Brandon Boyd Wants to Never Stop Learning

Brandon Boyd is playing with Incubus at Dos Equis Pavilion on Aug. 17.
Brandon Boyd is playing with Incubus at Dos Equis Pavilion on Aug. 17. Rachel Parker
From the top of the Santa Monica Mountains, surrounded by trees, plants, foraging animals and an assortment of art supplies in his yurt, Brandon Boyd is happy. The singer, artist and writer is dressed in a white T-shirt under his open shirt and is shod in beat-up Chuck Taylors. His casual wardrobe choices recall a time when artists became celebrities instead of the other way around.

Boyd's house is close enough to the ocean that the heat meeting the sea air creates a gentle breeze, revitalizing his artistic energy. Inside his sparsely furnished modern home, Boyd has an impressive assortment of books on his desk. Through his round glasses and long hair, his eyes inquisitively move from side to side as he ponders his responses. He's speaking to us via Zoom ahead of his band's Aug. 17 stop in Dallas. The Incubus frontman is the sum of many things, but more than anything, Brandon Boyd’s life is the result of an unwavering passion for knowledge.

“One thing I’ve always had and always will have is curiosity," Boyd says. "The sandbox has no floor and the more and more I dig, the more I find. I’m curious about everything.”

His natural curiosity makes him a student of the world, and Boyd relays his findings through music and art. If time were limitless, Boyd would spend the next decade of his life in art school, absorbing all he could.

“I wish I could go back to school for 10 years," he says. "I can identify wholeheartedly with the notion of being a student, but see how I could be perceived as teacher. I am fascinated every single day because there are things that I know, but I’m also painfully aware of the gaps in my knowledge. I would need 10 lifetimes to try and fill those gaps.”

As the lead singer of Incubus, Boyd has released eight records, been nominated for a Grammy, and toured the world a few times over. He has also released two solo records, written three books and created several collections of paintings. For a person with such an impressive artistic output, there are days when Boyd feels like he could be doing far more.

“Most of the time I feel lazy, like I could be working harder, to attempt to balance work and family," he says. "I feel like there’s such a finite amount of time here. I want to make the most of my time.”

Incubus started in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas in 1991 when several high school friends got together to form a band. A raw home video posted on YouTube, shot that same year in Boyd’s parents' backyard, captures the rocker's beginnings and remains a must-see for any Incubus fan. Two years after that home movie was shot, the band began playing the club circuit around Los Angeles and later landed early tours opening for 311, System of a Down and Sugar Ray.

“There was something innocent about it all," Boyd says. "We started this band in 10th grade when I was 15. I didn’t have dreams of being a rock star — I just wanted to make cool stuff. I knew that I would work as an artist in some form, though.”

In 1999, five years after signing with Epic/Sony and releasing two albums, the band found commercial success with its third album, Make Yourself. Singles "Pardon Me," "Stellar" and "Drive" received heavy radio play, as well as regular rotation for their accompanying music videos on MTV. A fourth album, Morning View, followed in 2001, catapulting the band into international stardom with singles "Wish You Were Here," "Nice To Know You" and "Warning." Over the next two decades, the band experienced one success after another, releasing four more records and keeping their A-list status while losing only two original members. Boyd attributes his high school band’s vertical career trajectory to a few simple factors.

“After 32 years together, I think there was a great deal of luck, a healthy dose of tenacity, good timing, good fortune, a lot of practice and maybe a little fate involved," he says.

Even if he hadn't become a world-famous musician, Boyd would likely still be living by the ocean, painting, and exploring music with friends whenever possible. There is an authenticity to his quest and thirst for knowledge that substantiates his many successes, as he has used art and music throughout his life to better understand himself and the world around him.

“One of the ways of making sense of my life experience is to express myself," Boyd says. "It’s important to understand why I am here, and I express that through my work.”

The singer's most recent solo record, Echos and Cocoons, released in March 2022, explores uncharted territory in his and Incubus' catalogs. Electronic music experimentation and a more modern approach to arrangements prove Boyd's sonic journey has evolved over the years. Lyrically, the album is critical of capitalistic digital culture. The standout track, "More Better," declares, “Nobody should know you better, better than you know yourself,” a reference to the algorithms social media platforms use to dictate tastes and ultimately sell consumer products.

“Everything has limits naturally, and we are operating on a no-limits loop," Boyd says. "If we are not conscientious of what we are doing, we are going to make this place uninhabitable. What should we do? I don’t know, I don’t have the answers, but simply slowing consumption a little, or a lot, would help. It’s difficult.” 

“After 32 years together, I think there was a great deal of luck, a healthy dose of tenacity, good timing, good fortune, a lot of practice and maybe a little fate involved." – Brandon Boyd

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Boyd remains an environmental advocate through his eco-friendly charity work.

“I am fascinated by the way culture – and cultures – unfold," he says. "I find that we are in a moment of cultural renaissance and I’m not sure where it’s going.”

In the past few years, Boyd’s art career has flourished, as he paints daily in his yurt, creating mixed-media, abstract expressionist works. In 2018, he secured gallery representation in Dallas through Samuel Lynn Galleries, which currently represents the artist. His first solo show, Opti-Mystic, opened that same year to great acclaim. A follow-up solo exhibition was scheduled for 2020 but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This setback did little to faze Boyd’s output .

“Art is a larger, all-encompassing mechanism and such a gift," he says. "Artists are like a mirror to culture. In moments like this, when everything is being so politicized, art is an antidote to culture run amok.”

With over 19 million albums sold worldwide, and many other successful artistic endeavors under his belt, Boyd’s thoughts and hopes for the future are positively focused on relationships, family and personal growth.

“I want to make sure that I’m a great partner for my significant other," he says. "I want to make sure that I’m a good son. I’m blessed that my parents live so close and I want to be a good father one day.”

Boyd's ideas on the specific challenges society faces in such polarizing times are simple, but seem to be the most reasonable, humanistic and constructive solutions available.

“We’re living in a time when everyone needs to dial up their compassions and have honest conversations," he says. "Humans have a historical desire to express themselves, and we all need to listen to each other. If not, things could tip too far either way, and we could wind up in a dystopian society.”

Boyd remains optimistic about the search, always delighted to share with the world what he finds.

“The universe is infinitely full of surprises, and I’m curious about each and every one of them,” he says.
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