Garth Brooks had friends in low places. Freddie Mercury of Queen had a best friend. And now Incubus has found that having a friend around at just the right time can change the outcome of an album.
For much of 2016, the guys in Incubus had been working with producer Dave Sardy, bringing their current album, “8,” close to completion. They were in the studio listening to mixes for “8” when EDM superstar and good friend Sonny Moore – better known as Skrillex – stopped by.
“The mixes were pretty much done. And then when Sonny came in, Skrillex, he just came in as a friend,” drummer Jose Pasillas II said in a phone interview.
Skrillex found himself drawn to the song “Familiar Faces” and asked the band if he could go into the next room and do a remix.
“He literally came back an hour later, and the thing sounded incredible,” Pasillas said. “There was some clarity to it. There was some color. There was something that none of us were expecting to hear. And it was more just the sonic tone. So after hearing that one song for a few weeks, and playing all the rest of the mixes for people and just (having) started showing it (around), we were like ‘Wow, it would be amazing if we could do this treatment on the rest of the songs.’ ”
Skrillex was more than up for the task when Incubus asked him about working on some mixes.
“We went into the studio hoping he would get a couple more (tracks) under his belt. He did the entire thing (album),” Pasillas said. “And at the end of that, we were like ‘This is complete.’ Like there was no question.”
The songs that emerged with the help of Sardy and Skrillex make up one of the band’s strongest and most stylistically focused albums.
Songs like “Nimble Bastard,” “No Fun,” and “Throw Out the Map” rock out with meaty guitars, hooky choruses and plenty of ear worm sounds built into the mixes. Several other songs bring welcome changes of pace to “8.” “State of the Art,” flows well between ambient and hard rocking segments, while the ballad “Undefeated” and the mid-tempo “Familiar Faces” nicely balance beauty and edginess. “Loneliest” is one of the most vulnerable ballads the group has recorded.
The band sounds revitalized on “8,” and that’s no coincidence.
The group has had plenty of highlights in a career that began in 1991 and includes such hit albums as “Make Yourself” (1999), “Morning View” (2001), “A Crow Left of the Murder…” (2004) and “Light Grenades” (2006).
But by the time of the 2011 album, “If Not Now, When,” relationships within the band had frayed. When the tour cycle ended, the band members wondered if they had played their last show as Incubus.
After a year or so, however, they decided to regroup, booking a summer tour with the Deftones and doing a four-song EP, “Trust Fall Side A.”
Over the course of making the EP and touring, life in the band improved considerably, and the group members – Brandon Boyd (vocals), Mike Einziger (guitar/keyboards), Chris Kilmore (turntables, keyboards), Ben Kenney (bass) and Pasillas II – came into the “8” project with a far better outlook than had existed during the “If Not Now, When” period. So what enabled the band members to find such renewed harmony, energy and passion?
“I think it’s just perspective really,” Pasillas said. “I think we all sort of looked back on our lives. I’ve been in this band for the better part of 26 years. And the fact that we do have our ups and downs, it’s a fairly, a natural state for any sort of family … But I think we’ve all sort of matured to the point where we’re really appreciative of one another and of our position and what we’re able to do, being able to travel the world and create music and then share that music, it’s pretty amazing. And I think it’s having a perspective of that that keeps us going. And we’re still passionate about what we do and we want to do it with one another, still.”
Pasillas expects the good times to continue this summer as Incubus plays a mix of festival dates, casinos, theaters and even a few large clubs. But for a group with 15 top 10 singles and eight albums (plus several EPs) of material the group does find crafting a set list a bit challenging.
“I mean, we’ve got probably 100 songs that we can choose from, and we can only get 20 or 25 in. So it’s tough,” Pasillas said. “We can’t really please everyone. But we are playing a little bit of everything from every album, so there’s a little bit of everything.”
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