For our interest in the tracks of 'If Now Now, When?'
P.S. This interview was actually posted on Michael Einziger's birthday, June 21st.
Incubus' new album 'If Not Now, When?' is due for release on July 11 and when the band were in London recently guitarist Mike Einziger offered to talk Rock Sound through the stories behind each song on the band's seventh record (and first in nearly five years). Settle in and start scrolling....
01. If Not Now, When?
"We didn’t have any idea that it would be the title of the record when we wrote it and it was one of the last songs that was written for the album. I think that seems to happen every time for us - it doesn’t really take a solidified shape until it’s pretty much finished. We like to remain amorphous while we’re writing just because making albums is, for us, a constant surprise. We’re always coming up with ideas that seem so exciting at first, but often the ideas that didn’t seem so exciting at first are the ones that push through and seem to carry the most weight. That song was an example of that; it was supposed to be a really high-energy song, because when I started writing the album, everyone in the band was asking me when it was going to start rocking! So that song was an answer to them. When I started writing it, I had every intention of making it into a high-energy rock song, but it just didn’t happen. I think that ‘If Not Now, When?’ just sums up the sentiment of the album, and it's a good way to start a new chapter in the life of the band. We haven’t made an album in a while, and we all knew that we wanted this album to come naturally; we didn’t want to force anything. We weren’t thinking about anything in particular when we wrote it, not even about how it would be received by people, and I think that really helped the creative process."
02. Promises, Promises
"This was actually one of the first songs we wrote for the album. I’d written the main music pieces for it quite a while ago, maybe two years, and I sent them to everybody in the band but nobody responded to it. It fell by the wayside until we officially got back together to write new music again, and Brandon [Boyd, vocalist] said that he remembered the song I’d written and he had some new ideas to add to it. A little while later Brandon and I were walking down the street in San Francisco, and he started singing melodies that he had come up with for the song. Writing the song was just effortless, and it worked really well straight away. We decided that the song shouldn’t be something that needed an explanation, because in the past we’ve had a tendency to make things more complicated and cryptic, but this song was the opposite to that. I think it’s really elegant, just a simple song. It may not be innovative, and we were all aware of that when we wrote it. As a band we never have a collective vision for how we think a song should progress, but we have so many years experience of working together, that we can see when a song has a spark."
03. Friends and Lovers
"The song was written a while ago when I was at university. Brandon originally didn’t like the song, but I developed it over a couple of years, and when I played it to him again he didn’t recognise it as being the same song. But the essence is definitely there. As soon as the rhythm was developed, the lyrics and melodies came really quickly to Brandon, and it was something we were all excited about."
"'Thieves’ is actually based on an idea that Brandon came up with on his own. He had written lyrics, a melody and a bass line, and this song emerged from the nugget of an idea that he had. It was actually one of the first times we had written a song like that; it was really exciting, particularly for Brandon to see his musical idea be made into something bigger. At first the song didn’t really have a direction, but then, all of a sudden, we were jamming together as a whole band, and the chorus came together. Most of our songs have been born that way- through jam sessions as a band. The essence of the lyrics stayed the same throughout the process; the notion of a quintessential God-fearing white American, and I think anyone with a sense of creativity can relate to that."
"I think 'Isadore' is the best song we’ve written in terms of story-telling. It started life in the way that so many of our songs do, where I came up with the guitar part and the rest followed. For me it sounds like a 1970's version of our song ‘Drive’; the working title of the song was ‘Drive 1974’. It was a musical idea that I really felt strongly about, and I felt that it could turn into something great. We were all listening to a lot of Phil Collins when we decided to put that song together, and the drums on ‘Isadore’ were inspired by that. The song really tells a story; two people who are perhaps lovers, perhaps just close friends, and it’s a classic story of betrayal. They go up into the sky in a hot air balloon, and one of them decides that they’re going to keep sailing, while the other decides to leave. ‘Isadore’ is one of my favourite songs. I love it, it makes me happy to be in a band."
06. The Original
"Another song that came together in a jam session with the whole band. We decided that we wanted that song to rock, and it just happened. It starts off as a really beautiful, melodic song, then at the end it becomes a hulk!"
"‘Defiance’ is a collection of ideas that we had played around with before. We had tried to turn it into a full song many times but it never quite worked; then we got into the studio and it was just perfect. It’s a very simple song, just guitar and voice, and I think the beauty lies in the simplicity."
08. In the Company of Wolves
"The verse started off as a simple chord progression and it set the tone of the whole record. We, as a band, have a history of over-complicating things, making them loud and wanting them to rock hard. With ‘In the Company of Wolves’ we decided to go in a completely different direction; we thought: ‘what can we do to turn it into something different, but effective?’ It’s hard to explain, but I think it works well, and it’s really different for us. It might not be obvious to fans, or to people checking us out for the first time, but it’s an important song to us."
"In the context of the album, this song is the black sheep. We weren’t sure if it was going to make the album or not because it’s so different, but we ultimately decided that we all really liked the song and wanted it to be heard. I think it’s going to take a different shape when we play it live - it feels like it’s going to be a great song to play at a show, and I think our fans will really enjoy it."
"This song definitely links our older material to the new album, which I think fans will enjoy and appreciate. It’s actually the lead single from the record, even though it was the last song we wrote. The writing process for ‘Adolescents’ was so fast; the song appeared really easily when we went into the studio. We weren’t planning on releasing it as the first single, as we had so much material that was different to our old stuff, but people seem to be responding to it really well, which is awesome. We’re really excited.
11. Tomorrow’s Food
"This song was actually written before we decided to write a new album. Brandon and I wrote it before we spoke at Oxford Union, and we decided to play it for the students. I love that song. It’s a little representation of our song-writing relationship; sometimes I write things that I think he’s going to like but he doesn’t, and then it happens the other way around. So many of our songs have come from little nuggets of music that I’ve written but thought that Brandon wouldn’t like, but he’s taken them and interpreted them in his own way. This song is an example of that. I don’t think ‘Tomorrow’s Food’ sounds like anything else we’ve ever written. But that’s a good thing."
'If Not Now, When?' will be out from July 12.