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Q&A: Incubus singer Brandon Boyd

(Jessica Galliart / RedEye )
August 24, 2012|By Matt Pais | RedEye Sound Board

Brandon Boyd, a giant rock star for nearly the last decade and a half as singer and lyricist for Incubus, arrives in the Tribune Tower lobby by himself.

No publicist. No manager. No entourage. Just a guy in a porkpie hat, comfortable doing an interview in jeans with a few holes and a T-shirt with more of ‘em, without a team of handlers making any decisions.

Any fan of the band, who released its most stripped-down album “If Not Now, When?” last year and appears today at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, knows that Boyd has long been a person who embraces living in the moment and having perspective about what matters. (“I think that’s why I intentionally but also perhaps unconsciously have pursued art and the creative process is because it uses everything that’s here, all the noise, but to pull you back into radical nowness,” he says.) Every Incubus record features a line or song or entire through-line about rising above that noise—a particular favorite, from “Nice to Know You”: “To obtain a bird’s eye is to turn a blizzard to a breeze.”

Recently Boyd, who’s currently working on his third book of art/photos/poems, has taken to drawing without pencil lines, so “there’s mistakes in there but they become part of the picture,” he says, also noting how a smashed squirt of ink can allow him to find various images within. “You can find stories in chaos. It’s just a matter of how willing you are to participate in that process … It’s fun because you don’t really know what you’re doing until you do it.”

Outside on our 22nd floor patio, Boyd, 36, talked about his worn-down clothing, the band’s early days of playing Bar Mitzvahs and his thoughts on Incubus appearing at a future installment of Lolla.

Note: We have video footage of this interview, including Boyd showing us one of his current sketchbooks. That will be posted as soon as it's ready.

When I have a hole in my socks, my wife is just like, “Toss it.” You’ve talked about wearing things until they disintegrate. Does your girlfriend ever want you to toss some of that stuff?

[Laughs] No, my girl is, she’s kind of obsessed with vintage. She even owned a vintage clothing store for a couple of years. So for her the more holes in a garment the better. In fact I’ll wear a shirt until it’s been washed and worn on stage too many times and it gets giant holes, and I go to throw it away and she’s like, “What are you doing?” And she puts it on and it’s like chic on her, and her shoulder’s exposed and I’m like, “Well, there you go.” I’m totally not kidding by the way. She has a number of my old T-shirts and old jeans. These are almost getting, you can tell, to the point where they’re going to be retired and she’ll take them and make them beautiful.

You recently wrote on Twitter, “My voice is acting like bigfoot’s dick tonight.” I’m not sure I’m familiar with that expression.

[Laughs] I think I stole that from a Will Ferrell—it was “Anchorman.”

That’s in “Anchorman”?

Yes, I forget the character’s name. It’s Paul Rudd’s character in “Anchorman.” With the mustache. When he puts on the panther scent.

Sex Panther.

Sex Panther. When he goes outside and someone’s like, “It smells like gasoline,” and then someone’s like, “It smells like Indian food in a diaper,” and then this chick runs by and says, “It smells like bigfoot’s dick!” So I just co-opted it briefly. I started the tour coming off of a little bit of a cold, so I had all my energy but my voice has been cooperating a little bit more with each show.

What’s something the band has decided doesn’t make sense to perform live?

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