Brandon Boyd Talks Sons of the Sea, Incubus and Phish
For the past two decades Brandon Boyd has made a name for himself as frontman for stoner-friendly alternative rock powerhouse Incubus. The singer has also proven himself a bit of a Renaissance man, with three books, numerous art shows and a solo record under his belt. Boyd’s latest project, Sons of the Sea, finds him teaming up with producer Brendan O’Brien to create an album that is markedly different from the material that he’s become known for. At its core, the duo’s self-titled debut album is a pop record, albeit one that is more grounded in musicality than the stuff that currently populates the airwaves.
We caught up with Boyd to talk about Sons of the Sea, his current tour in support of the new album and the future of Incubus. We also touched on Boyd’s admiration for a thirty-year-old rock band by the name of Phish.
You’ve said that your new project, Sons of the Sea, plays off your more Beatles-esque and R&B side, and that’s definitely apparent when listening to the album. What inspired you to take up this project, and is this a side of you that you felt was lacking in your work with Incubus?
This wasn’t born of any sense of lack. This was born mostly out of the same kinds of desires that making an Incubus record would be born of. It was just more chasing a dream to see what it would be like to write songs with Brendan O’Brien. And due to just fortuitous circumstances around his schedule and mine, both opening up at the same time, which is rare, we decided to indulge an old conversation that him and I had been having for some time about trying to write some songs together. And so we found ourselves in this occasion where we have the time and the space and the desire. We got together and the first song we wrote together was a song called “Lady Black,” and we both really enjoyed it, so we continued. And in a pretty short period of time we had, I had full songs, enough that we could actually see that there was something here. So we decided to kind of finish it and make an album. And it was beautiful because there was no budget constraints, there was no record label, there was no time constraints, it was just, it was mostly just two musicians who had worked together a lot in the past getting to work together for the first time. I’m really really happy that we had the opportunity to do so. And I think you can hear that in the record too.
What do you think differentiates the music on the new Sons of the Sea release with your previous work with Incubus and your solo release?
I think that most of what differentiates it is the backdrop and what the backdrop does to my delivery as a singer and what my ideas as a writer have been. They’ve been exclusively used for the past 20-something years with Incubus and the kind of music that we write together. It’s diverse and it kind of goes all over the place, but the way that we write together evokes certain creative responses out of each other. When I started writing music with Brendan, it was calling forth a very different kind of creative response. And so I think that’s really the main difference is that the players were different. And there were less players involved, as well. That’s probably a big difference. Incubus is very much a creative democracy, and that same ethos was used in making the Sons of the Sea record. There were only two people making these decisions as opposed to five, at times six because, with Incubus, Brendan would be producing, so that sixth opinion ended up being valuable for us as well. But with this, it was just him and I in a studio together and just bouncing ideas back and forth. So it was different and really really fun.
So did just the two of you record all of the music, or were there other musicians who came in to help out?
It was just the two of us, for alI of it. I was playing all the drums and all the percussion stuff, so very very last-minute, we were actually about to start mixing the album and I started to get kind of haunted by this idea that maybe the drums being played by an actual professional drummer could take the songs to yet another level. if we had a kind of like drumming assassin at the helm. As I was thinking that, our friend Josh Freese happened to be at a neighboring studio next door to us, so we invited him to come and play. So he kind of interpreted all of my drum parts, but as a professional drummer would. It worked. It took the songs to another level. In the end, Josh Freese played all the drums.
So when you guys go on the road, what will the instrumentation look like? Will it just be the two of you, or will there be more people in the band?
Yeah there’s gonna be a full band, and Brendan O’Brien won’t be on tour with us. He’s got other things he needs to do. I don’t really blame him, but there’ll be five people. It’ll be myself, keyboard, bass, guitar and drums. So it’ll be a full band.
Is it looking, right now, like Sons of the Sea will replace Incubus as your primary project going forward?
No, not necessarily. I think that would be too sort of, it would be too bold a statement. What I would like to do is concentrate on each of them, give each of them my full energy as they sort of present themselves and as they need my attention. So at the moment, Incubus is going back to kind of a hiatus stage after our tour of South America. And so now my energy is going to be focused on Sons of the Sea for the time being. But that’d be too extreme of a statement for me I think.