CULVER CITY, California — Brandon Boyd was on an airplane last year when a talk show began playing on the TVs. Annoyed by his only programming option, the singer came up with a way to entertain himself.
"I decided to start narrating for the people, which is a really great game if you're ever bored enough," he said.
The game got Boyd thinking. "I realized a time will probably come when television will watch us if we're watching it," the singer surmised. "If that hasn't already happened, figuratively or literally. It sounded like some sort of pseudo-Big Brother nightmare, so I wrote it down."
"Come one, come all, into '1984,' " the singer wrote, referring to George Orwell's classic novel in which the government (known as Big Brother) watches everyone.
The line became the chorus to "Talk Show on Mute," which Incubus plan to release as the second single from A Crow Left of the Murder (see "Think You Know Who Incubus' 'Megalomaniac' Is About? Think Again").
"It's kind of written in a stream-of-consciousness format, if that makes any sense," Boyd said of the tune, which ends with the line "You're so much more endearing with the sound turned off."
The music to "Talk Show on Mute" came together just as spontaneously.
"That song was recorded completely live, f----ups and all," guitarist Mike Einziger recalled. "It's a cool song. It's kind of happy sounding, but the lyrics are kind of dark and scary. There's a nice contrast between music and content."
"I like that there's no background vocals on it," DJ Chris Kilmore added. "It's just a straight track."
Boyd's stream-of-consciousness approach to "Talk Show on Mute" was one of several songwriting techniques he experimented with on A Crow Left of the Murder.
"Some songs started as letters to myself that spun into a song thing. 'You' might be me or 'you' might be outside of me," he said of tracks like "Priceless," which begins, "The fact that you think you can speak to me the way you do/ It bleeds me to believe that you have never stepped out of the skin you live within."
"I wrote a couple of the songs on the record from someone close to me's point of view, stepping into their sight and speaking for them," Boyd continued. "We call that second-and-a-half-person, but I don't know if that means anything."
Critics have suggested Incubus took more risks on A Crow Left of the Murder after the band established itself with 2001's Morning View. Einziger disagrees.
"We've never felt we didn't have that freedom," the guitarist said. "We've always done what we wanted. It's kind of self-serving, but that's how we do it. We try not to pay attention to anything but each other."
"Some type of subconscious security must allow you to feel freer creatively once you know you've established longevity," Boyd added. "But I think what Mike's getting at is that we don't consciously go around thinking, 'We went double-platinum twice. Now we can make our art record.' "
Incubus fans might want to stand clear of the band if A Crow Left of the Murder crosses the million mark.
"Ben [Kinney] keeps saying that if we go platinum, he's going to sh-- his pants," Einziger said of the band's new bassist.
"I haven't pooped my pants since I was like 20, so it's been a long time. But I told Ben I would do it with him," Boyd added. "And he was like, 'I swear to God I will poop in my pants no matter where we are.' So I'm trying to rally the troops. That's our way of celebrating."
Incubus have yet to make "Talk Show on Mute" video plans.