interview: brandon boyd - so the echo
Brandon Boyd is many things: musician, poet, zen enthusiast and most importantly, at ease with giving himself to others. He’s best known as the frontman of the band Incubus, but his lengthy art career has built a whole new multi-generational army of fans. Over 700 of them showed up in LA last Thursday at the Bookmarc for the signing of his latest coffee table book
. Even after the store closed down, Brandon came outside to sign every last item of the 100 or so that were still waiting. Afterwards, we retreated to his after-party to discuss letting go of one’s self through art. Check out the interview below and get your copy of
So The Echo
When you were a kid, what was your favorite thing to draw?
When I was in...Gosh..The first thing that comes to mind is in middle school I would obsessively draw waves, like “line ups”, because I grew up surfing. So I would draw lefts and rights, like peaks. I was really obsessed with the lines in the wave. I still really get obsessive with line stuff. Kinda like all that sort of watery looking (work)? I think that came from middle school.
Well there’s this fluidity in all your work: From the watercolors to the heavy lines into the soft lines and everything...
Yeah. I used to just to do it obsessively. And somehow I got good grades even though I wasn’t directly “eye contact” paying attention. But it helped me to be just doodling, and so the info was going in this ear and I’d be looking down...
You talk about that in the book- about kind of internalizing and being able to move freely through school, doing things like drawing and absorbing, and being an observant person.
And not being as smart as everyone thinks you are but yet you are- and you know it. It’s in that old journal entry. You know what I’m talking about.
Yes, yes! That’s a funny one. It was from a long time ago. That was one of the only ones where I was like “Do I share these thoughts?” You know its kinda a weird area that deals with self perception or how others might perceive you... which is a tricky subject, you know?
At the same time, I saw that line of, like, a thousand people outside waiting, ranging from 16 to 40 years old, and there’s this absolute connect to you through both the drawn line and your writing. Do you take cautious measures in what you share? Because those journal entries are older and range from like 2007, 2009..not 2012. Do you ever feel like “I don’t want to give something that’s too close to me right now?”
￼I asked myself that very question: What am I trying to accomplish in sharing this material? Its sharing. I think that we are at our best selves when we are communicating authentically. And, so, if its an authentic communication I’m having with “Self”, which is kind of what journal entries are, talking to yourself, and I’m willing to share all of these other things, I should be able to share the more vulnerable and complex moment. If I’m being honest..if I’m coming from that honest place -which is what I’m trying to do..that sometimes can be...tricky. There’s a part of you that wants to hold on to certain things but that just traps that emotion - that emotion stays in one place. So I’ve tried to, in this attempt, to sort of just allow things through. But not in a reality television sort of way -- because I’ve always felt that was a fucked medium.
Yeah, that’s not happening.
It’s supposed to be real, but its less real than fiction. It seems ridiculous and staged and yet they’re “sharing” stuff that.. I don’t know...
Nothing there is of service to humanity...
Yeah, there’s nothing of value there. To me, its a fucked way of communicating. But when someone writes down their journal entries, that’s basically you talking to a version of yourself. And while they’re not all worth sharing, sometimes they can be.
So what brings you happiness?
Ahhhh. Fluidity. Honesty. It sounds cliche ́ but I’ve really been learning the past 5 or 6 years that the more I just get out of the way and allow whatever the process is to flow through. Sometimes its scary the kinds of things that come out of one’s mouth, out of your hand or you know the things you hear in your head. And you’re like “I HEAR THAT!” I didn’t really realize I had pop songs drifting around. You know, there’s like things you come to learn in a version of yourself and you get stuck on it. I think that’s where we get hung up. So we get into our mid to late 30’s and we start to reassess those places where we’ve gotten hung up on our identity...our perceived identity. So I’ve been trying just to let it go. Let go of it and sometimes that means putting the shit out. It’s almost like exorcising the demons. Just get out and I’m moving. And once that sort of flow is able to happen I have found the most personal sense of well-being. And the greatest part of about it is you’re making space. It’s like you’re moving out. When you move out of your house you have this purge period, where you just get rid of a bunch of shit? At the end of the book, there’s a little drawing that says “What am I gonna do with all that?” What would you do with all that space?” Its kind of what that all alludes to.
Have you ever created that space physically for yourself? Gone through your closets...
I do it once every six months.
Every six months? Wow! Do you give it to friends, to services?
I start with by offering it to friends and family and most of it ends up with goodwill. I just go and we know each other by name. I’m just like “ Here ya go!” “Thanks Brandon!” “Cool!”
So everything? From clothes to books to furniture?
EVERYTHING. It feels so awesome and to some people it might seem wasteful, you know like “You’re disposable.” First world problem kind of a thing. Maybe it is...but in other ways it feels incredible. Its almost a spiritual cleansing.
You mention that in your journal entries, like, “Can I get all of this art out? How can I do it when there’s not enough time in the day?” So what’s the process from start to finish of your day? Do you wake up and say “I need to finish this drawing..(Brandon laughs)...I need to finish this song...Oh my god its midnight and already I have to go to bed!”?
Sometimes it feels like there’s not enough hours in the day. Most of the time I just like to take it as it comes. I don’t actually feel like drawing or writing or doing those things every single day. I do them often. I heard growing up: “To be a good writer you have to write everyday, even if you don’t feel like writing.” I’ve heard that. And for some people that really works. At this point in my life, at 37, it still hasn’t really worked. I write music, or words or paint things when they show up. Because when you really break it down, I don’t think its me doing it. That would be my ego taking over and saying (in a gruff voice) “I made this”. I can put my name on it, but its not really me. I can’t really own any of that stuff. That’s a different conversation.
Entirely. I know. (Laughter) I almost don’t know where to go from here with all this talk about cleansing (More laughter) and getting all of this out. Where do you see yourself as an old man? What lessons have you learned now that you’ll give to other people?
Hmmmm. I hope to just learn how to continue to cultivate an environment that’s conducive to creativity- that sort of invites muse in.
Any interest of outreach to communities and schools?
Yeah a LOT, actually. I’ve been actively involved with Incubus’s non-profit Make Yourself Foundation for ten years. We’ve raised a pretty good amount of money -about 2 million dollars for different non-profits through art and music related activities. But its been occurring to me that it would be really fun and enjoyable to teach as well. Hanging around my friends kids (I don’t have any kids yet but plan on it) we always end up drawing. Kids love drawing. I love drawing. Let’s draw! How cool is it to sit with a small group of young people and be like “How do we clear the space enough and invite in fun? Invite in spirit, invite in their muse and see what happens?”
It was so cool seeing all these kids bring you all these drawings today. To want to hone and cultivate that gift is really admirable.
I think its one of those things that’s going to be more and more important the further along we get with our culture and technology.
Design is everything.
Yeah and there’s so many amazing things that are happening with technology and design. But it (drawing) is like the lost art of storytelling. There’s these couple of things, they might be antiquated technologies at this point, but they’re really important. I hope to one of the carriers into a younger generations. Like- “Its still cool to draw shit!”
Nothing beats pen to paper right?
I think so, but talk to me in like ten years and maybe I’ll be like “You can paint with your EYES! Google glass has changed everything!” Who knows?