This article is about the Californian rock band Incubus. For the metal band formerly known as Incubus, see Opprobrium (band).
Incubus is an American rock band from Calabasas, California. The band was formed in 1991 by vocalist Brandon Boyd, lead guitarist Mike Einziger, and drummer Jose Pasillas while enrolled in Calabasas High School and later expanded to include bassist Alex "Dirk Lance" Katunich, and Gavin "DJ Lyfe" Koppell; both of whom were eventually replaced by bassist Ben Kenney and DJ Kilmore respectively.
Incubus has attained commercial success, reaching multi-platinum sales, as well as releasing several successful singles. After their first two albums, Fungus Amongus (1995) and S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (1997), the band earned mainstream recognition with the release of their 1999 album Make Yourself which spawned several hits, including the band's highest charting song "Drive." Success continued with the albums Morning View (2001) and A Crow Left of the Murder... (2004). Their sixth studio album, Light Grenades, debuted at No. 1 in 2006 and was followed by Incubus' first greatest hits album Monuments and Melodies in June 2009 and the band's 2011 album, If Not Now, When?. Incubus also released an EP, Trust Fall (Side A), in early 2015, and two years later, the band released their eighth studio album, titled 8, on April 21, 2017. Worldwide, Incubus has sold over 23 million albums.
Formation, Fungus Amongus and Enjoy Incubus (1991–1997)
Incubus was formed in 1991 by vocalist Brandon Boyd, guitarist Mike Einziger, bassist Alex Katunich and drummer Jose Pasillas, while the members were in high school. They existed as a band for some time before they gave themselves a name, having only chosen the band's name "Incubus" when required to supply a band name for an upcoming show. The band's early shows were frequently at nightclubs on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip, including such well-known venues as the Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy and the Troubadour.
Incubus produced many of their early recordings with Jim Wirt and Chillum Records in a Santa Monica studio, only able to work on their music during hours in which they were not in school. In 1995, Incubus added Gavin Koppell (known by his stage name DJ Lyfe) to the band and recorded their first two-song EP, Let Me Tell Ya 'Bout Root Beer. This was followed by the debut album Fungus Amongus, also recorded with Wirt and released on Incubus' own label Stopuglynailfungus Music. In the following year, Incubus signed a seven-record deal with Sony's Immortal Records, later to become Epic Records. The group was spotted by Epic/Immortal A&R Paul Pontius, who was also responsible for signing Korn to the label. The 1997 six-track EP Enjoy Incubus was the band's first major-label release and was created so the band could present a recording while touring with Korn in Europe.
S.C.I.E.N.C.E., Incubus' second studio album, was released on September 9, 1997. After their album release, they started opening for bands such as Korn and 311. This album marked somewhat of a stylistic departure from the band's more funk influenced early material, incorporating many more elements of nu metal. In February 1998, Incubus dismissed Koppell. They decided that with him in the band they could no longer be a productive family. A friend recommended Chris Kilmore to fill the position. The band enjoyed Kilmore's style and attitude to life and asked him to join the band. Incubus participated in the Ozzfest and Family Valuesmetal festivals and toured with System of a Down and Ultraspank during the fall. Chris Kilmore, also known as DJ Kilmore, replaced DJ Lyfe.
30 second sample of the S.C.I.E.N.C.E track "Calgone". This album is noted for having a more aggressive nu metal sound.
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Make Yourself (1999–2001)
After constant touring throughout 1998, and after selling over 100,000 copies of S.C.I.E.N.C.E. without the support of radio or television exposure, Incubus took a break for two years and then released their critically acclaimed third album Make Yourself.
After just 2 weeks in the studio with producer Jim Wirt, the band was unhappy with the recordings and opted to continue recording without a producer. After another 3 weeks of recording, R.E.M./Nirvana producer Scott Litt took an interest in their songs and started taking part in the recording sessions, mainly focusing on songs like "Drive" and "Stellar". According to the band, Litt's involvement in the record came mostly during the mixing process.
30 second sample of the popular Make Yourself single "Drive". It has been cited as a turning point in the band's sound.
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Make Yourself was released on October 26, 1999. The album marked the beginning of a more commercially acceptable pop rock and alternative rock sound for the band, although several songs from the album still included elements of nu/alternative metal, such as downtuned riffs and layers of electronics. Right after their album's release, the band went on tour with Primus and Buckethead, a tour which lasted for the remainder of the year. The first song that kicked off the album, "Privilege", was featured on MTV Sports: Pure Ride for the PlayStation. The band also released the single, "Pardon Me", but it was initially not well received by radio stations. Brandon and Mike decided to perform a live acoustic version of the song at the few radio stations who were showing interest, and this in turn spread the word of the song. Many radio stations began to play the acoustic version, including the influential Los Angeles radio giant KROQ-FM. With sparked interest in the song, radio stations began playing the studio version of "Pardon Me". In response, Incubus made a video for the song and released a six-song EP titled When Incubus Attacks (Vol. 1) on August 22, 2000. The EP contained the acoustic version of "Pardon Me". In its first week, the EP sold nearly 40,000 copies, and peaked at No. 41 on the Billboard 200. To start off 2000, the band headed out on Tour with System of a Down, and Mr. Bungle until March, at which point they embarked on a headline tour in clubs until April.
Due to the success of "Pardon Me", Make Yourself reached Gold certification (500,000 copies sold) in April 2000. Incubus continued to tour overseas, and returned home at the end of May to go on a tour of the United States with longtime friends 311. "Stellar," the next single from the album was soon released, and its video received afternoon airplay on MTV and TRL, becoming a success on the Alternative chart. In July, Incubus were once again on the Ozzfest bill, until the late summer.
The band then took a short break after finishing the Ozzfest 2000 Tour, playing two acoustic shows at Artist Direct Studios. On October 5, 2000, Make Yourself went Platinum (1,000,000 copies sold), and shortly after, the band went on tour with Deftones. Sony re-released their independent debut album Fungus Amongus on November 7, 2000.
On January 15, 2001, the band released "Drive," the fourth single from Make Yourself after "Privilege" was released (which then went to the top 20 where it stayed at No.3 for 6 weeks.) It moved quickly up to the top of the Alternative Charts, eventually hitting the No. 1 spot. The single was a success and helped the band break into the mainstream. The single eventually reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
Morning View (2001–2002)
The band took a break during the first part of 2001 before heading to a beachside mansion in Malibu, California, to record their follow-up album, which would later become known as Morning View.
They began touring once more with Hundred Reasons in Europe from June until the first week of July. At this time, the band was invited to play with the Area 1 Festival, which featured Moby, Outkast, the Roots, Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox, and Nelly Furtado. Also, in July, Make Yourself was certified double-platinum, selling 2 million copies. In August, the band got to play their first shows in Australia and Japan, before returning to the United States to begin their long-awaited headlining tour with their long-time friends from California, Hoobastank. Meanwhile, the band's video for "Drive" was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award in the category of Best Group Video.
Continuing to tour, Incubus released their first single, "Wish You Were Here", from their upcoming record, Morning View, on August 21, 2001. The single instantly began to climb up the Alternative charts, reaching No.2 by early September. The music video was released at the end of that month, after being re-cut to make it more viewable in the wake of the 9/11 disaster. The video earned viewings on MTV's TRL, VH1, and MuchMusic. Their follow-up single was "Nice to Know You."
On October 23, 2001, the band released their fourth full-length major label album. The name was taken from the street on which the band's recording studio was situated. Incubus continued to headline dates after its release, and "Wish You Were Here" continued to sit among the top 10 on Billboard's Alternative charts. Morning View debuted on the Billboard Top 200 at the No.2 spot (266,000 copies were sold in its first week). This was the highest ever placement for Incubus. At the same time, "Wish You Were Here" was at No.2 on the Alternative Charts, and "Drive" sat at No.48 on the Hot 100 chart. The band won an award for Billboard's Alternative Single of the Year for "Drive". By December, Morning View was certified platinum, "Wish You Were Here" was No.4 on Alternative charts, and Morning View was No.38 on top 200.
On December 11, Incubus released When Incubus Attacks (Vol. 2), a DVD that featured music videos for "Take Me to Your Leader", "A Certain Shade of Green", "Pardon Me", "Stellar", "Drive", "I Miss You", and "Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)", live footage, backstage video, and more. Director Bill Draheim documented the making of "Drive". Save Me from my Half-Life Drive is the result of that edited EPK footage.
To begin 2002, Incubus was No.9 with "Drive", No.12 with "Stellar", No.20 with "Wish You Were Here", No.75 with "Nice To Know You" and No.31 with the album Morning View. On January 24, 2002, MTV's TRL premiered the "Nice to Know You" video, and Boyd called in from Europe where the band was on tour with 311 and Hoobastank. The band was then featured on MTV's Becoming, TRL, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and played the Late Show with David Letterman on February 14, 2002, all before heading off to play dates in Japan and Australia for the remainder of February and March. While in Sydney, the band shot the video for their next single, "Warning", from March 7 until March 11. The band then released the DVD Morning View Sessions on May 28, shortly before playing the Weenie Roast on June 8 for KROQ.
Incubus issued a limited edition version of Morning View on October 1 to coincide with their fall headlining tour. The new version of the album contained a DVD dubbed the "Morning After View Session". It featured the UK video for the group's track "Are You In?", tour footage, new artwork, behind the scenes material, and more. Incubus' last performance in 2002 (on November 1) brought several eras for the band to a close. Their last show of the tour would be their last show touring behind 2001's Morning View, as the band looked on to playing new music. The show would also prove to be their last with bass player Dirk Lance, who left the band due to personal differences.
Lance was quietly replaced by former the Roots guitarist Ben Kenney, who began working with Einziger on new songs for a psychedelic jazz-funk project called Time Lapse Consortium. Incubus ended the year on the charts, having "Wish You Were Here" (#10), "Warning" (#16), and "Nice To Know You" (#26) on the alternative rock format chart, joining "Wish You Were Here" (#25) and "Nice To Know You" (#36). Morning View was the 40th best selling album of 2002.
A Crow Left of the Murder... (2003–2004)
On January 6, 2003, the band began writing for their next record. The next month, on February 7, the band began to renegotiate their record contract. The band, which had been signed to Epic/Immortal for seven years, cited the fact that state law limits the amount of time that an artist can be bound to a company. The band had been signed to the label for 7 years, and used California's "Seven Years Law" as a negotiating tool with Epic/Immortal. After releasing three successful albums, the band had been compensated poorly compared to the revenue that they had generated for Sony. The band entered a lawsuit against their label in order to break from their contract, to which Sony responded with a lawsuit of their own. On March 1, Einziger, along with Scott Litt, Dave Holdredge, and Rick Will, was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Engineered Album (Non Classical)" category, for their work on Morning View. On April 3, after weeks of circulating rumors about Dirk Lance's departure from the band, an official announcement was made by the band. A decision had been reached amongst members of Incubus in a face-to-face meeting at the end of the Morning View tour to discuss his involvement in the band. The band said that the split had become necessary due to "irreconcilable creative differences". Almost immediately after the announcement of a new bass player, the 2003 Incubus vs. Sony case had been settled. The two sides settled on a new contract that delivers three albums to Epic/Immortal with an option on a fourth. The first album would be worth $8 million in advances to the band, with another $2.5 million for each one thereafter.
By December the new album, which was recorded at Southern Tracks Recording Studios in Atlanta, Georgia was recorded live, opposed to recording each instrument at separate times, and was produced by Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots) was completed and scheduled for release. Titled A Crow Left of the Murder..., the album was to be an enhanced CD with behind-the-scenes video. In the videos, Einziger and Boyd discussed their new songs. Einziger described them as "like the old shit, but older. It's very different. It's very energetic and fast, and a lot of it is more technical. I guess maybe in the vein of more of our older songs; they don't sound like our older songs. They are more exploratory." It was the last Incubus album to be labelled as "alternative metal" by the media, with subsequent albums from the band diverting even further from this sound. On December 15, 2003, the first single, "Megalomaniac", was released. It raised controversy when it was said to be an attack on the Bush administration, and was banned from daytime view on MTV (despite the band saying that it was not an attack on a particular person, rather a comment on some people's negative attitudes). However, the band was actually pleased with this nighttime viewing restriction. Says Boyd, “When we heard our video had been relegated to late night rotation, I think that all of us were secretly like, ‘Yes!’ ”. Pasillas reflected Boyd's sentiments, saying, "I think it's okay if people think that we're trying to make a political statement. Whatever anyone conjures up or takes from our music is good; I mean, our point is to get people thinking."
A Crow Left of the Murder... was released in 2004, showcasing a new turn for the band. The second single released was "Talk Shows on Mute", featuring a video that was inspired by George Orwell's Animal Farm.
Incubus toured worldwide in 2004 with many bands, including Ben Kweller, the Walkmen, Hundred Reasons, the Music, Brand New and Sparta, to promote their new album after their original support act the Vines pulled out due to exhaustion. One song left off the album, the 27-minute-long instrumental entitled "The Odyssey", was later featured on soundtrack for the video game, Halo 2.
In November 2004, the band released a live DVD entitled Alive at Red Rocks, filmed in Red Rocks Park, Colorado, during their world tour for A Crow Left of the Murder.... Along with the DVD came a bonus CD featuring five tracks, including a studio version of live favorite "Pantomime", "Follow" (a lyrical version, different from the First Movement of the Odyssey version), and the UK B-Side "Monuments and Melodies". Two live tracks were also included. The performance was also sold in high definition via Blu-ray Disc. A high definition version of the entire song "Pardon Me" is also available for free download from the PlayStation Store, an online service for PlayStation 3 users.
In December 2004, at a gig in Los Angeles the band played the Police hits "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", "Message in a Bottle" & "Roxanne" with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers from the former band.
Light Grenades (2005–2008)
In the spring of 2005, the band went back into the studio with Brendan O'Brien. Three new songs were released in late July 2005 as part of the soundtrack album to the Sony film Stealth. The track "Make a Move", was released to radio in late May, and song reached No.17 (Alternative Charts) and No.19 (Mainstream Rock Charts). Fan reaction towards "Make a Move" was lukewarm, but the other two new songs, "Admiration" and "Neither of Us Can See" (a duet with Chrissie Hynde), seemed to be much more well-liked. In January 2006, the first of a series of Incubus podcasts was released by the band via internet. Among other things, the podcast featured the band's thoughts about their 2005 South American tour, some information on their new album, a mash-up of "Drive" and Tupac Shakur's "Better Dayz", a cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun", and a few live interludes.
On August 1, 2006, the band announced that album number six, Light Grenades, was soon to be released and that it was being produced by Brendan O'Brien. A few weeks afterward, the release date was confirmed to be Tuesday, November 28. Upon release, Light Grenades debuted No.1 on the Billboard 200, the first time Incubus has ever sat atop the album charts, despite only selling 165,000 copies (their lowest debut for an album since Make Yourself) in the first week.
In November, Incubus played two exclusive European shows in Berlin and London. These were both in less than 2000 capacity venues – a special occasion for the band and the fans (due to Incubus's mainstream success, the band now usually plays at large arenas worldwide). The band used these shows to showcase new material from Light Grenades. The band's first single, "Anna Molly", had a music video which had mainstream success.
On December 27, 2006, Incubus launched the "I Dig Incubus" contest, in which participants cut together clips of the band performing their single "Dig", to form a complete music video. On February 1, 2007, five finalists were announced for the "I Dig Incubus" contest. In a video interview on Blender, bassist and vocalist Ben Kenney said, "It's almost something that will happen whether or not we want to do it. People will make their own videos for songs. It's kind of a cool way for us to get together with fans out there who are artistic." On August 4, 2007, Incubus played on the first day at Baltimore's Virgin Festival along with bands such as the Police and Beastie Boys.
Michael Einziger had been suffering from Carpal tunnel syndrome and although he had an operation that has corrected the problem, he needed to recuperate for a few months, hence recent tour plans were postponed. Incubus apologized to fans and continued the tour in the summer and autumn.
In February and March 2008, Incubus hit the road again starting in New Zealand and headlining the Soundwave Festival in Australia alongside the Offspring and Alexisonfire, and toured Asia performing to sell-out crowds. In Singapore, they met fans at a Meet and Greet session at Changi Airport and performed at Fort Canning Hill. In April, Incubus performed at the Festival Imperial in Costa Rica, along with the bands the Smashing Pumpkins and Duran Duran, and later in Venezuela at the Poliedro de Caracas. Incubus also performed a number of shows throughout Europe this summer including the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park Festivals in Germany, the Nova Rock Festival in Austria, Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands and the Download Festival in England. In July 2008, the band played in a VH1 tribute to the Who alongside Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam and the Flaming Lips.
Hiatus and greatest hits album (2008–2009)
In April 2008 the band took a break from touring and recording while its members concentrated on school, family and other activities. Brandon Boyd enrolled in a university art program in Los Angeles, while guitarist Mike Einziger went to Harvard music school to study composition. Drummer José Pasillas was also "having a baby, so there's a lot of normal life stuff going on right now—school, babies, mortgages," Boyd said. "I'm of the mind to say it wouldn't be a bad thing to disappear for a year or two years," he said. "A lot of people would say culture moves too fast and you need to remind people, but I would argue there's not any rush."
In mid January 2009, Incubus posted a video to their official site, describing what each band member was currently occupied with in the form of letters to each other. The resolution of the video was that the band was planning on getting back together soon, excited to create new music with their diverse experiences over their respite.
On March 11, 2009, Incubus posted an update to their official site detailing the new greatest hits album, Monuments and Melodies. The first single for the album was "Black Heart Inertia," released on April 7, 2009 with the album coming two months later on June 16, 2009. Disc one of the album included new singles "Black Heart Inertia" and "Midnight Swim" as well as the top radio hits of the last decade. Then Disc 2 of the album contains songs that have not been released officially on an album, or were rejected demos on prior albums, as well as an acoustic version of "A Certain Shade of Green," and a cover of the Prince song "Let's Go Crazy." The band also announced many confirmed dates for a Summer Amphitheater Tour of the US.
On April 1, 2009, the band posted a fake "making of" video that was filmed on the set of "Black Heart Inertia". In the video, Brandon and his double "swapped places". Brandon fetched coffee for his double, and his double also imitated Christian Bale when the DP annoyed him, shouting at and violently chasing him out off of the set. After the short film, the first full stream of "Black Heart Inertia" was uploaded, clocking in at 4:17. On April 2, the full song was streamed on the band's official site. The song peaked at No. 7 on the Alternative Songs chart, making it the band's 15th Top 10 standing on the list.
On June 16, 2009, Monuments and Melodies was released to the public, and opened at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. Monuments and Melodies was the band's fourth album to reach the top 5 on the Billboard 200. The next month, on July 1, 2009, Boyd stated to North County Times, "We are definitely going to be writing ... in hopes of putting out a record sometime in 2010. That's the hope. We can never force anything. I definitely have the suspicion that we're going to get on the road together this summer, and we're just going to start playing and stuff is going to start brewing, and we're going to light that fire again."
In January 2010, it was revealed that former turntablist Gavin "DJ Lyfe" Koppell threatened current turntablist Chris Kilmore in a store on December 28, 2009. Chris Kilmore, who replaced Gavin Koppell in 1998 claimed that Koppell, "asked me to fight him right there and raised his fists to me." As result of the incident, a judge has granted a new restraining order against Koppell. Kilmore also had a previous restraining order issued against Koppell in 2003 after Koppell allegedly spat in his face.
If Not Now, When? (2011–2013)
After the release of Boyd's first solo album, The Wild Trapeze on July 6, 2010, it was announced that Incubus would head back into the studio to begin writing and recording a new studio album, to be released on July 12. The band played a handful of South American tour dates in October 2010, also debuting a new song "Surface to Air."
Incubus announced in March 2011 that the new album was complete and would be released in "August or September" according to Brandon Boyd. Boyd also stated that "this new record is different from anything that we've done."
On April 2, 2011, band manager Steve Rennie confirmed that the new album has been named, If Not Now, When?. It was released on July 12, 2011. The album's lead single is "Adolescents" and it was posted on the band's website on April 4, 2011.
On April 28, 2011, Incubus premiered the video for "Adolescents" and also released a video with behind the scenes footage.
The band revealed that they would tour for 18 months following the release of the record.
To promote the release of If Not Now, When?, the band took part in a participatory media exhibit and real-time documentary called Incubus HQ Live that allowed unprecedented fan access and interaction. Footage, music and art from the seven-day event became available as a special edition box set in July 2012.
Mike has said that he is writing music for an orchestral project and also for Incubus. He states in a video (Mikey Gear Tour part II), "My hope is to just write lots of music and then by the time we get to the point to where we're going to finish the tour I'll have a lot of music written and then people won't have to wait five more years for another album (laughs)."
The band joined Linkin Park as co-headliners on the 2012 edition of the Honda Civic Tour. Incubus hinted that they will go on hiatus following the end of the 2012 Honda Civic Tour, but their manager has stated that Incubus will only take a break after the tour, not a hiatus.
In October 2012 the band released their second compilation album. The album, entitled The Essential Incubus includes songs spanning the band's major label career, from 1997's Enjoy Incubus EP to 2011's If Not Now, When?.
In August 2013, the band announced a South American tour to take place later that year.
Trust Fall (2014–2015)
Main article: Trust Fall (Side A)
In a radio interview while on the road with his solo band Sons of the Sea, Brandon Boyd announced that fans can expect some new Incubus music in 2015, followed by a tour.Mike Einziger also reinforced this statement when asked on his Twitter.
In August 2014, Mike Einziger posted a picture of the band on his Instagram in a studio, alluding to the fact they were in the process of creating their album. Subsequently, a few days following the images of the band in a studio, they announced they would be attending the 2015 Soundwave Music Festival in Australia, alongside Faith No More and Soundgarden. They played at the KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas 2014 on December 14, their first full band appearance since December 2013. During their performance they debuted a new song called "Trust Fall". Incubus announced they will release two EP's in 2015 with the first, Trust Fall (Side A) set for release on May 12, 2015, having been delayed from March 24, 2015. The first single, "Absolution Calling", was released February 5, 2015, to be followed by the second single, "Trust Fall", on March 10, 2015.
They performed at Australia's Soundwave Festival and two other concerts in Australia. In March 2015, they toured Japan, Hawaii and "Festival Cumbre Tajín" in Mexico. They headlined the DC101 Kerfuffle on May 4, 2015. In May and June 2015, they will play at two festivals in Germany ("Rockavaria" and "Grüne Hölle"), one concert in Milan and at Donauinselfest in Vienna. They will also be in London's Hammersmith Apollo on the June 16, 2015. Incubus also announced a joint 2015 North American Summer Tour with Deftones. Support will be provided by Death From Above 1979 for most concerts of the tour. The tour began on July 22, 2015, in Clarkston, Michigan at the DTE Energy Music Theatre and with the final concert of the tour occurring on August 30, 2015, in Chula Vista, California at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre.
Main article: 8 (Incubus album)
The band reconvened in 2016 to work on their 8th full-length studio album. On February 16, 2017, the lead single "Nimble Bastard" was released, and it was announced that the new album would be titled 8, with a projected April 21 release date. A summer 2017 tour was also announced with Jimmy Eat World and Judah & the Lion supporting. They are also touring South America including Mexico headlining Warped Tour MX with Good Charlotte, Peru with Maroon 5, Chile and Brazil (Rock in Rio) at fall. The band has worked on a collaboration with Skrillex that was released on April 21, 2017. Skrillex also has contributed to the production and mixing of the album.
Musical style and influences
Over the course of their career, Incubus has incorporated elements from a variety of genres and styles, including alternative metal,alternative rock,art rock,heavy metal,electro,funk,funk metal,jazz,hip hop,nu metal,pop,rap metal,techno,thrash metal,post-grunge, and trip hop. With many critics praising the band's ambition, it has also made them difficult to correctly classify. Guitarist Mike Einziger stated in 2017 that the band's diversity is "our greatest asset and our biggest flaw. We don’t fit anywhere and we never have. We were never punk rock enough for the Warped Tour, we were never metal enough for Ozzfest, we were never quite indie rock or cool enough for Lollapalooza. We’ve carved our own path, and we’re really humbled by the fact that we’ve had so many supporters and people who appreciate our music." The band has also used a wide variety of instruments in their music that are not traditionally associated with use in rock music, including a djembe, sitar, didgeridoo, and bongos on many of their earlier tracks and during live performances, and with the use of a pipa given to the band by rock musician Steve Vai which is played by Einziger in the song "Aqueous Transmission".
Prior to finding mainstream success in the early 2000s, Incubus were often grouped in with the nu/alternative metal movement of the 1990s, alongside other Californian bands such as Korn and the Deftones. When asked about his thoughts on the scene in a 2013 interview, Brandon Boyd reflected "Something I know that separated us from nu-metal was a lot of those bands had misogynist lyrics, and we never wrote stuff like that. I never wrote lyrics like that. I guess there were similarities in some of my musical and vocal stylings, but then we came off tour for S.C.I.E.N.C.E. around early ’99, and wrote Make Yourself, which was a vastly different album but we were still the same band. We don’t try and create any kind of album really. I don’t attempt to write any kind of music, this is just what comes out." The Chicago Tribune stated in 2001 that Incubus are "Cheerful, melodic and polite, a nu-metal band for people who don't like nu-metal bands" and also claimed that Boyd was the genre's "first official pinup boy". The Los Angeles Times similarly wrote in 2004 that "Incubus always stood out from the rest of the mid-'90s alt-metal crowd, its positive lyrical approach and musical versatility far richer than the overworked wallowing in misery of such acts as Korn and later arrival Staind."
Their Influences include Faith No More,Mr. Bungle,Red Hot Chili Peppers,Alice in Chains,Ani DiFranco,Stone Temple Pilots,Primus,Fishbone,Suicidal Tendencies,Beastie Boys,Soundgarden,Rage Against the Machine,The Police and Jane's Addiction. Boyd reflected on the band's initial influences in 2012, stating "At that time [the early '90s] music got turned on its ear. We were listening to bands like Primus, Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, we also got into Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine. What’s amazing is those bands are still good now, they’re still relevant now. Alice in Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers, these bands that were coming of age right when we were growing up, at that most important, kind of pliable time in your youth. We were basically so inspired by music, that we decided to make music on our own.” Critics have compared Boyd's deep-voiced style of singing to Faith No More/Mr. Bungle vocalist Mike Patton, whom the band have also credited as a major influence.
- Current members
- Former members
Main article: Incubus discography
- Studio albums
- All of the following singles reached position No. 1 on the US Alternative Songs chart.
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Late-night-television tapings attract a certain type of crowd: tourists in the mood for an uncomplicated thrill after a day at Universal Studios and Madame Tussauds. On a rainy January night in Los Angeles, the turnout at “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” was no exception. The overlap between the audience and the fan base for the musical guest — the Internet, a six-piece band of black alt-kids playing retro-futuristic R.&B. — seemed to be vanishingly narrow. If anything, the crowd looked as if they’d be right at home seeing Jimmy Buffett. But as the Internet cannonballed into its first song, “Get Away,” a thumping anthem about mollifying an unhappy girlfriend, the audience members threw up their hands and bounced along to the beat.
The women in attendance seemed especially mesmerized by Sydney Bennett — better known as Syd tha Kyd — the frontwoman, whose Tiger Beat sex appeal gave her performance a depth charge. Bennett, 23, brown-skinned with a blond-tinged Mohawk, has the swayback stance of an adolescent skater and dresses like one too: On the “Kimmel” set, she wore black vans, a black T-shirt and black jeans low on her hips. As she sang, she roamed across each quadrant of the small stage, staring deep into the throng, as if to find out whether her crush had bothered to make an appearance at the show. To create her stage presence, Bennett studied the R.&B. singer D’Angelo, whose 2000 video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” features nothing but his extremely defined and extremely nude upper body dripping with sweat for four and a half minutes. It showed. Bennett flirted with the crowd, peeking at them through her heavily lashed eyes, shooting sly smiles at fans and gently lifting her chin to acknowledge those she knew — among them, her mom, Janel, and her godmother, Sheryl.
The TV appearance was a rarity for the members of the Internet, who, as their name suggests, live online and work from home. Two of the band’s three albums were created and recorded almost entirely at the house where Bennett lives with her parents in L.A.’s Mid-City neighborhood. But their most recent record, last year’s “Ego Death,” caught the attention of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and it was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Urban Contemporary Album category. (Past nominees in the category include Frank Ocean, Rihanna and Beyoncé.) The “Kimmel” performance was a dip into mainstream media that the Internet has largely succeeded without.
The band’s name itself hints at an irreversible and inevitable shift in the way music works. For decades, the music industry fancied itself an apparatus for tastemaking, but as technology has made labels’ role less relevant, that has ceased to be the case. Listeners decide what’s popular now, and record labels have to find a way to attach themselves to it. Aside from a few big-name acts, most artists are doomed to languish in relative obscurity with middling profits. This is usually seen as a tragedy — the death of a musical middle class — but it has also presented an opportunity for artists to avoid the suffocating effects of the label machine. And so the Internet has carved out an entirely new corner of R.&B., thanks mostly to Bennett: an androgyne who sings seductive incantations about falling in and out of love with women.
After the performance, a small constellation of cousins, little sisters and girlfriends milled about, snacking on doughnuts in the greenroom and helping the band pack up. After the equipment was loaded into a caravan of modest sedans and S.U.V.s, the band stood in a circle behind the studio, and someone produced a celebratory blunt. As the smoke drifted overhead, the conversation turned to the next day.
The group needed to practice for the first stop on their upcoming tour, which would start a few days later in Japan. Jameel Bruner, who plays the keyboard, wouldn’t be able to come until he was done with his shift at Amoeba Music, where he works as a clerk. There was drama to discuss, too. The 17-year-old guitar player, Steve Lacy, had been photographed smoking weed, and someone had texted the picture to his mother, who was not happy. Despite the chilly El Niño air, the band lingered, seeming reluctant to leave and break the spell of the evening. They eventually agreed to regroup at their home base, Bennett’s house, to make sandwiches, catch their performance on “Kimmel,” smoke again and, eventually, crash.
The band’s name started out as a joke, while Bennett was still a member of Odd Future, the unruly hip-hop collective that caused a frenzy in the music industry when they broke out six years ago. In 2011, a journalist interviewing the crew asked one member, Vyron Turner (who goes by Left Brain), where he was from. “He was like: ‘I hate when people ask me that,’” Bennett recalls. “‘I’m going to start saying I’m from the Internet.’” The idea cracked her up and eventually inspired the name of the side project she would chip away at in her off hours.
Turner may have been reacting to the banality of the question, but his answer also illuminated a changing dynamic for rap, which has historically been categorized by regional sounds. People Turner and Bennett’s age are defined by a completely different geography, the social networks and websites they spend their time on. Odd Future was the epitome of this new statelessness: They were neither engineered by a label nor hometown heroes, but something wildly different.
Odd Future dominated many conversations about pop culture and the future of music by the end of 2010. They had released all of their early work — a barrage of clever mixtapes, striking artwork and bizarro music videos — for free on Tumblr and YouTube. Their sound was prodigious. And not only was their music different but they also looked different too, a bunch of black weirdos who skated in their free time and moshed onstage.
The frenzy surrounding Odd Future reached its peak in 2011: Cartoon Network gave the group their own television show; plans for an Odd Future retail shop were in the works. Labels were desperate to sign deals with the group, and Sony Music Entertainment succeeded. The crew had the upper hand and persuaded the label to give them their own imprint, and to award each member a cushy solo record deal. Bennett, the D.J., got one, too.
Music came naturally to Bennett. Though her parents are 9-to-5 people — Janel is a city clerk and her father, Howard, owns a manufacturing company based in China — her uncle, Mikey Bennett, is a producer in Jamaica. (He co-wrote Shabba Ranks’s 1993 hit “Mr. Loverman.”) When she was young, the family took vacations to the island, and Bennett hung out in the studio and watched her uncle work. “At some point, I started listening to music a little differently,” Bennett said. “Rather than being like, Yo, this is dope — who made this? it started being like, I wish I made this.”
When she was 16, her parents let her transform their guesthouse into a studio, where she worked on her own songs and recorded local musicians. In high school, she took music-technology classes and piano lessons; at night, she devoured beat-making tutorials and messed around with music software. She downloaded tracks from LimeWire (a file-sharing network like Napster) and remixed them using Pro Tools and GarageBand. She didn’t need much capital to be a producer, just good Google skills and a wealth of persistence and patience.
Bennett gravitated toward artists who had pioneered brand-new sounds: The sonic spaciness of Missy Elliott, the stanky soul of Erykah Badu and the acid jazz of Jamiroquai. Pharrell Williams, the original black skater weirdo, is her patron saint. And like most kids interested in music and living in Los Angeles in the mid-2000s, Bennett knew about a teenager named Tyler Okonma who called himself Tyler, the Creator. He had a sizable following on MySpace, where he released his music. “His production drew me in,” she told me. “It didn’t sound like what everyone was making — it was different and hot.” Bennett noticed that one of the people at the top of his friend list was a kid named Matt Martin (who goes by Matt Martians). She browsed through his page, listening to the songs he posted, too. She admired his ability to create deeply complex soundscapes, and she eventually messaged him, seeking advice on ways to advance her own style.
The two became friends, trading feedback on songs, which put her into Okonma’s orbit. And when Okonma needed a place to record the early Odd Future mixtapes, Bennett offered up her home studio. She produced some of their early tracks and eventually became the group’s D.J. In old footage of early Odd Future shows, Bennett plays songs from a laptop on a table at the back of the stage. Tomboyish, in a muscle tee and a short haircut, she crackles with the manic energy that Odd Future shows were famous for. She was generally indistinguishable from the boys in the group.
From the beginning, Odd Future was meant to be a galaxy of loosely knit projects; the whole point was for the members to collaborate and spin off solo efforts. Christian Clancy, one of the group’s managers, had also been a marketing executive at Interscope Records, and around 2011 he took notice of Bennett and Martin’s tight friendship and encouraged them to start recording together. After all, they liked the same sounds: jazz, old-school slow jams, neo-soul. So they began experimenting, and these experiments would eventually lead to the formation of the Internet.
Odd Future was a rare example of a viral sensation with lasting power; the music industry is rife with the ghosts of web talents who couldn’t be repackaged as megastars. The terms of the Internet’s deal with Sony “allowed us to shape ourselves,” Bennett says. The band is artistically cocooned, trying to create, as she sees it, an entirely new style of R.&B., one that includes all types of desire. “It wasn’t a conscious thing,” she emphasizes. “I just like women.”
It was always an open secret that Bennett was a lesbian, and the indirect directness of her sexuality added to Odd Future’s wellspring of contradictions. It wasn’t a big deal because, well, it wasn’t a big deal. But Bennett frequently found herself having to defend her inclusion in the group because Okonma’s lyrics were laced with homophobic slurs and rape jokes, and her presence was interpreted as tacit approval. Bennett thought this was a bit unfair given that, as the D.J., she had the least to do with the lyrical content. “When I first heard his lyrics, I was as shocked as everyone else,” she told me. “I kept listening. I looked up to him. He was a very artistic guy, and I saw past the few words that he chose to use, and I never really felt any kind of way about it.”
In a sense, she says, Odd Future’s lack of sensitivity helped prepare her for a life in the public eye — even if it made her a controversial figure. “The gay community hated me for being part of Odd Future,” Bennett says. “They thought Odd Future was homophobic because they tend to use homophobic slang, and they were like: ‘How can you work for and support homophobes?’ But they aren’t homophobic; they just don’t really care whether you’re offended or not.”
Bennett personally related to the themes that lent Okonma’s music its emotional gravity: alienation, isolation, loneliness. She felt they shared a connection, one born of “not being a typical black kid or even a popular kid.” But eventually the hypermasculinity and caustic sense of humor wore on Bennett, who is naturally low-key. She made tearful calls to her mother from the road, wondering aloud whether she should quit. Bennett also struggled with depression, worsened by the stress of touring and feeling disconnected from her family and her girlfriend at the time. She says that no one in the group — other than Martin — seemed to care. “I couldn’t talk to any of them about it,” she says. “We weren’t all that close, and they never seemed to want to hear it.”
Not long after, Bennett began training her little brother, Travis — who goes by Taco — to take her place as Odd Future’s D.J. Her musical experiments with Martin had begun to congeal into the core of their first album, “Purple Naked Ladies,” an amorphous but promising collection of experimental jam sessions and fuzzed-out, vibey tracks. One morning while Odd Future was on tour, when the group was watching the sun crest over a beach in Australia, Bennett broke the news that she was leaving. She says it was not well received. It felt like a divorce, like a family — however dysfunctional — falling apart.
“They weren’t happy about it,” she says. “I was their get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s easy to say they aren’t homophobic because Syd is there.”
She felt ostracized by the band for a while, but a few years after the fallout, any lingering resentment or hurt feelings appear to have faded. “She went with her gut, and it worked out,” Okonma says. Okonma compared the space Bennett occupies now to Lauryn Hill at her peak. “During that time, if you were a female rapper, you were either wearing boy boxers or you had your [expletive] out on stage,” he says. With Hill, “you had a girl who wasn’t doing either, smart, could rap and was musically inclined. Syd’s more like that. She’s just being her.” After the Grammy nomination for “Ego Death” was announced, Okonma was among the first people to text Bennett his congratulations.
Bennett’s exit came at a time when gender norms were blurring. Artists now feel more emboldened to hint at sexual fluidity; it’s edgy, if not outright trendy. Musicians like Wiz Khalifa and Jaden Smith have been photographed wearing skirts and dresses. Angel Haze and Shamir have said they’re genderqueer. But being openly gay can still feel especially difficult in the world of hip-hop and R.&B., where artists who are suspected of being closeted can face harsher scrutiny. Lesbianism is often fetishized, made into a hypersexualized performance. While Young Thug can get away with wearing nail polish, female artists who give off an even slightly masculine air, like the rapper Dej Loaf, are hounded about their orientation.
Minya Oh, the hip-hop journalist who goes by Miss Info, thinks Bennett has benefited from upheaval in the industry. “I’m sure that on some level of the major-label and old-establishment industry, there are execs and agents who think homosexuality is a liability,” she says. On the other hand, she adds, “there are more and more handlers and mentors and facilitators who will see a new artist who is gay as either an opportunity to tap into a new market or, at worst, just a talking point.” But even more important than all that, Oh says, is that artists like Bennett may not even have to pander to the mainstream anymore: “As fragmented as music audiences are these days, it would be difficult to alienate fans who are already bunched into nomad tribes.”
If anything, Bennett seems to have attracted an audience that appreciates the way her onstage presence transcends any particular gender. “If you think I’m a young boy singing these songs, dope,” she says. “Run with that.” As Martin put it: “I’d rather try it and fail than have Syd singing about dudes or something.” At that, Bennett giggled and sang out: “Hell, no!”
During the handful of times we met, I repeatedly tried to talk to Bennett about the importance of her visibility as a gay singer. And every time, she seemed uneasy with the idea that she was a symbol. But she can’t avoid it — there is virtually no one else like her in the public eye. The last time I saw her, we were having breakfast at the Hotel Hacienda Cocoyoc in Cocoyoc, Mexico, a few hours before the Internet was scheduled to play a local festival in a forest, and I picked at the topic again. Did she see herself as symbolic of something larger than herself?
Bennett’s outward manner is so nonchalant and mellow it can start to seem like an affectation, but as soon as the words left my mouth, Bennett put down her forkful of pancake and slid me a sideways look, the kind you give someone when your patience is wearing thin but you still feel obligated to be polite.
“Maybe I just look at things differently,” she said to me, speaking slowly, as one might to a child who is having trouble absorbing a set of simple instructions. “I never really thought it was a thing. You know? Like I didn’t think it would be this big of a deal.” I agreed that it wasn’t and said I was simply in awe of how openly she lives her life at such a young age, when many women I know — including me — came to terms with their sexuality much later in life. The cloud lifted. Now we saw each other clearly.
The Internet — the network — has a way of normalizing fringe ideas, marginalized identities and emerging artists that old media tends to ignore. It has done such a good job, you could argue, that people like Bennett — black, queer and weird — can exist without the burden of having to represent something larger. Bennett will never be something she’s not. She’s not looking for validation from record labels, or even really from audiences. Later that night, as thousands of Mexican teenagers rushed the stage, singing along in English and screaming her name, Bennett looked completely at home, and completely herself. ♦
Jenna Wortham is a staff writer for the magazine.