How Incubus left Ozzfest behind. Frontman Brandon Boyd tells about the band's evolution from metal to pop
Credit: Incubus: Anthony Mandler/Corbis Outline

In the nü-metaling, punk-popping universe of rock radio, Incubus are an anomaly. The Calabas, California, group began as a nominal metal band, playing Ozzfest twice. But their hits — ”Drive” from their last album, ”Nice to Know You,” and ”Wish You Were Here” from their latest, ”Morning View”– are neither nü nor especially metallic.

Instead, they’re thickly textured rock, with pop melodies that made them ”TRL” favorites — and a sense of groove that led Moby to declare Incubus one of his favorite bands and invite them on his Area One tour last year. In the midst of their current tour, Incubus’ thoughtful hunk of a frontman, Brandon Boyd, tells about finding inspiration from Ani DiFranco, being a sex symbol, and fitting in with the new wave of rock and pop.

Given what you guys sound like now, does it ever seem crazy to you that you played Ozzfest?
[laughs] It even seemed crazy to us while we were doing it. But in a really weird way, playing Ozzfest helped remind us what we were and the things that we were meant to do, as opposed to the things we were not meant to do. Ozzy and Queens of the Stone Age were standouts, but most of the other bands were very forgettable. Still, they remind you there are enough bands doing THIS — with a big exclamation point and arrow pointing at the specific genre. So we said, Why don’t we concentrate on things that inspired us when we were a lot younger, like Zeppelin and the Doors, and on things we haven’t heard before in rock music, such as some of the Eastern influences.

Your lyrics seem to come from a different place than a lot of current rock bands. Which songwriters do you admire?
When I was growing up, my parents played Neil Diamond, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Abba, and my older sister would listen to the Go-Gos and Journey and stuff like that. I liked the music and everything, but I didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics.

That’s probably a good idea.
Right. But I’ve been very influenced by Ani DiFranco. She’s an amazing lyricist. The first time I saw her was at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. I was standing right in front of her, and I remember really hearing what she was saying, and going, wow, That girl knows what she’s talking about. She had a way of saying important things in extremely clever ways. Right around the same time I was being introduced to some inspiring authors, people like Tom Robbins, Charles Bukowski, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Though you guys seem pretty serious and spiritual, a large proportion of your audience seems to be young girls. How do you feel about being a sex symbol?
There has been a contingent of young screaming women but none of us are gonna complain. If they’re there and they’re feeling it in whatever form that they’re feeling it, that’s fine with us. When women first showed up at the concerts, it had been years and years with just guys at our shows — so it was a nice surprise. As far as getting sick of the sex symbol whatever thing, we don’t pay much attention to what’s being said about us. Knock wood, I have yet to see it affect us or me adversely.