Alternative-rockstars Incubus, who gained commercial success and critical acclaim with albums like „Make yourself“ and „Morning view“, had taken some distance from the music scene in recent years. Their last LP „If not now, when?“ dates back to 2011. After various solo projects and some time off for personal development, the band now returns with their eighth studio album, prosaically called „8“.
On a grey and rainy wednesday at the Gibson Showroom in Berlin-Mitte, a few dozen lucky fans and journalists were invited to an exclusive pre-listening of the new album, to be released april 21st, and a short but charmful Q&A with singer Brandon Boyd and drummer José Pasillas.
„8“: A less experimental yet solid rock album
While the new material contains less of the funk and hip hop elements hat characterized Incubus’ first records, the band’s sound and singer Boyd’s voice still sound fresh and energetic. The production, though, sounds a lot bigger than in earlier years which, I feel, somewhat takes off the edge of some of the tunes.
All in all, the five Californians seem less inclined to experiments than before. While the band used to be able to transport the live quality of a jam session into studio songs like „Are you in?“, the new numbers, for the most part, follow well-known patterns and offer few surprises.
That said, „8“ is a compilation of melodic, guitar-driven, straightforward rock music with occasional metal overtones that is still going to satisfy fans and introduce the band to new listeners. The people gathered at the Gibson Showroom this evening enjoyed what they heard. Here are some of their questions.
Phil Collins as an influence?
Joe: Hi José. I’m in a band and we’re in a process of writing music. We heard the song „The Loneliest“ and some of the drumming, I think, sounds like Phil Collins’ „In the air tonight“.
Joe: Did he inspire you?
José (laughing too): I gotta say no, not really, maybe on an unconscious level. You know, it’s kind of like a throwback to that oldschool 808 drumsound. I’m glad you pull that as a reference because… that’s a good one. I’d be proud of that one, I honour that song.
Anna: The new album was mixed by Skrillex. How did he influence the record?
Brandon: Well, the record was actually already written and recorded. One day, Skrillex came into the room and talked to us and we played our new stuff to him, just as a friend. Then he got inquisitive about one song in particular, „Familiar faces“, which you guys just heard, and he asked if he could… mess around with it.
I almost assumed that he was going to do a remix of it. But then he didn’t really fundamentally change the song, he just kind of… polished it. He put the file of the song into his laptop and disappeared for an hour. Then he came back, saying: „Check it out!“ and I was like „Aww shit, the record’s not done yet!“
So he really didn’t change the album in a drastical way but just made it better, with real simple little tweeks, which, I think, really is the mark of a good producer. We ended up mixing the whole record again with him – but still his influence came very late, at a point when the songs were already actually finished.
Christian: Bad times often set the ground for good music. How much is your new music influenced by the political situation in the States at the moment? „Love in the time of surveillance“, I guess, is your most political song since „Megalomaniac“.
Brandon: There seems to be a strange energy permeating the planet. It’s scary to a lot of people who thought we were going in the right direction and now we’re taking this hard right. Most of this album was written before Trump was elected. But you’d only have to be a little bit observant to see the way things were heading. I don’t know what it was like in Europe, but in America, we’ve been slowly heading towards this new situation and this surveillance state for a long time.
So I’m interested in this as a topic from a larger cultural perspective: why are we so deeply voyeuristic? Why do we need to spy on each other all the time? To me, that seems like a relic from a bygone era.
Sam: Brandon, in „Familiar faces“ you’re singing „Where did my heroes go?“ and „I miss them golden days“. Who are the heroes and what are the golden days you are referring to in that song?
Brandon: That’s a good question! A journalist who we talked to earlier today was sure that those were overt Bowie references. Of course I’m a fan of Bowie but I think I wasn’t referencing him when I wrote those lyrics.
In that song I am doing my best to have… a conversation of sorts with some people who were very close to me in my life, who I grew up and fell in love with and was influenced by and who, really, are heroes to me. But they ended up going in a very different direction than I thought they would in the current social climate and that deeply surprised me.
There comes this moment of reckoning when you think you know these people so well and all of a sudden they make these shocking statements about how they think the world should be. That’s what the song is about.
And can I say one more thing about David Bowie? There is this slower song called „The Loneliest“ which you have also heard. Guitar, rhythm and vocals are very much inspired by „Black Star“. I don’t know if it came across but we were deeply referencing that song.
Incubus’ new album „8“ will be released april 21st through Universal Music.
Words and pictures: Bastian Geiken