Brunch with Brandon Boyd:
Incubus Frontman Discusses Failures & Opportunities Over Omelettes
Words by Cher Dunn
Photo by Luis Ruiz
Last March, during the craziness of SXSW, I found myself sitting with Brandon Boyd to discuss one of my favorite bands, Incubus, and their plans to tour and release new music this year. The night before, Incubus played an epic set on one of the smallest stages they’ve been on since they were teenagers. Still buzzing from the show, I met up with Brandon in the restaurant of his hotel to interview him over my favorite meal – brunch. I felt a bit of pressure as fans of Incubus aren’t just normal fans, they’re mega-fans, and for the people I wanted to ask him everything. So I did.
To start, I had to ask about the band’s new EP, Trust Fall Side A. Incubus hasn’t released an EP in years, Brandon reaffirms, “No, it’s been…Oh God. The first EP we put out was in 1996. It’s been almost 20 years.”
What made the band decide to release music this way? Brandon explains, “It was a couple of things: we weren’t really anticipating making new music. I was supposed to be on a musical theater tour with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatre company for Jesus Christ Superstar. It got cancelled at the very last minute. I was in New Orleans rehearsing with the whole cast and we were gearing up. It was going to be a great show and it just got pulled out from under us. It was really sad and ‘woe is all of us’. Not ‘woe is me,’ ‘woe is us’ for like 10 days. We all went home crushed and depressed and defeated and everything. I’ve never been one to sort of wallow in failures. I like to look at them as opportunities, you know? So Mike, from our band, was like, ‘That sucks you’re home, but let’s jam!’
“We hadn’t played in a couple of years and a studio space opened up to us,” he goes on. “Which normally wouldn’t be used for a band. Michael works with Hans Zimmer.” He clarifies, “He’s a movie score guy. He has a compound in California with just tons of studios that are dedicated to film score. Fast forward, the whole band is set up and we’re playing…and all [of a] sudden we are recording songs”.
“The EP thing, we’ve been realizing slowly over the years, along with everybody else in the industry, that people aren’t really buying albums anymore. Just..at all. But when people do consume music they’re consuming it like song at a time. All of us do it. I even do it. We were also realizing that from a live perspective, which is such a majority of what we do as a band, it’s just we perform live, you know? After 24 years of being in a band and having strings of successes, we can’t play that many new songs in our set without starting to alienate people that are coming to the concert because they want to hear what they want to hear. People don’t really want to hear more than a couple of new songs, so we were like, ‘Why would we dedicate all this time to putting out 10 or 12 songs at one time?’ Let’s put them out on small doses, and see how that goes’. So that’s really where we are at right now”.
When it comes to writing songs and lyrics, Brandon Boyd takes a more natural approach. He explained, “I write when it comes. There are people that have an ethic, ‘write everyday’ or ‘write or draw everyday, that’s how you get good at your craft’ and there is something to that for sure. I’ve learned, I mean my whole life, since I can remember, I’ve been drawing pictures and writing things down, but the less I try and dictate the terms of inspiration or a muse the better it is. If I just actually create an environment for it, that it feels welcome..I say it’s that sort of anthropomorphism of muse. It does actually feel like you are being visited. It’s like you are being possessed, sort of, but it’s a beautiful feeling. 99% of the time it’s a beautiful feeling. Every 1% of the time you’re like, ‘Who are you?! I don’t recognize you!'”, he laughs. “I usually just try to create an environment that’s conducive to it arriving.”
With twenty years in the music industry under his belt, I asked if Brandon Boyd had any advice for bands just starting up. “Usually my answer is be very wary of advice. Especially, my advice,” he laughs. “I honestly think that I could have some constructive things to offer to a young band or a young artist, but the world collapses in on itself and eats itself like every six months now.”
“When we started, it was like you had a handful of years before everything would change again. When we started, the industry was more like a slow motion soap squeezing out of your palms, and now it’s like in hyper speed. You can’t hold onto the soap. That’s the weirdest visual. Life in and of itself is a moving target when you’re in an industry that’s been created around an art form. It’s a much faster moving target and then you put the internet into that, and the way that the internet is so swiftly changing our brains, especially younger generations, they’re wired differently. There’s a part of me that’s envious and there’s a part of me that also feels a bit of pride that I grew up when I did.”
“Advice, I say, do your best to honor your influences and not to emulate them too much. We emulated our influences for our first handful of years that we were a band, and then we found our own voice. So…yeah. Try to honor your influences but also just do your thing. Stay weird. Play as often as possible, and be very wary of advice,” he emphasizes again.
Originally, Incubus planned to release another EP, Trust Fall (Side B), but now the songs may become a full-length album. The band will be headlining the Air + Style Festival February 20-21 in LA, and they are also set to play Mexico in March.
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