Sights and Sounds With Brandon Boyd

Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd is a creative jack-of-all-trades who is pretty damn good at everything he seems to do, whether that means publishing books, designing jewelry, writing music, singing, drawing or painting. The band is currently working on their new, heavier album produced by Dave Sardy (Slayer, Macy Gray).

But even when Boyd is busy making music, he continues to paint and draw everyday. Sometimes he says he can do them simultaneously by working out a lyric in his head while painting, which may be why his art looks like a visual melody. We talked to the multitasker about his work, his favorite authors and proper Zika virus defenses. See a few of his pieces at Life Is Beautiful’s Crime On Canvas.

How’s recording been going?

Eva in Red

Eva in Red

It’s been going wonderfully. You know, everybody is at least 40. We have one member left who is 39. There’s a lot of mellowing out that’s been happening over the past couple of years. It takes humans about 35 to 40 years to get their shit together. We are lucky enough to get our group together and make music. It’s been more enjoyable this time around than I can ever really remember. We are doing better work than I think we [have] done in a really, really long time and we are having a much better time doing it. So it’s a lovely balance we struck.

So what is it, are people more willing to compromise?

There are a lot of things at play. One of the biggest things is everybody is at a place in their life, where it’s like, “Holy shit, look at our job. Why should this be anything but fun?” (laughs) And interestingly, it’s turning out to be one of the heavier records we have ever written together, as far as sonically and riffs and the arrangements. There’s this big, full circle, in a way. It’s just been really, really fun.

Do you find singing or painting to be easier?

Painting and drawing. Expressing myself visually came long before I expressed interest in making music. That one is much more akin to breathing for me. I do it regardless of the circumstance. I think that’s why I’ve been able to be relatively prolific with it too, because I don’t really do it too much out of desire for a result. I do it because it feels right. I do it almost because I have to, you know? Music has been similar over the years, but it offers a different kind of intellectual challenge because I’m trying to formulate the thoughts into melodies and rhythms, [while] collaborating with people. Painting is just a little bit more of this free-flowing thing that happens on a daily basis. But I feel so blessed to be able to do either of them, let alone both of them. They both make me very happy.

Is art a meditation practice for you? With all the repetitive lines in your recent work, it just seems kind of like you may be zoning out?

It isn’t intentionally meditative, but it absolutely becomes that at a certain point. It does create kind of a meditative effect. It almost becomes what we call a walking meditation, where you’re not sitting still in lotus position with your eyes closed, but you’re involved in a repetitive activity that becomes zen-like in a way. So once again, that’s not the intention for me. It’s just something that I love to do and I want to do and I have to do. But even the figurative stuff, when I’m doing a human study in watercolor or something, or just sketching, it ends up having kind of a meditative effect. I think that’s why a lot of artists do what they do, whether they know that or not.

White Lines

White Lines

What drew you to watercolor?

I’ve been obsessed with watercolor for the past five years. It’s incredibly challenging because it doesn’t cooperate very often, but that’s what I like about it. It’s like a loving fight with the paints and then you see what happens … I realized how challenging it was and that switched me on.

I have that kind of reaction when I encounter a medium, not only in painting but in any form of creativity. If I encounter a medium that is challenging to me, I go in head-first. Singing has been one of those things for me … I’m like, “How the fuck do you sing? What is singing? What is lyric writing?” It is so continually challenging, and [with] painting, if you don’t practice, it just dwindles.

I think everybody likes a challenge, but sometimes if you can’t catch on after a few tries, it’s easy to give up.

There are certain challenges, quite a few of them, I‘ve resigned myself to the fact that I will never excel at them. Like cooking—not one of my strong points. But I should probably keep working on that; my survival and well-being depend on it.

If you weren’t doing something creative for a living, what do you think you’d be doing?

I never really pondered this question left to my own devices … because I’m so blessed to be able to do these things for a living. When I’ve been asked this question and pressed for it, I’ve thought about it, and it’s occurred to me that I’d probably be more buried in scholastic or scholarly pursuits. When I’m not doing these things I get lost in literature and all kinds of stuff related to books, which has actually been able to translate into my creative expression, too … I think if I wasn’t doing these things I’d probably be involved in publishing or something like that.

Who are your favorite authors?

Where do I start? Pick an era? I have a handful. Henry Miller has been one of my favorites for the past 10 to 15 years. For me, he’s the stuff of legend. He [also] was a watercolor painter, so that kind of led me into watercolor, as well. I am very, very fond of his work. I also love some more contemporary authors. One of my favorites is Tom Robbins, he wrote a book called Jitterbug Perfume [and] a bunch of others, but he’s still with us and he’s an amazing writer.

You have a solo show coming up in Los Angeles in March 2017. What other art shows do you have coming up?

See Me

See Me

I have a handful of group art shows before that. … I’m going to be in another international art fair in Austin called POP Austin in October and if Zika doesn’t ravage Miami, I’ll be going down to Miami for Art Basel. I say that lightheartedly, but I’m truly also hoping that it’s not going to be a problem because nobody is really talking about it yet and we’re just going ahead as planned. I’ll probably be wearing a mosquito-net three-piece suit.

That’s a legitimate concern.

Yeah, it does concern me. No one else seems to be concerned about it, so I’m just going to bathe in beets and then do the mosquito-net sword-fighting suit covering my face, hands and feet.

That seems like good preparation.

Yeah, just a little mellow preparation.