Incubus’ Brandon Boyd on lockdown life, new solo material and the time he met Prince

The frontman talks to NME about album anniversaries, new music and the songs he hates to sing

Like many artists during the coronavirus pandemic, Incubus have been making the most of their time in lockdown. They’ve released a new EP, ‘Trust Fall (Side B)’, reworked their 2004 song ‘Agoraphobia’ for the quarantine era, and frontman Brandon Boyd says he’s written enough material to put out a new solo album.

We caught up with Boyd on a Zoom call from his California home to talk about the cancelled anniversary shows for third album ‘Make Yourself’, his new solo material and the time Tommy Lee introduced him to Prince.

You recently shared an acoustic lockdown version of ‘Agoraphobia’, which takes on a whole new meaning given the current social climate. Are you ready to get back outside?

“For lack of a better term, I’m chomping at the bit to get back to… well, not back to normal. I think that one of the many things the situation has revealed is that our normal, whether it’s cultural, or interpersonal, or personal, was really broken.

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“I’m anxious to get back to being a band and being in a room together with my best friends and playing music. Even if there’s no goal, you know what I mean? Making music is such a huge part of my life and it’s really the thing that I miss the most. I miss the closeness and the communication and being in a room with my guys. I also miss hugging people.”

You were supposed to be performing a pair of ‘Make Yourself’ 20th anniversary shows at the Royal Albert Hall in June, but they were cancelled due to COVID. Are there any updates on when they might be rescheduled?

“They’re in an indefinite holding pattern which is so frustrating because we did a whole ‘Make Yourself’ tour in the States and it was fucking awesome. It was a lot of fun to do so we’re really excited to bring that show to the UK. We will do it, we just don’t know when yet.”

How do you get into the mindset of revisiting a whole album from your past?

“You know what? I actually thought that it was going to be more challenging from a singing point of view – being that I was 22, 23 when we wrote that album and my voice has changed. Not significantly, but it’s changed enough that there are certain eras of our band that can be quite challenging for me to meet as a middle-aged man. But then we started chipping away at it in the rehearsal studio and it all kind of just came rushing back. It’s a bit like muscle memory.”

Are there any songs in your catalogue that you don’t enjoy performing?

“There are very few to tell you the truth, but the ones that are the least enjoyable – and this is going to bum out some of our hardcore fans – are from ’S.C.I.E.N.C.E.’ [second album from 1997]. I just made the decision around 22, 23 that I’m not a good screamer. But even then if I’m in the right mood and I stop taking myself so seriously, they’re quite fun to do.”

Incubus
Incubus. CREDIT: Press

Can you tell us if there’s a new Incubus album coming anytime soon?

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“Oh yeah, we’re definitely gonna make more records. It’s just the coronavirus situation has kept us from being in a room together. Our band room is sitting there disinfected and just pregnant with potential, but we haven’t been able to get in there yet. So as soon as we can get in there, we are going to be very excitedly writing because there’s a whole universe of things to write about.”

What about a new Brandon Boyd solo album?

“That’s probably gonna happen sooner rather than later because I’ve spent the whole of lockdown mostly recording cover songs, which is something I’ve never really done before.”

What sort of covers?

“The covers – and this was unintentional – are almost all written by women. I think maybe it’s a voice thing. I think my voice is more in that range than it is when trying to emulate most male singers. There are so many songs that I would love to cover but they are so complete on their own. Like there’s certain Leonard Cohen songs that I’ve always wanted to cover, there’s certain Jeff Buckley songs I’ve always wanted to cover, but those songs do not need reinterpretation. If someone does it’s usually kind of insulting. You’re like, ‘Why did you do this?’

“I’ve been looking for songs to reinterpret that almost feel unrealised. They’re beautiful but there’s something about them that the artist themselves weren’t fully aware of so I’m trying to see it through a different pair of eyes. ”

Will the album be all covers or just include a few?

“It’ll be mostly covers. I’ve been writing music for 30 years and I’ve never put out an album or EP that was just interpreting other people’s songs. It’s been all original work.”

Do you think it will arrive before the next Incubus album?

“Probably. It’s almost done. It’s not going to be as involved as an Incubus record obviously because it’s me, by myself, mostly just playing an acoustic guitar with some accompanying keys and my voice.”

One of Incubus’ most memorable covers is Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’. What sort of an impact did he have on you as an artist?

“He’s definitely one of my all-time favourite artists and I think pretty much everybody in the band shares in the sentiment. ‘Purple Rain’ is one of my all-time favourite albums. The movie Purple Rain was very impactful to me as a little kid because it was the first time I ever saw nudity in a movie. It left a very distinct impression on me and I’m sure in no small way it made me want to pursue music.”

Did you ever meet him?

“I did, and of all the people to introduce me to him it was Tommy Lee from Mötley Crüe. We were at some event somewhere in Los Angeles and Tommy was like, ‘Have you ever met Prince?’ I told him I hadn’t and he said, ‘He’s right here, do you wanna meet him?’ I was like, ’Yes, Tommy Lee. Introduce me to Prince.’ We chatted for about five minutes and it took everything to not wanna geek out on him. I think I held it together pretty well.”

What did you talk about?

“I don’t remember, I think I may have gone blank at a certain point. Usually when I meet someone that’s kind of iconic to me or in a hero position I try to be as honest with them as possible. I’ll be like, ‘You really fucked me up as a kid. I love you. I’m doing everything not to freak you out right now. Can I just hug you real quick?’ But with Prince I was like, ‘What’s up Prince? Good job, man.’ I was being way too cool and he could probably tell.”

Incubus’ new EP ‘Trust Fall (Side B)’ is out now on ADA Worldwide

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