07/15/2011 12:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Brandon Boyd Discusses a New Era for Incubus With "If Not Now, When?"

I was heading into the office on Monday when immediately following KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic, NPR begins with the headline "If not now, when?"

After spending the previous Thursday in a Los Angeles Miracle Mile art gallery watching the start to finish performance of an album titled the same thing, I could only assume they were talking about the band Incubus.


It was Obama making another push to pass healthcare reform legislation. Still incredibly ironic timing given the new record was being released the following day.

For about 10 days Incubus converted what was supposed to be their rehearsal time into a very public event that was livestreamed online. Caught off guard, I was no exception to the exposure as I walked in to interview Brandon Boyd and was told "we're going to go live with this one."

God damn it. Who am I Allison Hagendorf? I don't have those kind of skills. Interviews for me are typically one on one conversations, or I at least have the luxury of the edit room to hide behind if need be.

But Brandon's cool and makes the interview process easy, so without further adieu... hello internet!

Brandon Deroche: Uhhh... How's it goin?

Brandon Boyd: It's going very well. We're here at Incubus HQ Live. There are guys in my band and some friends drawing on the giant canvas behind us.

BD: So is this the last day?

BB: This is the last day of our fun little experiment here.

BD: One of the things that surprised me was that you're doing a lot of the albums from start to finish. It seems like a lot to remember.

BB: Yes. Tonight we're going to do our new record "If not now, when?" from front to back, and we will be rehearsing some of it in private after you and I are done talking.

We get good at playing the songs, we start recording, finish them and then don't listen to them for months, and so you have re-accquaint yourself. And some of the songs on the new record needed to be adapted.

BD: How about some of the older ones, did you rehearse them before you came back in?

BB: A little bit. What's interesting is a lot of the older music when we start performing it, it acts a lot like muscle memory. It's kind of like riding a bike. For me as a singer, I just had to remember like what part of my face I sang that into. That kind of stuff. (laughs)

It's been fun. It's actually a great way to learn just by jumping into the deep end. So we've had I think about a hundred people in here every night for the past week, just kind of all around us.

It's been really interesting watching people's reactions to the new music, to the old music and also watching how modern young people will be standing in front of something going on like live music, and there's a camera in front of their face. So then they're watching through the camera.

It's not that new, but it's a kind of new phenomenon where they're not watching with their eyes anymore. They're watching, but it's through this filter. It's kind of an interesting thing.

BD: So, 6 years Incubus has been on break?

BB: It's been a little over 5 years since the release of the last album, but we really effectively have been on hiatus for about 2. We were touring behind Light Grenades for a year and a half or so, took a short break, did a greatest hits album, toured behind that in the summer, and then it's been a maybe a little over 2 years that we've actually been on break.

I did a solo record during that break, I did a couple of art shows, Michael went off to school for 2 of those years, Ben Kenney released a solo record... We've all been very busy. Not so much of a break, just kind of like a stepping away from Incubus temporarily.

BD: Now that Incubus is back, in a lot of ways it seems like it's a new era for you guys - does that seem accurate?

BB: Yeah there's definitely a sense of that. We needed to break away from it perhaps to better understand what it was that we had done after all this time, and by being able to understand that, potentially get an understanding of where we have yet to go.

BD: What did you come to understand?

BB: That we have a lot of ground to still cover. I'll speak for myself, I hope I'm speaking for the band when I say that.

In certain ways it feels like creatively we've just started to scratch the surface of what is possible and what's available to us creatively. The creative part being the most important part.

I'm not sure what left there is as far as our goal orientations are to fulfill in our career, you know? That's not really important for me to be thinking about those things. But creatively as far as the songs that we make together, and as far as the things we do as a band, there are so many places that we have left to go.

No one's played on the moon yet. No one's played in zero gravity. Some bands have played at the Pyramids of Giza, but we'd very much like to do that in the near future. There's just so much to do.

BD: And you guys discovered Twitter!

BB: About 3 weeks ago.

BD: There seems to be a lot of new technologies coming into play - will you be doing anything special throughout the tour or album cycle?

BB: I'm sure we will. Specifically what? I couldn't tell you. I'm sure we'll be Tweetin' up the Twitosphere as we travel around the world playing music.

We did a live webcast from Berlin a few weeks ago that was very successful. A lot of people tuned in to watch it, so there may be some of that stuff because it's kind of amazing to know that you're playing in front of thousands of people here, but then tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people could be watching from the comfort of their home. Kind of a fun idea.

BD: Let's talk about the new album - Do you have favorite songs?

BB: I do... but they change all the time.

One of my favorites is a song called "In The Company of Wolves." It's a very quiet storm. We're kind of referencing the quiet storm in that song. Which is kind of like a short lived era in music.

It's a fun exercise in exploring the available space in a bass riff. It turned out to be this wildly, visually, evocative song that we're really very excited to bring to big music venues, you know, with crazy lasers and animations. (laughs)

BD: In terms of American festivals, I'm curious if you think you're going to break more into that scene on this album?

BB: We've had our stints between the Ozzfests, Area One, and our Lollapollooza run that we did. It's interesting though, the American festivals that are sort of like "the one's to play" we don't have much of a relationship with.

I've never spent much time speculating as to why or why not. I know that I've never considered our band to be a band of the moment or a "cool band," but truth be told we've never actually strived to be that kind of band. We always wanted to be whatever band that we actually are. Sometimes we're fully aware of that, other times it's in process and we don't really know.

I feel like it's just for the personality types that we are and that we are collectively as well, it's a little more interesting for us to just kind of do what we do and if people like it then that's awesome, and if they don't, okay. No hard feelings.

On the other hand, we do a lot of festivals overseas -- Europe, U.K., we're going to go do a festival in South Korea next week, Phillipines, Japan. Everywhere else but America we're a big part of the festival scene.

BD: Did any current bands influence the new album?

BB: I don't think anything current, no. (laughs)

There's not a lot of current influence in this record that I could really knowingly identify, off the top of my head at least. I'm sure there's some unconscious regurgitating at play as there always is. I know some of the stuff that we were directly referencing is definitely not current.

BD: What are you listening to right now?

BB: I haven't been listening to a large diversity of new music right now, I've been listening to probably like 3 records, and I've been saying them over and over again. I've been listening to a band called Bright Black Morning Light. Kinda neat, my girlfriend loves them too.

A band called Hammock that we've both been listening to a lot which is beautiful music. And then we've been listening to Tibetan singing bowls (laughs) just to meditate, fall asleep to, wake up to, that kind of thing.

I have not been absorbing a lot of I guess what you would call popular culture music. Heard some stuff when we were in Europe a couple weeks ago of what's going on in the pop world, and so I heard it. Listening to it, I wouldn't say.

BD: Lyrically, what does the song "Tomorrow's Food" mean to you?

BB: I am directly quoting Ken Wilbur from A Brief History Of Everything where he said "no epoch is finally privileged, we are all tomorrow's food." I'm paraphrasing, but that's a fascinating, fascinating piece of modern philosophy if anyone out there is interested.

It resonated with me a couple years ago when I read it, and I wrote that quote down and just sort of being witness to the wild, wild craziness of the planet Earth at this moment in time and the political discourse at play in America, overseas, Middle East... all of it.

There's always something in process, but this seems more like a shift than a process. There's almost like a paradigm shift at play, and there are a number of people who are fighting the shift. It's like they're trying to stop a sinking ship with oars or something. It's an interesting part of the process because it's not abnormal for a culture of people that have had a stronghold on the way things have worked for a long time, it's not unusual for them to want to fight for it.

So in a lot of ways, it seems like the end of the world to a generation of people. To another generation of people, it seems like the beginning of their lives, and so you can recognize it's just a matter of perception about what's going on.

Amongst that I found that quote and I thought it was beautiful and poetic and eloquent. I thought it deserved highlighting, so we wrote the song around that idea that there literally is no such thing as a privileged epoch -- a time when everything is exactly the way it should always remain.

Things should always be in flux, always be changing, shifting.

"If Not Now, When?" is currently #4 on iTunes and the tour begins tonight in Santa Barbara.