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Incubus: ‘It’s Like We’re Kids Again’

The American rock veterans’ bassist Ben Kenney about coming to India, finding new rhythm in their processes and day jobs

Anurag Tagat Feb 13, 2018

Incubus on the live stage at Vh1 Supersonic 2018 in Pune. Photo: Saahil Singh Yaduvanshi

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There’s about half an hour until California alternative rock band Incubus takes to the stage at Vh1 Supersonic in Pune, making their long overdue India debut as part of a months-long world tour. A group of local dhol players are invited just outside their dressing room and bassist Ben Kenney, turntablist Chris Kilmore and frontman Brandon Boyd come out to get a pre-party of sorts started. With the drums going at full volume, the local percussionists make Boyd and Kilmore take their turn at adding to the beats and everyone’s got a memory from India now.

And for the fans who were waiting, Incubus made the final day of the multi-genre festival memorable as well. They performed most songs off their latest album 8, which released last year, and got everyone to sing along to songs such as “Drive,” “Pardon Me” and “Wish You Were Here,” the last of which even included a tip of the hat to Pink Floyd’s song of the same name.

Ahead of their show and just a few minutes prior to getting involved in the impromptu backstage performance, Kenney spoke exclusively to Rolling Stone India about their current run of shows, the relevance of a song like “Megalomaniac” and being in a rock band.

What is it like coming to India?

Oh man, it’s great. It took us too long to get here, but we’re finally making the lap and getting through here. On this same trip, we’re also visiting South Africa for the first time and Alaska back in the States. So there’s a couple of firsts here long overdue.

You had a Las Vegas residency that was originally called off after the October 1st mass shooting there in 2017. What was it like getting back there?

It’s cool. We did two shows at the top of this tour for that and we got to see a bunch of people who had already planned everything to see us at the concerts and had the change of plans. It’s kind of… heartbreaking when something like that happens, but fortunately we got to come back and make it up and get another swing at it.

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We actually had first responders come (to the show). People who were there when everything went down, they were at the festival and we met some of them before we played. That was really cool.

Being in a rock band, Mike (Einziger, guitarist) said he didn’t know what else he could accomplish. What is it like being in a rock band right now – is there a sense of dread?

One cool thing is that, speaking for myself, I’m getting older and I care less and less about everything else going on (laughs). But it’s special. There aren’t a lot of rock bands. Well, there are a lot of rock bands, but there aren’t many that get to tour and pay their bills and get to do what we do at the size we get to do. We play really big concerts and we have a lot of fans and support – that’s not that common any more. We all recognize that it’s rare and try to treat it as special as it is. Also, it feels nice to be in a rock band at a time when everyone’s not doing it. You go, ‘It’s okay, we’re still doing this.’

Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd live at Vh1 Supersonic 2018 in Pune. Photo: Saahil Singh Yaduvanshi

What had you heard about India at all before coming here?

I have heard from… I don’t know anybody who’s come here and played other than Mutemath. They’re friends of ours and we toured with them about six years ago. I try to keep my mind as open as possible, especially the further away I go from American culture or whatever it be. I just try to be humble and be an observer until it’s time to play some music.

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When “Megalomaniac” came out in 2004, a lot of people thought it was about George W. Bush. I feel like it’s more apt for the current American President, right?

You know, I think it’s going to be a thing throughout history. The asshole that comes and thinks everybody works for him and doesn’t really care about human life. That’s a common thing that happens (laughs). Probably, whoever is that person today, is not the last.

You’ve got the U.S. summer festivals after the tour ends in March. What else will you guys be up to?

I don’t know. Everything as of this moment is really good. We are enjoying traveling together and I hope we make some more music, I think we will. I feel like we’ll just do whatever we can to keep… not having to get a real job.

Even now?

Yeah (laughs), even now! Especially now.

Are you scared of day jobs?

Uh, yeah, absolutely. It requires discipline that I don’t think I have.

What about the rest of the guys in the band? You look at them and think, ‘Yeah, they’ll be fine in an office’?

They might say they could but I don’t believe it. The paint has dried on us.

What is your set like on this world tour?

We’ve been playing a lot together. We spend a lot of our off time – we actually just got a room, a dedicated studio room for ourselves in Los Angeles for the first time in the history of the band. We’re not going to some other studio. This is our place. Since we’ve gotten it, we’ve been there just about every day, playing and really playing to the point that we almost ran out of time to rehearse because we were too busy playing and messing around. We’ve been having a lot of fun. Tonight, I hope that shows, because it’s like we’re kids again.

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