It's been three years since Incubus' last studio album, Light Grenades, and the SoCal band hasn't played a show in about two years. But Incubus bassist Ben Kenney says the group never split up or even came close to calling it quits during the hiatus.
"We came home from a tour and said, 'All right, I'll hit you up in a little bit. I'll call you,'" he says. "One guy had a baby. One guy started taking college classes. I went and did a couple of solo tours, and [singer] Brandon [Boyd] took some art classes and has been painting and doing art shows and stuff. Everyone has just been living."
The band's current tour supports Monuments and Melodies, a two-disc set that features hits (all 12 of the band's Top 10 singles) and rarities, as well as a new single, "Black Heart Inertia" and a newly recorded cover of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy."
"It was the band's choice to put out Monuments," says Kenney. "We wanted to put together a record so we could tour this year. We wanted to do the summer thing, which is just about the best thing you can do. Playing under the stars every night is pretty much the top. We had the option to do this and further fulfill our contract with the label and keep moving forward. We want to get a song on the radio and get out there and go play."
Since forming in 1991, Incubus has become one of the rare bands to appeal to a truly diverse fan base. Though they started out as rap-rock group, they gradually progressed to the point where their energy and volume attract metalheads; the funk elements and sinewy live presentation give the jam community plenty to love; the DJ scratches and beats bring in the dance crowds; and the DIY approach and relentless road ethic appeal to indie-rockers. All those aspects are represented on Monuments.
"There's a lot of stuff that's been recorded, be it live or in the studio, and we wanted to get some of it to the surface," says Kenney. "I know we have a bunch of different things going on through the website too. As a band, we're trying to adapt. There aren't even record stores anymore. It's a whole different world. There are so many options as far as getting digital music. It's like how at first there was Friendster, and people were like, 'This is a good idea.' But it wasn't until MySpace that people really got excited about it, and it wasn't until Facebook that it became functional. All this stuff is still in its infancy as far as musicians being digital entities."
When Kenney joined Incubus in 2003, the band already had a couple of platinum albums. Kenney, who left the Roots to play with Incubus, says the transition was seamless.
"I hopped on a plane and came out to California and started writing songs with the guys," he recalls. "It all seemed to flow and everything was moving so fast, it didn't have a chance to sink in. Every once in a while, I wonder how I ended up doing this. Just a week before I moved out to California, I was delivering auto parts in New Jersey."
Kenney says the band has started writing material for a new studio album. And given that it dialed back the funk on Light Grenades, it's safe to say the new material will feature stronger pop leanings.
"We've started messing round with ideas, but it's too early to call it right now," says Kenney. "[Guitarist] Mike [Einziger] is studying music at Harvard. I wouldn't be surprised if he wants to apply some of that. I'm sure he'll have ideas he never had before. Plus, we're all men now. It's hard to sound like an angry 18-year-old kid when you're 32. It's a different type of anger, more of a slow-boiling cowboy type of anger."