LOS ANGELES — As singer/songwriter Kate Earl has learned, there are pros and cons to collaborating with members of one of the biggest rock acts in the world.
Recording and occasionally performing with Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger, bassist Ben Kenney and drummer José Pasillas have brought her credibility and expertise, but the guys are obviously not the most committed bandmates.
"I don't remember any of the songs," Einziger admitted backstage at a recent show with Earl. "We just get up onstage and start playing and see what happens. It's really fun, though — totally on the fly."
For Earl, whose tender voice and Alaskan roots have garnered her comparisons to Jewel, the required spontaneity is worth the exposure.
"So many people haven't heard my voice yet, and I would really like to get in front of them," she said after the show.
Earl, who left a life of solitude working at the family gas station, came to Los Angeles to launch a music career five years ago. She met Einziger through the president of her label (Record Collection), who went to high school with the guitarist.
"I had, like, one or two songs when I was signed, so I would hang out at Mike's house and he would record my ideas and flesh out stuff," she said. "He asked the other guys to come listen and play, and they all ended up on the album."
Einziger also hooked Earl up with Tony Berg, who produced her debut, Fate Is the Hunter, released in May.
"I'm really proud of her," Einziger said. "A lot of good things are happening for her, and a lot of people are starting to pick up on her music. I'm sure we'll do more musical adventures together in the future."
Einziger, it seems, is spreading his collaborative wings even wider. After working with Earl, he signed on to handle production duties for a band called Agent Sparks, with which he also has a personal connection.
"My younger brother Ben [Einziger] is the guitar player and singer of the band, and my brother Paul [Fried] is the bass player," he explained. "It's a really great new band, really unique and different."
Agent Sparks released their first EP, Not So Merry, in mid-September and will follow it up with a full-length record due at the beginning of 2006.
"They're doing a tour that's sponsored by MySpace with a lot of other bands that are probably heavy rock," Einziger said of his pop-rock protégés. "They're gonna stick out like a sore thumb. It'll be really cool."
A self-proclaimed "mad workaholic," Einziger also scored the just-released documentary "Flow," about surfboard maker Al Merrick and the Channel Islands Surf Team. Incubus singer Brandon Boyd narrates the movie, and Incubus and other surfer musicians donated songs.
With their side projects behind them, Incubus returned to the studio last month with producer Brendan O'Brien.
"We always make our records really quickly, and this time we're gonna just slow it all down," Einziger said. "Usually we write 12 or 13 songs, and then we just record them and that's it. We'd like to write, like, 40 songs and really spend a lot more time writing than we ever have."
Even though they're looking for calmness in the studio, the guys are already itching to get back on the road.
"We're talking about doing some shows in South America maybe later this year or sometime at the beginning of next year, whenever we feel like it's a good time to split and go down there," Einziger said.