INTERVIEW: “It’s been a lot of fun for us to be in this band again
” — Brandon Boyd on the current state of Incubus

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photo: Brian Bowen Smith
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Alt-rock mainstays Incubus haven’t strayed too far from their original mission: to create music and inspire their listeners, something they hope continues as they surge back this year. On the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Fungus Amongus, Incubus are back with a new EP called Trust Fall (A Side), a new label in Island Records and a full-length planned for later this year. Always known for being a little left of the alt-rock center, Incubus singer Brandon Boyd explains that the band haven’t forgotten the wonderment of the band’s mid-’90s beginnings. Resting on their past popularity, which saw them achieve multi-platinum status, isn’t even an option as they continue to explore their collective journey into new and uncharted territory. We caught up with Boyd as his band were in the middle of a sold-out tour of Japan.

It’s been 20 years since you released your first album. What do you remember about the emotions in the band during those early days?
We were actually very similar energetically to how we are now; kind of wide-eyed and excitable. We’ve just gotten a lot better as songwriters, hopefully, and maybe we don’t get as nervous before shows. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since our first album.

Did you feel like you were part of any musical movement at the time?
Actually, it really felt like we were outsiders. We had a hard time being accepted for what we were doing and there was definitely a sense of being the perpetual underdog. But we learned to thrive as the underdogs. When the tide swung in our direction and we became, well, overdogs, it actually felt sort of weird and we had to readjust to that new role. All that being said, we’d be nowhere without the support of a few key people who really saw potential in us along the way.

What would you say is the biggest difference in how you write your songs today?
Good question, but a hard one to answer accurately. I’d say that a lot is similar in our approach, in that we don’t have a set formula. It sort of meanders, like a wandering stream. But we probably have more of an awareness of how songs are going to present themselves in the live forum now, more so than when we started. There is such thing as a song that’s amazing on an album, and doesn’t translate in the live setting.

You’ve always been known for your outspoken lyrics. Have you reigned in your politics for more recent Incubus material?
I’ve never considered myself to be politically minded when writing lyrics. There are merely occasions when politics are front and center in culture and artists are only mirrors to what is on the cultural stage. I’m fascinated by long-term processes like politics, consciousness, culture and social psychology and philosophy. But I approach songwriting almost entirely as a channel would; with openness and love.

What kind of reaction do you expect from your new EP, Trust Fall?
Mixed! As with anything Incubus. And I appreciate that!

What’s your favourite song on the new EP?
I think my favorite track is the title track. It’s the most adventurous Incubus track to be conceived in a long time and lyrically it touches on ideas that have been front and center in my heart and mind of late; those being the beautiful moments of surrender or, in this case, a trust fall, into the arms of a process so much larger than oneself or concept of self, and its potential to whisk one to the furthest reaches of the omniverse. Whether in a psychedelic sense of a journey, or in a more linear fashion, there seems to be a through line in existence that looks a whole lot like love. This is a much bigger topic than we have time for now, but maybe we can chat about it over a coffee some day.

Sure. What can we expect from your upcoming full-length?
Much more adventurousness. We seem to have hit a sweet spot recently in what we do and it’s been a lot of fun for us to be in this band again.

How was your fanbase changed over the years?
We see so many of the same faces over the years, and are so blessed to have brought so many with us on this kooky art ride. But I swear the audience seems to stay the same age, for the most part. Which could only mean two things: Either they are aliens who don’t age, or we keep attracting new listeners. Either way, that’s pretty cool.

What’s the best part about being in Incubus? 
So many things! But for sake of brevity, let’s just say that it’s kind of amazing to write and perform music with guys that I truly admire and whose abilities as artists I aspire to comprehend one day. That, and nobody lets you buy drinks.