A New Approach

Incubus kicks off its smaller-venue North American tour here in Tucson

Consider the music of California alternative-rock band Incubus. It's a velvet fist clad in an iron glove.

Under thick metallic overtones and rad sonic firestorms is (just barely) hidden a tender soft-rock band, tempered by the sweet McCartney-esque vocals of lead singer and doe-eyed heartthrob Brandon Boyd. Imagine an unholy union of Black Sabbath, Jane's Addiction and System of a Down, with lyrics copped from the Bread songbook.

The band's death-metal-style name, reportedly chosen at the last minute by guitarist Mike Einziger, helps further establish its multiple-personality disorder. An incubus in most folklore refers to a male demon believed to haunt women in their sleep, suffocating them by lying on their chests and, more specifically, having sex with them.

This macho, satyr-like imagery seems directly opposed to the pensive lyrics on Incubus' sixth studio album, Light Grenades, in which Boyd intones sentiments such as "Love isn't perfect, even diamonds start as coal / Come on, in spite of this we're doing just fine" ("Diamonds and Coal"); "Have a heart and try me / 'cause without love I won't survive" ("Love Hurts"); and "... we'll always have each other / when everything else is gone" ("Dig").

Incubus will open its 40-date North American summer concert tour on Sunday, July 8, at the Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater.

Light Grenades was produced by alt-rock impresario Brendan O'Brien, who helped shape the sound of rock in the 1990s. He has worked with Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Korn, Soundgarden, Velvet Revolver, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, among others.

The album's release last November signaled Incubus' proverbial attempt at growing and expanding as artists, leavening its heavy-light-heavy sound with generous dollops of prog-rock experimentalism. The result is sometimes pleasurable, and sometimes ill-focused; that combination has earned the band mixed reviews.

Although Incubus was in Europe until this week and unavailable for interviews, the Light Grenades bio that Boyd wrote last year seems to sum up the band's new experimental approach:

"I think I can speak for my band when I say that we are interested in movement, experimentation and freedom. Being in this band has allowed us the freedom to move in and around other artistic endeavors. Like meandering streams we each wandered off over the past two years, only to be drawn unconsciously back to the ocean where all streams converge. And thus composed Light Grenades ... What I am getting at (sort of) is that art has rescued us in many ways. Through circumstance, chance, good fortune, a teeny, weeny bit of talent and an ardor for expressivity, Incubus has survived long enough to garnish a perspective onto itself."

Since the release of the new album, Incubus has avoided playing the arenas to which it has become accustomed and returned to smaller venues such as theaters and amphitheaters, such as AVA. Tickets are priced slightly higher, too, to make up for the smaller-capacity audiences.

Einziger commented last fall about this in a Billboard article: "We haven't played theaters in a very, very long time, and we just decided it was a really good time in our career to kind of just step back. We were playing in these massive arenas for, like, the last five years, and it was fun, but it just seems like it needs to be small again, and special for us."

Also this year, according to a press release, Incubus is working with the Sustainable Minded Artists Recording and Touring (SMART) program to "lessen their environmental impact by overhauling their touring operations from fuel use to fan T-shirts."

Incubus is running tour vehicles on biodiesel fuel and reducing idling at venues; using sustainable goods and services; reducing waste and encouraging recycling at venues; and providing concertgoers with information from such environmental groups as Heal the Bay, Surfrider Foundation, The Ocean Conservancy and Environmental Defense Fund.

In the press release, Boyd said, "It's incredibly important to us as a band to preserve the environment when we're on tour. We now have the resources to not only neutralize our carbon footprint, but to help make the environment better each time we're on tour."

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