Interview with Incubus: Slow And Steady Wins The Race

Early in the ‘90s, musical geniuses and masterminds congregated to establish what would become a pivotal time for rock and alternative music. In Calabasas, CA circa 1991, a handful of California dudes picked up their instruments and initiated Incubus, a now multi-platinum selling five-piece band that is co-headlining day one at The Bamboozle Festival on May 18 in Asbury Park.

Together, singer Brandon Boyd, guitarist Mike Einziger, bassist Ben Kenney, drummer Joe Pasillas and DJ Chris Kilmore, are riding the waves of success that few bands get to ride so consistently—and for so long.

With seven studio albums and a greatest hits record under their belt, Incubus has composed a plethora of musical art that acts as a soundtrack to this crazy, little thing we call life. The heart-wrenching words and composition of Incubus songs strike chords and enable listeners to be harkened back to their own life-changing events, where stories and feelings coincide with lyrics and melodies. This unique art and experience is the lifeblood of the Incubus repertoire.

Riding the heels of their seventh studio album, If Not Now, When?, released in July 2011, Incubus is having a grand time reveling their success. Marking another milestone in their career, the band will release a Limited Edition: HQ Live Box Set in July, which includes a slew of Incubus goodies, such as a 48-page coffee table photo book, a four-LP vinyl set, two-disc DVD/Blu-ray live performance set from the HQ Live Sessions, and a six-CD set.

To complete a lineup made in music heaven, Incubus is billed on the Honda Civic Tour, which will kick off this August with Linkin Park.

In this exclusive interview, Incubus drummer Jose Pasillas shares more about going on the road with “neighbors,” which songs are the most challenging and exciting for him to play, and the glue that holds Incubus together—their friendships.

Incubus is going on the road this summer with Linkin Park as part of The Honda Civic Tour. This bill is truly a perfect match! How does it feel to be playing with Linkin Park? Are you guys friends in addition to your professional relationship?

It’s funny—[the members of Incubus and Linkin Park] have grown up in the same area for all of our lives pretty much. They were in an adjacent city from Calabasas. So we’ve actually run into each other many of times but we never properly knew them or toured with them. We’ve done some festivals where they’ve been on the same bill. So we’ve had a connection like that, but we’ve never really had a proper tour together, so it seemed like a great idea to match the two bands. So we’re going out this summer. They’re going out to promote their album and we’re going to promote this cycle as well. On paper it’s a perfect idea. I’m glad it worked out. They’re a bunch of really nice guys, so it’s going to be really fun to spend a few weeks with them.

Bamboozle is coming up, where you guys are co-headlining day one. What’s it like to be coming full circle and playing Bamboozle so many years after your start?

It’s really cool. It’s been such an awesome journey for us. We’ve had such a long, amazing, successful touring career. We really haven’t skipped anything. We’re sort of like the tortoise, compared to the hare! We’ve never really skipped anything so we’ve just had this slow progression for the last 20 years and it’s just so cool to see how far we’ve come. And it’s exciting to come back and do festivals we used to play, and have a better slot—be on the top—which is great. It shows the growth for us and it’s fun to be able to play our music for the people who come out to see us and to see a great show.

Many musicians start playing their instruments from a very young age, but you personally began playing the drums just about a year before you guys started Incubus, is that right?

Yeah, I pretty much started when we got the band together. I had gotten together with Mike probably a few months before we started the band and I was sort of learning right around that time. All of us just picked instruments up at the same time. So I learned how to play the drums while in my band. That pretty much goes for all of us. It’s been such a phenomenal thing. It’s so rare that we have a link and pair up like this—where we grew up as kids, have a lot of the same hobbies and interests—and grew up loving the same sort of things at the same rate and time.

What bands and other drummers have you been inspired by?

It’s all the bands I grew up listening to, which I still listen to. As far as drumming, Rush, The Police—Stewart Copeland has always been the drummer I’ve ripped off as much as I can to try to emulate! John Bonham from Led Zeppelin. Then the more contemporary bands like Primus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine. A lot of the early ‘90s rock music—which is just this phenomenal time for music—rock music, in particular. A lot of those bands have amazing drummers, so that whole time period was a big inspiration for me and what really made me want to start playing the drums and take it seriously.

What are your favorite Incubus songs to play during a live show and why?

That’s hard! There are a lot of songs. There is a ton of music that we’ve written that’s very challenging for me: “Sick, Sad Little World,” “Dig,” “If Not Now, When?,” “Friends And Lovers.” All of these songs have a little bit more of a challenging approach to drumming for me, so they’re very exciting for me to play. “If Not Now, When?” is one of those songs that’s very simple to play—it’s pretty much just playing the same beat throughout the four minutes of the song. That in and of itself is a challenge for me, just trying to keep a groove solid without really wanting to throw a lot of things in, which is what I love to do. Every record has a handful of songs that are really good and challenging. It’s been really fun playing in this band for the last 20 years.

Incubus has incredible staying power. You’ve known each other since you were little kids. Not only have you guys managed to stay friends, but you’re also one of the most successful bands of the last 20 years. What’s the formula for your internal and mainstream success?

That’s hard to say. I think maintaining a friendship has allowed us to stay this long. It’s like a marriage with four other people. That’s a very difficult thing at times. Just us trying to remain friends and respect each other—that’s kept us able to continue playing music. A lot of bands break up because of egos and a lack of respect for one another. There have been difficult times for us, but we’ve been able to handle it as a group. As far as staying power on a commercial level, I love my band. I feel very fortunate to be playing with these guys. I’m the luckiest drummer. I feel like I play with the best singer, the best guitar player and the best of everything. It’s amazing just being able to have a singer who really writes amazing lyrics and comes up with beautiful melodies that just stick—they’re just undeniable.

This last record has proven that [singer Brandon Boyd] is still strong and he’s still very talented at what he does with his best material. There’s been a special connection and we’ve been able to maintain success. We’ve had a lot of radio success, which has been amazing and we’re very fortunate that radio had been very kind to us. I really think that writing interesting music—as well as music people can relate to, love and think about to get stuck in a moment—a combination of all those things is wonderful. Music is like medication to people.

Are there any future plans for the band’s next steps?

We’re just going to finish up the summer touring. We’ve been on tour since last summer, so we’re going to put in a good 12 to 18 months of touring behind this record. Hopefully in the near future we’ll get together and start writing music. We’re just going to finish up this year and take it from there.

Incubus is co-headlining day one of the Bamboozle Festival, May 18, in Asbury Park. They will also be with Linkin Park for the Honda Civic Tour, which comes to the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden on August 17. For more information, go to