UNIVERSAL CITY, California — Maybe it was the red wine frontman Brandon Boyd sipped in between songs at the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas show on Saturday. Maybe it was the no-frills, all-business, subdued vibe in the band’s dressing room, with nary a groupie or celebutante in sight.
Whatever it was, an Incubus that appears to have mellowed with time and grown wiser with age turned up at the festival (see “Fall Out Boy Feel Like Losers While Foo Fighters Win Big At Radio Fest” ). Even after landing what is perhaps their most important LP sales debut to date, Boyd and the gang still managed to keep the revelry low-key behind the scenes.
“To me, the celebration is that we’re like all 30-ish and we still don’t have to have real jobs,” Boyd joked.
What the SoCal quintet — singer Boyd, guitarist Mike Einziger, bassist Ben Kenney, turntablist Chris Kilmore and drummer Jose Pasillas — should have been celebrating was a new milestone. With the release of Light Grenades, Incubus’ sixth studio LP, they debuted atop the Billboard albums chart last week for the first time in their 15-plus-year existence (see “Jay-Z Takes A Week-Two Fall; Incubus’ Grenades Blasts To #1″ ).
“Yeah, that’s the cool thing about being a band that’s been around,” Kenney explained. “For new bands to be #1, they can be hot and be like a flash in the pan — that can happen. But to have been around, for this band, that’s really cool. That means that people still care, and that’s important.”
“Our last two records [2004's A Crow Left of the Murder and 2001's Morning View] debuted at #2 and we were ecstatic about that,” Boyd elaborated. “But then we were at rehearsal the other day trying to get good at playing the new songs, and we all got a simultaneous e-mail saying that our record debuted at #1, and we all looked at each other kind of suspicious like … someone’s messing with us. And then we did a little ‘Riverdance’ thing together, where we like kicked our heels together in a circle, and then there was that moment of uncomfortable silence like, ‘That was really lame, what we just did.’ ”
Despite the lame group hugs and Michael Flatley-style jigs, what’s decidedly un-lame is Incubus’ new material, which they said gestated over time.
“We took some time off. We relaxed for a year,” Kilmore said. “We [used to] go on tour, come back, write a record and then go back on the tour. This time we came off tour and we were like, ‘Let’s just breathe a little bit and enjoy life.’ ”
Boyd agreed. “It was a slow-birth record. Every record before, we wrote really, really fast. And it wasn’t like we felt rushed making our records — it was that we just always worked really fast. This record is … better than anything we’ve ever done before, that’s my opinion of it. It’s definitely the most cohesive piece of work.”
Incubus are also enjoying early success from the album’s first single, “Anna Molly,” which is #2 on Billboard‘s Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. A video for their follow-up single, “Dig,” has already been partially shot, with loyal fans starting to come into focus.
“We filmed some green-screen stuff,” Boyd said. “We’re gonna try and let the people on the wild, wild world of the Internet make a video for the song and see what happens. That’s kind of a mini-trend that’s happening, and I think that it’s a really great idea because it basically doesn’t ask anybody’s permission to make a music video … for better or worse.”
To support the record, Incubus announced a 29-date North American tour — the band’s first in two years — beginning January 5 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and ending February 11 in Los Angeles. In another sign that Incubus have matured, they’re playing small theaters as opposed to larger arenas.
“I think it’s called ‘getting old,’ ” Kilmore quipped.
“Well, not ‘old,’ but ‘older,’ ” Boyd playfully snapped back. “It’s like ‘bald’ versus ‘balding.’ ”
Call it what you want, but like fine wine, Incubus have indeed come of age.