Brandon Boyd’s Living Art
Look over your shoulder and suddenly two decades have passed since the inception of Incubus. Frontman Brandon Boyd is unsure how history will treat the legacy of the seminal alt rock group, but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down when it comes to transforming his ideas to tangible art forms. A new book out this month, So The Echo, Boyd’s third, documents his exploration of imagery through sketches and a recent foray into watercolors. On top of a steady stream of drawings, Boyd has put together yet another album, the 10th in his long career, with a new group, Sons of the Sea. As with his sense of style in general, “for better or worse” he says, the sound of the self-titled LP is unabashedly Californian. We caught up with Brandon to uncover his approach to different mediums and how it all ties together.
You have a book and an album coming out in a few weeks—so you’ve been busy?
Yes, a busily buzzing bee. I haven’t felt fragmented though; no feeling as yet that I am spreading too thin. More of a sense of approaching a more realized sense of self and purpose, if you will.
Tell us about the new book.
This newest book is probably my most legible work to date. I enjoy the results of the first two, but in retrospect they indeed have a kind of scatterbrained effect. This book has a little of that, it did originate from a brain that scatters on occasion, but it (the process) felt more focused than it ever had before. Though the drawings, paintings and writings are born of a loving chaos, the way I organized and presented them this time around have more of a flow than I’d ever been able to achieve before. It has a table of contents and chapters for Christ’s sake!
What’s behind the name, So The Echo?
I borrowed the term from the second half of one of my favorite adages: “As the call, so the echo.” Then I felt like it just sounded beautiful, so I found myself writing it down often.
The cover features an all-seeing eye, and I’ve read that you have something similar tattooed to your back. What draws you to that imagery?
For many years I didn’t know completely why I always gravitated towards this old archetype. But in recent years it has occurred to me that one of the most fascinating and therefore important pursuits in my life has been the study of, the relative and fleeting understanding, and expansion of consciousness. Consciousness expressing itself in Human form is an endlessly fun and fruitful game and I have come to understand the image of the eye illuminated in light as a representation of consciousness becoming aware of itself through the human experience. Hence the human eye and the light of illumination spilling out of it. At least once a day I get a tweet or a message on some form of social media asking if I am part of the Illuminati or a Satanist, etc, etc. I respond to those queries by not responding; not because I am hiding anything, quite the opposite! But more so because who am I to rob someone of their weird fantasies and projections?
When did you start making sketches?
When I was but a wee lad! I have been drawing since I can remember.
You use a lot of watercolors in your work, is there a reason you like that medium?
It’s a new love affair! Watercolors have temporarily replaced acrylics as my favorite medium. I am sure something else will come along at any moment and grab me by the chin, redirecting my attentions. I enjoy how little control I have over it; I am forced into a kind of creative surrender.
How does your approach to art differ from that of music?
My approach to both is very similar, in that I rarely know what the hell I am doing until well into the act. Both seem to encourage a spontaneous involvement that forces me into the present moment in ways that are inaccessible to me otherwise. I find that very thing is what has kept me enamored of art and music for so long; modern life is so bent on robbing us of our nowness that when we find something that snaps us out of our collective delusions it is to be held high!
How has your music has evolved over the years?
That is a hard question to answer with any authority. I think you would be better served asking someone who was “not me.” I know the music I have made and or contributed to has indeed morphed and turned over all of these years, in some ways to our listeners disappointment and in others to their great joy. But the one thing that has not changed is the intent with which I arrive. I’d like to think that I have always shown up with the best of intentions while holding our listeners in very high regard. A willingness to challenge them emotionally and intellectually, and to not merely give them what I think they want. I’d be doing them a grave disservice to do so and I probably wouldn’t smile as much as I do if I weren’t here for the right reasons. (Insert smiling and winking emoticon here, please.)
Can you tell me a bit about Sons of the Seas?
SotS was born of that same intentionality! A simple desire to see what would happen if you put two highly enthusiastic dudes, both with a penchant for caffeinated creativity, together in a recording studio and let them go bananas. There was no record label, no timeline, no real budget, and not even really a plan to speak of! And it was some of the most rewarding music making I’ve experienced since I was a kid. I’d recorded three Incubus albums with Brendan O’Brien and each was its own unique ride that left my hair tousled, my heart a couple sizes bigger and our listeners even more confused than before. Hopefully in a good way. But I had never worked only with Brendan as a songwriting partner, so when Incubus returned home from our tour behind ‘If Not Now, When?’ he and I started musing about the idea of getting together and just fartin’ around with some guitars, some duct tape and his Grammy winning producing skills. wink-wink… What resulted was surprising, to say the least, but I am so thrilled to be surprised after two decades of work. Once again, it makes me smile.
How do you see the legacy of Incubus?
Still unfolding! (Imagine those two words spoken slowly in Don LaFontaine’s voice.)
Whom do you consider a style icon, in art, music, or otherwise?
The way Egon Schiele painted and drew has had an effect on the way I dress and my sense of style. The Spy vs Spy characters from MAD magazine have as well. Don’t know why, they just do. Let’s see, who else? I’m sure there’s all kinds of stuff I’m forgetting, but let’s just say that I’m a tad style confused. California has had an indelible effect on my sense of style, for better or worse.
Are you still surfing often?
Yes, indeed. Surfing can be spoken of in the same breathe as art. It’s a living art! And one where the lines you draw are erased beautifully and effortlessly by an artist who knows no rival. So there is an abandon required to involve oneself here, and in more ways than one. Your canvas is a unique palate, born of wind and tide and travels thousands of miles to reach you, where you, in a last homage to its fleeting beauty, draw lines across her body before she destroys herself on the sand. All of that and you get to go fast and splash in the water with your friends.
What’s up next for you?
Well shit, now I wanna go surfing.
What is your WILD Wish?
To be alive and still kicking when we wake up from the vast, collective illusions of war, separation and aloneness. I think it would be really beautiful to read the headlines one morning that said something like this:
“WAR IS OVER!
BUT REALLY OVER THIS TIME.
LIKE, FOR EVER.
See more at brandonboyd.me
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