Those who have wiped mouth fog off of Make Yourself with their sleeve before spinning it in battery-powered Walkmans would be disturbed to know that Incubus’ 1997 sophomore album S.C.I.E.N.C.E. recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The group was in their early 20s at the time of its release, but their friendships and the group itself began before any of them had their learner’s permits. When Incubus formed, frontman Brandon Boyd, guitarist Michael Einziger and drummer Jose Pasillas’ main mode of transportation around Calabasas, California was still skateboards.
“Michael and I used to do middle school projects together,” Boyd says. “We were in an advanced literature class together and the project was to compose an original poem or a song and perform it for the class. Or if you were too nervous to do that, which we were, you made a videotape. That’s how the band started.”
Now, the group, with bassist Ben Kenney and turntablist Chris Kilmore, are touring in support of their eighth album, 8, which ends with a five-day residency at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino from October 7 to 14. It’s the longest engagement the band has ever done. “When [the residency] was initially proposed, we were excited about it. And then the next thought was, ‘Do we have five different sets?’”
“One of the major mistakes that artists make is leaning into what made them successful a little too much, and for better or worse, that’s something that we never really did.” — Brandon Boyd
Boyd says that when he and Einziger were younger, they watched bands that never played the same set twice, and as their career went on, they realized how unique and difficult that was. But after decades onstage and developing an expansive catalog of music, with this “annoying, but wonderful thing called the internet” keeping them on their toes, each night at The Joint will be a different experience.
Diversity isn’t a new concept to the band, though, as it was a key strategy Incubus applied to making records. S.C.I.E.N.C.E.’s new-metal spoken word “Vitamin” is Chinese pipa guitars away from Morning View’s instrumental track “Aqueous Transmission.” It’s a necessary method that keeps Incubus from getting too comfortable after so many years of making music together.
“One of the major mistakes that artists make is leaning into what made them successful a little too much, and for better or worse, that’s something that we never really did,” Boyd says. “That’s probably indicated most dramatically in the fact that we never wrote ‘Drive Part 2’ or a ‘Pardon Me Part 2.’ There are definitely recognizable lines in our music, in the vibration and tenor of what we do, but we’re constantly looking for novel ground.”
Boyd says to do this has been “frustratingly difficult” at times, so the band members have had to periodically step away from each other and their music. He says a perfect example of that is 8, which was co-produced by Skrillex and Dave Sardy. There was a lot of time between the last two albums, and during that period, the band focused on other creative pursuits, like Boyd’s watercolor painting (which will be on display at Life Is Beautiful Music & Art Festival’s Crime on Canvas exhibit from September 22 to 24). Boyd says the band had no real plans to come back and make a new album, and that 8 ended up being a blend of their first and last recordings, “which is so much fun, especially if you’re not necessarily trying to do that,” he says. “It informed itself and it found its way back home.”
One standout track on the new release that throws back to earlier recordings is “Love in the Time of Surveillance,” which makes a statement on the dangers of big data and social media. “It’s commonplace now, but when you really step back and look at it, it has such a fascinating kind of Orwellian stink to it that it definitely bears highlighting,” Boyd says.
The band’s social commentary is just one of the reasons Incubus fans have followed them for the last 20-plus years. Another is Boyd’s shirtless reputation—one that rivals Vladimir Putin’s—although, currently no merch of a bare-chested Boyd riding bears exists, like the shirts the musician saw of Putin being sold in Moscow’s subway stations.
“Minus the nasty politics and election hacking and stuff like that, maybe one day there will be T-shirts of me riding dinosaurs. Really, that’s what I’m aiming for,” he says. “My aspirations thus far have been quite humble. I overheat with clothing on when I’m playing, so I start shedding layers, but really what I’m aiming for is like, riding larger mammals.”
October 7, 8,11, 13 and 14, tickets start at $50, The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, hardrockhotel.com