in loving than it was with the war in Iraq and reality television. 2006's Light Grenades was more of the same, albeit with the band's sound tempered back to Morning View levels. The single "Love Hurts" was a surprise hit single for the band, harkening back to the tone of "Drive."

Last spring, Incubus finished touring Grenades and parted ways, promising to reconvene a year later after a much-needed recharge. In the meantime, guitarist Mike Einziger attended the Harvard School of Music, Boyd traveled the world and concentrated on his artwork and drummer Jose Pasillas saw the birth of his first child.

Rocks Off spoke with Boyd this week in a series of e-mails about the band's future, their studio habits, and what direction their new music is heading.

Rocks Off: Incubus has been pretty lucky to work with some stellar producers in the past. You guys logged time with R.E.M. veteran Scott Litt on the first two major records. Starting in 2003 the crew began collaborating with Brendan O'Brien, who is nothing if not monolithic. What does O'Brien bring to Incubus in terms of recording and production ethic?

Brandon Boyd: We have been very fortunate to work with some very talented producers in the past. Though Incubus has always had a "do it yourself" ethic since day one, what producers have brought to our fold is more of a "creative wrangler" approach than anything. The ideas, both musically, melodically and lyrically all originate in the band, and what "producers" have brought is more of the fine tuning elements and engineering aspects. All of that being said, Brendan has had the most noticeable impact on our recording process.

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His musicianship has played a major role in how he's worked with us, I'd say moreso than other producers we've worked with. Mostly because he understands intimately what we're doing when we're doing it. He has a vast collection of guitars, amps, keys, percussion and other random and strange instruments that peek our curiosities and inspire us as well.

Brendan also has picked up on Incubus' tendencies to work swiftly as the ideas arise, and seems to encourage creative streaks rather than overthinking them. Overthinking is the death of creativity, and not all producers understand that. All of that is good stuff, and we have a lot of fun being in a soundproof room with him for weeks on end. That is a big plus!

RO: A little over a year ago the band went on hiatus to sort of get back to real life, to recharge. How important was that to the band, and have you guys found that Incubus has been better for it so far?

BB: I do believe we are better off for it. The time away allowed for us to reflect and recharge individually, which I am sure anyone can attest to, makes you more inspired to participate collectively. Having been on the road for over a decade has had its perks but as well has taken its tolls. There's never a push without a pull.

RO: How has the tour gone so far after being gone for a year or so? As the band gets older are you noticing your crowd changing at all? You guys have been at this for about 18 years...

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BB: Now that we are at the tail end of the tour, I am starting to be able to see the effects of the time off. I really can only speak for myself, but I do believe we are playing better than we ever have. Our sets are more fun and I am noticing a change in the audience; they seem more enthused than ever before. Why exactly, I don't know. I have my theories...

But all that matters is that we are enjoying this unique experience and the audience is as well. It's such a beautiful and rare thing to be able to make music for so many people in the live setting in an era of detachment and disillusionment. Our culture is on the brink of so many things; one of which is the loss of actual, visceral contact and tactile experience!

So to return to that forum after so long, and have the audience embrace you with more enthusiasm than ever before gives me hope that we aren't becoming Automatons droning away in front of our computers and television screens.

RO: What's the new material shaping up to sound like? A lot of bands are reticent to make any predictions early on in writing and recording of what direction the tunes are headed.

BB: For good reason! Any artist in most forums will be reticent to predict where his or her work is heading because if we are being true to the creative process, we are following it through a tangled maze of hope, doubt, fire, brimstone, golden chariots, love, hate, potato salad, sex, drugs, stop, drop and roll! None of which leave much room for predicting the weather!

But like meteorology, we can offer guidelines as to how the sky might fare. The best indicators are usually what we've been listening to, what we've been reading, who we've been hanging out with, and our internal motivations. All of that aside, the shit we've been screwing around with has been really exciting because it bears no resemblance to anything we've yet done.

With the Duke Spirit, 7 p.m. tonight at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands, 281-363-3300 or www.woodlandscenter.org.

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