Incubus’ Brandon Boyd takes you inside upcoming ‘Morning View’ stream
Incubus will play a livestream celebrating the 20th anniversary of the band’s groundbreaking album Morning View. The Oct. 23 show will be aired by streaming service Veeps at four different times, making the performance accessible to viewers across the globe.
For the event, the band chose to return to the Malibu, California house where they wrote and recorded the entirety of Morning View. They will revisit the classic album, which marked a turning point for the group, catapulting them to global headliner status.
Ahead of the show, Alternative Press connected with Incubus vocalist Brandon Boyd. During our discussion, we spoke about the significance of Morning View and why the band chose to revisit the album now. Our conversation also drifted toward broader issues, discussing the trying political circumstances of the COVID-19 era and the potential that humankind will reach greater heights. What emerged from the conversation was not only a story about what the record meant for its era but also one about how the band have developed artistically and as people in the last 20 years.
Incubus’ Morning View anniversary livestream airs Oct. 23. More information on times and tickets is available here.
How does it feel to look back on Morning View as an album and a moment in your career?
We don't spend a lot of time reflecting on it on a day-to-day basis because we keep ourselves busy creatively. In many ways, we're still very much an active band, touring and writing and stuff like that. I suppose the legacy, for want of a better term, of that record has been revealing itself to me and probably to the other guys as well.
It was such a massive moment, a shift in my life and in the guy's lives. It wasn't just that we were peeking our heads above ground as a band. Our record that came before it, Make Yourself, had slow-burn type of success. We had some singles that got some airplay, and they did better than anything we'd ever put out before that.
Then, we came off the road touring Make Yourself for two years. Our song “Drive” became a single right when we got home. That song really made things pop for the first time in our career. It was the first time we felt like there were potentially millions of eyes and ears on our band. It was really interesting to have our biggest moment yet happen while we were home writing another record. There was almost a tiny bit of pressure attached to it. It's like, "What are you going to follow this up with?" I think we did a pretty good job of either being in denial of the pressure or not letting ourselves get distracted by it.
The setting is really interesting. What was the recording process like?
We moved into this big, ostentatious mansion in Malibu that was just empty. We knew we wanted to change the chemical equation in our writing process by drastically changing our environment. We had all these high concepts in mind, and we just really wanted to see how that would affect what we wrote.
As we started to dig in and write, we were living there and writing and recording simultaneously. It started to sound special right away. There was something about the environment and our timing in that environment, a synergy that took place. Reflecting back on that, what I'm finding really cool and interesting and perhaps even serendipitous is that we caught a wave.
It was a really rare experience, and it doesn't happen all the time, and it hasn't happened since. We've made lots of records since then. Some of them have been very successful, but nothing really has had the same kind of vibrational quality as our experience with Morning View. I think Make Yourself put us on the map. Morning View is almost like we carved our own little niche on that map. It was like, "This is now Incubus territory. All are welcome!"
It's a little bit humbling here and there to revisit some of the tracks on that record. Most of them were there for us like clockwork. It was like, "Oh yeah, we've been playing these songs every night live for 20 years now." There were two or three that we hadn't really touched. I started remembering why we hadn't touched them. Because they're fucking hard songs to sing. It sounds like a 25-year-old kid wrote this, not anticipating that he would still be asked to sing these songs when he was 45.
It's great to hear that you were able to find those connections and reflect. But I wonder: Does it also feel a bit different or odd? Do you feel like you're in a different place personally and artistically? I'm sure, yes, of course. But how does it feel to glance back at that era with some distance?
We've been talking about that a little bit among ourselves recently as we've been revisiting all these songs. In so many ways, we have grown up—as much as one can grow up being in a rock band. I think one of the pluses and potential minuses of the choice to be in a rock band is that you are in this suspended state of animation. It's the gig that doesn't want you to grow up.
We've embraced that potential for both its dark elements and its light elements. We figured out that we're much happier and much more creatively prolific when we allow ourselves to move and allow ourselves to essentially grow up and have lives outside of the immature and outside of music. It ends up enriching the creative process all the more because we're essentially drawing from a deeper well at that point.
The takeaway, generally speaking for us in the band, has been that we're pleasantly surprised at how well these songs have aged. Put it this way: There are no songs on that record that we're ashamed to play. Some of them might be more physically difficult, like to try lifting weights the way you did when you were in your 20s as opposed to your mid-40s. But there's nothing [where] we're like, "Oh God, what did I do?" Where some earlier records, we can't say that. There are songs that we're just like, "I'm not really going to do that. I wrote that lyric when I was in high school."
The other thing I think is really interesting about this project is that it’s almost an invitation to reflect on the whole era. I didn’t fully recognize it at the time, but music hit this amazing place, really eclectic and open-minded in many ways. Incubus were a key part of that story.
I agree with you that it was a very interesting time in music. It was a period of time when the culture of music was receptive to hybridization. If it was 10 years before that, or maybe even 10 years after, it might not have had the same response. I can only speak for us. I think that we are a generation that was maybe the first to have access to lots of different stuff. We weren't subdivided into groups that were isolated. We weren't on an island. We were in a creative metropolis of sorts. Anything was fair game. Lots of different kinds of music and lots of different styles and ideas just collided.
We loved it. When we started our band, we were 15 years old. Your brain is just a chaotic, elastic mess. You're ready to receive lots of different kinds of information, and you're not forming fully concretized ideas. There's obviously a dark side to it. We definitely made some horrifically bad music that's also hybridized in our earlier days.
Then, we started to solidify our creative identity, which was happening unconsciously, by the way. It's not like we were making the decision [of], "We're going to be this kind of band." That was one thing that was always a no-no for us. We didn't want to be defined as a single kind of band. Even the term rock band had a little bit of a negative connotation for us. We were always interested in being a band.
We wanted to be progressive, and we wanted to feel creatively free to just explore. We did that, and we still do that. We were just as influenced by Phish as we were by Slayer. I'm not exaggerating. On our worst day, we were borrowing pretty heavily from some of our influences. As we started to find our own creative feet, you got stuff that turned into Make Yourself and Morning View and everything that came since then. I feel really lucky to have been a teenager in the early '90s because a lot of those records are still fucking amazing, in my opinion.
What was it like to return to the actual house for this livestream?
It was very weird and cool to go back. It looked the same. The living room, [where] we spent the vast majority of our time, is where the livestream is happening. Your place has this experiential effect where it can thrust you back. When you visit your grandparents' house as an adult, your perspective on it is in certain ways vastly different, and in certain ways, you're like, "It's just the way I remember it."
One of the reasons we wanted to go back there was just that it is a very special room. The house is not necessarily a nice house. It's just big, and it sits on a nice promontory in Malibu. But the room itself has some really interesting qualities. There's incredible light that pours through these cathedral windows that face the ocean. I'm certain that they had a pretty big part in what was influencing us. We've got to watch the day move by as we were writing and recording there.
The room wasn't necessarily designed for a rock band, but it was apparently designed for orchestral performances. So it has some interesting reverberatory qualities as indicated mostly by the way that the drums reacted in the room. The snare sounds on Morning View were something we were never able to replicate afterward. We go back into this room to do this livestream, and the snare was exactly the same. That sound pulled us all back into being in that room for five or six months, writing and recording.
There's also just the pure novelty of making music in a place that you normally wouldn't see a rock band. We're used to seeing rock bands with tons of pomp and circumstance, elevated on a stage and all of us looking up, the lights and the screens and the whole thing. We're bringing some lights and some mood to this livestream. But for the most part, it's a band playing in a beautiful living room. So there's something novel about the simplicity that I hope comes across in the performance.
I’m sure it’s also important to have those kinds of experiences in light of how challenging COVID-19 was for everyone. Of course, live music is returning slowly, as well.
It probably goes without saying that it's been a complicated couple of years. All of us are doing our best to adapt to a swiftly changing landscape and doing our best to remain as apolitical as possible. That's been the biggest challenge on a day-to-day basis: to merely address the situation for what it is and try not to get dragged into a camp or a side of the ring around it. I don't think that's necessarily helpful really in any way.
It's been really interesting from a socio-cultural point of view to see all the veils pulled away and the political posturing that was just waiting to happen. As far as showing up and playing live music and having people celebrate with you and sing songs together and dance and move and be in ecstatic states. It's been amazing. It's a reminder [of] how fortunate we are to be able to do what we do. Have you been to any concerts since COVID?
Just a couple. It's been exciting, but it's also felt kind of surreal. I think the people still seem a little unsure of how to conduct themselves because it's so out of the new normal.
I haven't been to any shows myself. We've played like nine concerts this year, which were our first since COVID started. We've done our best to move all of the shows outside just for obvious reasons. The ones that were inside were fun and cool, but people were a lot more reserved. They're a little bit unsure of how to conduct themselves. The outdoor ones are full-blown love riots. It was awesome. So, so much fun. Even before COVID, I've always preferred playing outside. I just love being able to breathe fresh air. In the night air and people seem to let down their guard when they're outdoors at night. Hopefully things will right themselves, and we can do an actual tour in 2022. We're really hoping to.
I wanted to circle back on your comment on politics. When you say that you tried to stay apolitical, what do you mean? Are you thinking more as an artist, about trying not to misuse your platform? Or are you thinking more on a personal level, given how a lot of public figures have said things that aren’t particularly helpful for the issues we’re facing?
I think it's a little bit of both. We have a very public-facing job. Now, more so than ever, it's as if we're trying to be dragged into one encampment or another. We're just doing our best to express ourselves freely but also be aware that there are some very opportunistic forces at play. As far as on a personal level, you can see it even [in] family dynamics and family politics. I know everyone, no matter who you are, has experienced that to some degree in the last handful of years.
I can't speak for the rest of the world, but we'll just talk about where we live. American politics have gotten so incredibly toxic. They were weird and toxic and corrupt to begin with. But it's gotten to a point where you almost don't know where to begin. How do you start to address [a] problem of this magnitude? The problems that we face in the world today, whether it's climate change or a pandemic or you name it.
I will just say to leave it in a hopefully more positive place: We as a species do so much better when we cooperate with each other. That doesn't mean blind cooperation or allegiance to one side or another. But when we put our heads together, we can do amazing shit. We can get to the moon. We can send humans into space. It's incredible. But when we try and solve problems through politicizing it, it's like, we can't provide health care. I don't know. I'm definitely happy to have a job title as "artist" in this period of time.
At my most optimistic, I feel like we're on the cusp of getting to something good. We've reached a place where we could satisfy most human needs if we wanted to. It's just a matter of getting to a place where we are capable of doing so politically and culturally.
I myself tend to lean more towards a glass that's half-full. I really do think that the problems we face are surmountable. Part of what we're dealing with, too, is probably better addressed in a metaphysical sense. We have figured out how to not die around my age. In human history, most people died in their late 30s or their 40s. Now you get like 83 years on average, and that has also coincided with a massive explosion of depression and anxiety.
I can't help but think that part of the problem is one of how to make sense of a life. The problems become existential, so to speak, or philosophical or metaphysical. These are obviously much more tricky subjects. But there are amazing things that I feel like we're right on the cusp of. I don't know if you or I will be alive to see some of the truth, but you never know. It's like we could be right on the precipice of an incredible shift of sorts. I would like to think that we are because sometimes those incredible leaps forward in cultures and in technology follow really incredibly trying times for human culture. History would tell us as much.