Incubus love a challenge. That’s what makes good music. Incubus also love to doing things a little differently and their latest album ‘If Not Now, When?’ is certainly that. Known for their tireless touring and broad musicality, they have been around since the early nineties and are still going very, very strong.
Their six year hiatus from music (after the sixth studio album ‘Light Grenades’ was released in 2005) was like a holiday for Incubus, and now after a strong desire to get back to work, they have produced their “best record” in all its emotive and thought-provoking glory and want you to hear it. Lead vocalist Brandon Boyd tells us about the essential challenges that come with making music.
It has been said that the newest album is different from anything we’ve ever heard before from Incubus – we do get that a lot, though. We asked Brandon how far ‘Adolescents’, the first single to have been released, is an indication of what the rest of the album will sound like. He says “It’s not out of character, but it’s not indicative of the rest of the album as far as its energy level. This is a slower record for the band, but what it doesn’t have in its cantankerousness it makes up for it in its beautiful structures, architectures, lyrics, melodies and arrangements. I honestly think it’s one of the best records we’ve ever done but it will surprise our long-time listeners,” he says confidently, “I think that’s essentially a good thing.”
The time the band members took away from music gave them chance to explore other fields of creativity such as art, literature and film, as well as the chance to “plant some roots” with ideas that would influence the recording of this album. After being in the cycle of releasing an album, going on tour, going back in the studio, releasing an album and hitting the road since they were young men of nineteen, it was time for Incubus to figure themselves out as individuals. Brandon says, “We have had to be obsessed with music, and our band in order to do the things that we do. Then we came to this weird crossroads in our mid-thirties having accomplished more than we ever thought we would. People usually de-rail, and the only option for them becomes drug addiction, an overdose or divorce, and that old story,” he continues. “I really don’t think we’re interested in those things, so in an attempt to start crafting a new story, we went off in search of ourselves in that period of time.”Having (presumably) found themselves now, all of the band members were keen to get back in the studio to create music together again, and so “this record is born purely of a desire and readiness to make an album and I think that the topic matter on the album speaks for itself”.
Reluctant to give away anything more to those who haven’t already heard it (shame on the readers who have listened to the leak, but we can’t blame your curiosity), Brandon avoids any specifics about themes or sounds. Instead he tells us about the process of making a record: “We’re trying to live a creative life. We’ve never written a ‘concept album’, and I have never gone into a record thinking that I know I’m going to write about a, b or c,” he reflects, “I read, I listen, I observe, absorb and then I write. Michael [Einziger, lead guitar] does the same thing as far as his musical input and output is concerned. He and I then meet in the middle and we craft these things and then share them with the rest of our band.
“Everybody puts their stamp on the material and it ends up sounding the way it does, which is probably why all of our records have sounded a little bit different from the next. We’re doing this purely out of a desire to make music together and then after that it’s all just fun.” He laughs, “it is not without challenges when we’re writing records. Especially the older we get, it’s more and more challenging for us all to meet in the middle on ideas. That’s where a lot of the fruits of our creative successes are coming from, the fact that we are challenging each other constantly, and hopefully we challenge our listeners as well!”
So, in what ways was this record a challenge for the band? You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that after all this time together and then apart; creating music would come easily to the band, however, Brandon argues that, in fact, it was categorically harder because they were wiser in a lot of ways: “I have become more ‘my own man’ as I have aged, and my ideas, in certain ways, have become more and more ‘concrete’. And so, when five different and much more ‘concrete’ mind-sets meet in a room together, things can be very challenging. “That being said, we wouldn’t be in a band together if there wasn’t chemistry at play and that we definitely still have in surplus. The difficulties that we face are essential.”
While whetting the appetite of listeners is important with each album, Brandon loves to think that Incubus fans connect with the music in different ways. In fact, he still finds it very humbling: “it’s a truly wonderful thing when [our sound] can be put in that context and we have the opportunity to affect someone’s life for the better.” Finding it difficult to be objective about what is inspiring about his own work though, Brandon tells us what he likes about specific tracks on the new album, “there’s a song called ‘Friends And Lovers’ that I find to be very emotionally honest and evocative and it does something to me that I think is both inspiring and important,” he adds. “I know the guys in the band feel that way about that song as well. There’s another song called ‘In The Company Of Wolves’ – it definitely does something to me individually that I find very rewarding creatively.”
As we delve deeper into the multimedia artist’s creative path, Brandon enthusiastically informs us that he is working on a third art book (as the follow-up to 2003’s ‘White Fluffy Clouds‘ and ‘From The Murks Of The Sultry Abyss’ released in 2007), so we’ll be keeping our eye out for that and when discussing his main inspirations in 2011, he talks about being motivated constantly in various ways by his surroundings, particularly the affect that politics has on the entire world. “It plays itself out in our political forums but it’s evident everywhere, from the way that the weather is behaving to the way that information is being dissimilated and consumed,” he says. “I just find the whole process to be massive ‘beast’ that is infinitely interesting. It is not hard for me to be inspired and all one has to do [to be inspired] is pay attention in the right directions. There’s so much to be in awe of.”
Having performed one UK date in London so far this year, Brandon apologetically promises more in other areas around the country, on behalf of his band: “We’re hoping to do a proper tour of the UK sometime in the fall. There are no hard dates penned in yet though,” he concludes. “We’re planning on being on the road for the next 14-to-18 months or so, but we will absolutely be doing a proper UK tour. We really like playing shows in the UK.” We will hold you to that, then Brandon!
Incubus’ ‘If Not Now, When?’ is released on July 12, 2011 via Epic Records.
For more information visit the official Incubus website.