Incubus’ Brandon Boyd on 20 years of ‘Morning View’
“We wanted to change our environment dramatically”
Ahead of their special anniversary livestream show, the frontman talks to NME about the making of the band’s seminal fourth album two decades on – and plenty of unheard material
Incubus are in the midst of celebrating the 20th anniversary of their fourth album ‘Morning View’, and frontman Brandon Boyd has spoken to NME about the making of the seminal record.
Today (October 23), marks 20 years since the band released the record, and to celebrate they are heading back to the Malibu beach house where it was written and recorded for a livestream concert of the record performed in its entirety.
Speaking on the initial decision to record the album in the house on Morning View Drive in Malibu, Boyd told NME that the band, who were used to recording in “windless padded rooms,” wanted to be free from distractions during the recording process.
“We made the decision to not make our next album in a traditional setting so we rented this big, empty house up in Malibu kind of away from everything,” said Boyd. “We were interested in seeing what would happen if we changed our environment dramatically and set up in a living room together and brought out all of our gear into this house, where it was as distraction free as you could possibly be in that moment.”
Besides providing a peaceful retreat, the house and its stunning surroundings also inspired some of the album’s content. “Being in that sort of antithetical recording studio where there’s these beautiful, picturesque cathedral-type windows from the floor to ceiling, like 25 feet high, was amazing,” said Boyd.
“We got to watch the day move by as we were in there all day recording, and then at night, we got to watch the moon go by, and we got to watch the palm trees blowing in the wind; we would open the door sometimes and let the sea air into the room. That stuff affects everything, especially when you’re in a creative process.”
Acknowledging the beauty of “letting a natural environment inspire the art that you’re making”, the frontman added that the band probably should have given nature’s natural elements “a co-writer credit on the album”.
‘Morning View’ arrived two years after Incubus’ breakthrough third album ‘Make Yourself’. Coming off the back of that success, Incubus felt a little pressure going into the making of ‘Morning View’, but Boyd himself didn’t let it affect him.
“There was definitely a little bit of chatter in our kind of band family about that pressure,” he recalled. “I think maybe some of the other guys in the band may have experienced it a little bit differently, but you’d have to ask them. I can only speak for myself and I didn’t take on that weight. During that period of time, I was distracted, I suppose by the excitement of having the opportunity to record another album.”
He continued: “I was also coming off the heels of two, really just heartbreaking separations, like one after the other. So I was coming into the recording of ‘Morning View’ excited, elated, filled with enthusiasm, and heartbroken all at the same time. Looking back, I feel really lucky because I was able to experience those things through the lens of music and art, and the art was a catharsis but there’s also communion and it was all of these things wrapped up.”
The album spawned the hit singles ‘Nice To Know You’, ‘Are You In?’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ – the latter was one of the last songs to be recorded for the album.
“It came really quickly, because we had been sort of doing that creative weight training for five, almost six months,” Boyd said of the track. “We kept saying the album felt like it needed something else, like one more. There’s one more in us. And if I’m remembering correctly, we knocked that one out really quickly.”
The song wound up being released as the album’s first single, which Boyd said everyone was on board with straight away. Meanwhile, another fan favourite on ‘Morning View’ is the final track ‘Aqueous Transmission’ – an almost eight-minute therapeutic number that features multi-instrumentalist Suzie Katayama and hears Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger employ the use of a pipa, given to him by Steve Vai.
“I don’t think any of us thought that it would lend itself to an Incubus song,” Boyd said of the Chinese instrument. “Mikey and I grew up kind of mutually obsessed with Björk’s music. There was so much we loved about it: the weirdness of it, the instrumentation, the arrangements, the choices that she was making and that the producers were making. So we were like, let’s make a super Björky sounding breakbeat that’s really cool and eerie and mellow.
“We made a beat together, then he started playing the pipa and we kind of whittled down to that little riff. I don’t even think it was tuned properly. I think he tuned it to just a D. And it sounded awesome.”
Boyd went on: “From there, I started messing around with the lyrics, and I remember when he started playing that little riff over that kind of trip-hop sounding beat, I just started singing: ‘I’m floating down a river’. That’s what it sounded like. To me, it sounded like we were on this psychedelic river cruise somewhere. It was heavily leafed and wooded with the sound of nature around us.”
Incubus sketched out roughly 30 tracks for inclusion on ‘Morning View’, but the majority of those that were recorded and not used on the album are still yet to see the light of day. One track that has since been released, ‘Anything’, appears on the band’s 2009 greatest hits album, ‘Monuments And Melodies’.
“That was essentially just a demo that we recorded in that living room,” revealed Boyd. “The way the snare and the drum sounds, you can really tell that it’s that ‘Morning View’ living room.”
“There’s a lot of material and we might dust some of it off at some point,” the frontman said. “Sometimes old ideas or demos find their way into back into our sort of collective band consciousness and we’ll dust them off and rearrange them and they become new songs.”