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Incubus Revisit Their Past With ‘Morning View XXIII’ — and the Future Looks Bright

When Brandon Boyd thinks back on the spring of 2001, he’s amazed he wasn’t more stressed out. His band, Incubus, had just broken through with 1999’s Make Yourself, and their hit “Drive” was climbing the charts. “In retrospect, we probably should have felt more pressure to make a great follow-up record because we have this hit single right now,” Boyd, 47, tells Rolling Stone. “That didn’t even enter our minds. We were just like, ‘This is crazy! A lot of people are listening to our songs right now. Let’s make another one!’ So we decided to rent this house and get out of a traditional studio setting.”

The result was Morning View, released on Oct. 23, 2001. Named after the street of the Malibu home where they recorded it, it’s perhaps one of the most delightfully chill rock albums of the early 2000s, featuring beloved gems like “Wish You Were Here,” “Are You In?” and “Just a Phase.” The album went double-platinum, landing at Number Two on the Billboard 200.

Now, 23 years later, Incubus is going to revisit the era by performing the record in its entirety. The 10-date trek kicks off Aug. 23 in Detroit, with stops at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and the Moody Center in Austin, Texas. You can check out the full dates below; tickets go on sale Friday.

In addition to the tour, Incubus will release Morning View XXIII, a re-recording of the album out May 24. Boyd talked to us about the album, the upcoming tour, their new bassist, Nicole Row, and bringing Lizzo onstage at the Hollywood Bowl.

Can you give me a little bit of background about how this idea came about? 
This album was such a big moment for us. It was a moment within a sequence of moments — during this period of time from 1999 all the way through 2005 — where we had this wild momentum, and Morning View kind of solidified it. Anyway, we wanted to do something to mark the 20-year birthday [in 2021], but then something happened that shut the whole world down for a period of time. I’m forgetting exactly what it was, but something made it so we couldn’t go outside and do stuff. So we decided to do a livestream from the living room of the Morning View house, and that was super fun and a lot of people seemed to enjoy it. The idea was to put that out [as] a live album. And we got really close to doing that, but this was something that was potentially more important than just, like, “Here, it’s just us playing, warts and all.” I was like, “Why don’t we just make this as fucking amazing as we can possibly make it? Let’s just re-record the whole record.”

Sometimes re-recording an album means relearning old songs that haven’t been touched in a long time. But you guys have been actively playing these songs live for years — except for maybe, like, “Blood on the Ground.”
Honestly, it was both amazingly enjoyable and surprisingly challenging. It is one thing to perform a song live amongst 20 other songs in a set or perform a handful of songs from a record. Say you hit a bad note here and there, you have a dozen more chances throughout the night to get it right. Our philosophy in playing live [is that] we’re not trying to be perfect, we’re trying to capture an energy. 

But as we started to re-record, it was like, “Oh wow. We wrote these songs when we were 25.” We were listening to them differently. We were really, really paying attention to how distinct we were hitting the notes. And for me, how clearly I was hitting certain notes that were quite easy when I was 25 and had to rethink a little bit at almost 48. There were a couple of moments when I was re-recording the vocals where I was like, “Boy, you really didn’t want to make it easy on your future self!” 

It’s funny you mentioned “Blood on the Ground.” In my assessment of the re-record, some of my favorite moments on it are these album cuts like “Blood on the Ground” and “Echo” and “Under My Umbrella” and “Aqueous Transmission.” These songs shine a little bit brighter than they did on the original record, in my opinion. I’m excited for people to listen to them.

I’m sure it was easier to re-record “Mexico” now than, like, “Are You In?”
Yeah. 20-plus years of touring definitely has a tendency to chip away at the instrument. When it’s working well, I’ve noticed that my instrument is wider and more broad than it was when I was younger. I also had a procedure done in December 2019 where I had my septum repaired. 

Let me start over: I broke my nose twice. Once on stage at the Whisky a Go Go when I was 17. Our former bass player, Alex [Katunich], his bass sort of collided with my face. I didn’t do anything, I just let it heal randomly. And before that, when I was in seventh grade, I caught an egg in the face on Halloween. I basically learned to sing on one nostril, and I’ve been breathing through one nostril for most of my life. But it started to get progressively worse as I’m aging. And I went to see an ear, nose, and throat doctor, and he looked in there and goes, “Your face is fucked up. Will you please let me fix your septum?” And I only bring that up because I’ve noticed that since it healed, I have my range from my twenties and thirties back again.

I’m glad you can breathe through both nostrils now.
Lovely. I recommend it.

What was your goal going into the re-recording? Did you want to stay as faithful as possible to the originals?
We wanted to do our very best to honor the original because there’s something not broken about the original recordings. Why re-record? And people seem to have been enjoying it over years, so it’s potentially a dangerous assignment to try and re-record it. But I love a good creative challenge, especially if it’s fraught with landmines. It doesn’t make me want to back away from it. It makes me want to kind of lean into it a little bit more.

That being said, we did our very best to honor the songs in as many ways possible, but we did embellish here and there, and the embellishments that we made were things that have evolved out of live performances of the songs. So the versions that are on Morning View XXIII are very true to the originals, but it’s almost as if we did real recordings of the versions that we’ve been playing live of them.

Incubus in 2001.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Taylor Swift has really popularized re-recording so she can own her music. How much of that was a factor in this decision?
It was definitely part of the discussion. Through time, we won our re-record rights back, and it’s not unimportant to the process. To me, it’s sort of a less interesting part of the process, but still a part of it. When you’re involved in the making of music, especially when it’s exotic recording contracts from the Nineties, you pour your soul out and give everything you have into these recordings, and then ultimately you don’t own them. And there’s something not unusual about that, but it’s also sad.

So we’ve been around long enough now. We got to that point after all the decades where we’ve started to get our re-record rights back. We’ll never own the masters to the original recordings, but in the contracts it basically says that should we choose to re-record the album, we then own those master recordings. So it just gives a little bit more license and ownership to these tracks. But like I said, it’s not the most important thing. 

Fans will focus less on that and more on the fact that they can revisit this album and their youth.
Yeah, and I know that the conversation about nostalgia is going to come into the equation. That’s also not the most interesting part of it, but I’d be ignoring a part of it if it wasn’t mentioned. I’ll just speak for myself. It brings me back to a period of time in my life. I just turned 25 when we were in that house writing and recording. It was a really weird experience because I was going through a really hard breakup, and so the house and writing songs became a sort of refuge for me. We were experiencing these wonderful, unexpected bursts of success and momentum, but it was also fraught with heartbreak and some of the unfortunate normal parts of any person’s life. In re-recording it, I just remember so clearly what that period of time felt like. It does feel like a lifetime ago, but there’s something that comes back in the nostalgia of it that is ultimately hopeful about where things are going.

When you feel like the wind is at your back, it’s a feeling that is palpable. I’m speaking now as a person who’s in his late forties, and once you have a taste of that, it’s a lovely, lovely thing. And we’re taking this kind of psychic momentum into our songwriting process now, where we’re writing a new record. We go into the studio and there’s a new song idea every single day. It’s a fun, infectious feeling. 

Were there any challenges that you faced during the re-recording? Did you look at any of the songs and say, “This hasn’t aged well?”
[Laughs.] I have to say that there definitely weren’t problems in that regard. Beyond that, the challenges were kind of beautiful. We were working with Nicole Row, who’s playing bass with us now. 

I was going to say, Morning View was the last Incubus album with Alex. How did Nicole approach his parts?
It was so much fun watching her perform them, honor the original recordings, but also put her own stamp on them. She’s an incredible musician. She’s just effortless on a guitar. Watching her take on this challenge was really wonderful. I think people are really going to like her on this album, but also witnessing her become part of this band family.

I know Nicole took over Ben Kenney’s parts on tour after he got sick. But is she an official member of the band?
Yeah, she’s definitely part of the band now. Her very first project with us was obviously going on tour, and she swooped in and was this delightful breath of fresh air, which we’re so thankful for so many reasons. It’s always sad when somebody from a creative family decides to step away, but she brought a whole new universe into our band, which has been amazing. Part of that momentum we’re feeling in writing a new record is partly her fault. 

Can you give fans an update on how Ben is doing?
He has recovered. It’s complicated. I’ll just preface what I’m about to say with that. It’s complicated from an interpersonal point of view, but he himself decided to step away. I think that the situation — as it would probably for anyone — gave rise to a bunch of questions about what he was doing in his life and the direction he was heading. And from what I’m able to discern, he decided it was time for him to step away and do other things. So god bless. We were sad at the revelation, but we love him deeply and we respect him and honor his contribution to our band for over 20 years. I want Ben to have the chance to answer these questions in his own timeframe and in his own voice, because I don’t really think it’s for me to say what his reasoning was.

The original video for “Wish You Were Here” featured the band running from screaming fans and jumping off a bridge à la the Monkees in Head. MTV banned it because of the September 11th attacks, but hardcore fans were able to see it on the Morning View Sessions DVD. Will you release it alongside the re-recording?
It didn’t occur to me, but I think that’s a fantastic idea. The only problem is we probably don’t own the rights to it. It’s owned by Sony. It’s so funny that it got banned. It’s just so stupid. It’s like, what’s wrong with this? It was just us jumping off the bridge. I think it came out overseas, so it’s out there, but it’s hard to find. Which is sort of fun, especially in the age of the internet.

We spent all our money on it. But I remember when we got the message from our record label that MTV wasn’t going to play it because of September 11th and they perceived it as being insensitive. We were gutted. Then they were like, “You have about 24 hours to call it something else.” I think it was either 24 or 36 hours, but for the sake of drama, let’s call it 24. 

We fortunately had done a day of performance footage, which is all that slo-mo footage of us in that white room with the fans and blowing our hair and all that shit. Then I had a camcorder on me all the time at the Morning View house, so we had all this footage. I was like, “I’m going to make a home movie music video mixed with this performance footage.” And I actually edited the video. Forget that I had never edited a video before. It didn’t matter. So we turned a potential disaster into something usable.

The band first performed Morning View in full last fall at the Hollywood Bowl. I can’t get over the fact that Lizzo played flute on “Aqueous Transmission.” How in the world did that happen?
My wife showed me this article a few years back where Lizzo said something in regards to me and wanting to go to the farmer’s market. And my wife is a proper fan of Lizzo, so I started cluing into her music as a result. She’s a fantastically gifted musician. I’m kind of in awe of her in so many ways. So we FaceTimed a couple of times, and then the Bowl was the first time I actually met her in person.

I was struck at the effortlessness with which she sings and plays the flute. She’s just like, “Yeah, whatever, I got a flute right here in my sleeve!” [Mimics flute.] I had forgotten, probably because she’s so successful and become very quickly an indelible part of pop culture, but she’s still kind of a kid. She’s funny, she’s fun, super warm, and she crushed it. Once she came on stage to sing “Aqueous Transmission” with us, I was able to back up a little bit. She’s got this one.

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With the early-2000s rock revival, Incubus has gained a lot of younger fans. Is that something you’ve noticed?
I don’t think about it very often, but it does occur to me that there are new generations of people discovering our music. From what I am able to observe at our shows, looking out at the audience, it’s a confusing swath of humanity. It’s not one particular age group or demographic. It feels like it’s a little bit of everybody. I love that people of all sorts, ages, skin colors, creeds, planets, whatever, come to our concerts. I think it’s so cool. But I have been noticing younger people over the past two years in particular since we started touring again after Covid, and I am getting the sense that it’s parents who grew up coming to our shows. Now they’re bringing their kids.

I remember I got really into Led Zeppelin when I was between 13 and 15, and that would’ve been in the late Eighties, early Nineties. Those records had only come out 10 or 15 years before that, but it seemed so old and vintage and rad to me in this way I can’t really describe. So these people coming to the shows with their kids, our albums are older than those Zeppelin records were [when I was] growing up. That throws things into perspective, in a really wild way.

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