“Nimble Bastard”, the lead single off Incubus’ upcoming 8 album, is an ode to a hero-like character who manages to achieve triumph no matter the harrowing circumstances. “I wanna know, how is it you do it?” frontman Brandon Boyd asks in wonder. “How do you see stars from that far down?”
The track’s accompanying music video, which Consequence of Sound is stoked to be premiering today, employs somewhat of a similar good vs. evil storyline. This time, however, Incubus and director James Larese take it to a whole different level creatively. Here, Boyd and co. find themselves the targets of a group of cute, albeit dastardly pups. Their mission? To annihilate the Cali alt-rockers while they’re filming a music video.
There are dynamite explosions, ninja stars, dropped anvils, and canine jetpacks galore, as well as the summoning of some intergalactic Cat Gods. It’s all so damn fun and delightful — and markedly ridiculous — combining superhero aesthetics, Run the Jewels-esque feline fun, and a hint of BoJack Horseman silliness. Check it out above to see who ultimately prevails in the end.
In addition to the new clip, CoS’s own Lior Phillips has conducted a Q&A with Boyd himself, which you can read down below. The two talked about the inspiration behind the “Nimble Bastard” video and the band’s transformation into the Mighty Purring Power Kittens, working with co-producers Dave Sardy and Sonny Moore (aka Skrillex) on 8, and what it’s like recording as a band again.
Welcome back, it’s been a while! About six years since your last album, but you’ve certainly been busy with several other projects in the meantime –- Sons of the Sea, and your art.
Thank you! We’ve been rehearsing a lot, making a music video and doing promo and it’s actually been fun. There is a feeling that we now carry with us, an excitement to make music for new friends and people around us.
That’s interesting, I never really ask who the artist is making music for, and I suppose that when you focus on making music for the people around you as opposed to making music for fans, or trying to build on a certain ideal and expectation, that could get tricky.
Some bands make music specifically for fans; a lot of pop music is written that way. There is nothing, technically speaking, wrong with that, it just isn’t necessarily how this band has worked over the years. We’re much more than that. For us, making music is art. I know how to make music in the same way that I know how to paint, which is really following my nose. Like, I’ll have a random idea that pops up, sometimes it’s almost inconvenient, like when I’m driving or when I’m doing some mundane activity and an idea rushes in and demands your attention. So those are the crumbs that we follow to make songs. You can tailor certain things to a certain audience, but we write songs like we’re painting pictures. We don’t really know what they’re going to be until they’re done.
I suppose that’s the most authentic approach to take in order to follow your core of creativity, and you’ve been doing it long enough to know that following a whim and a feeling is much more long lasting.
Yeah that’s really it, I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head. To make a song and have it be successful is wonderful. It can bring with it the opportunity to continue to write music, which is lovely, but if success in and of itself is your main driving point and motivating factor, I think that’s very dangerous. Art should be the motivating factor. For this band, most of the time that’s what it is.
What led you back to recording with Incubus? Was that something that you had planned, or was it the same feeling as you mentioned earlier—that inconvenient creative obsession that finds you no matter what?
It was exactly what we’ve been talking about. There was this overwhelming feeling in each of us. If Not Now, When? in 2011, 2012, was a somber period for the band. I actually love that album a lot because I think it’s a very honest piece of work, but it was also very difficult and we almost didn’t survive that album process. We took some time away from it. Michael went off and was producing and writing, I had a solo project and released a book, and everybody went off in their own directions. At a certain point, we started to probably just miss each other. Then, right around 2014, when we were writing for the Trust Fall EP, it felt like we woke back up to the excitement of what this band could be and what this band still had left in it, which is a lot as far as I’m concerned. We carried that enthusiasm into the process of writing 8. We actually took our time for once, it took about a year to record and we came up with something that we’re all just kind of over the moon about. We’re excited to play it for people, we’re excited to listen to it, we’re excited to perform the songs.
Were there ever creative obstacles in going from one sound dynamic to a distinctively different tone?
I honestly believe that each of our albums over all of these years have been accurate reflections of where we are collectively as a band. When you’re listening to a lyric and a melody you’re looking at a reflection of where I am [Laughs]. Me being the person that’s writing the lyrics. I’ve always believed that human beings are far more dynamic than we give ourselves credit for. I think that we have multiple versions of ourselves that live in this one body, and it depends on where we are and so many factors that can lead to a mood. So when we put out albums they are really depictions of a mood or a mindset that we’re in. This album didn’t come without it’s challenges; it was a difficult album to write and I challenged myself more deeply than I have, well, since I can ever remember as a lyricist. That’s one of the reasons why we’re so happy with it. Everyone has multiple moods; nobody is static, and so the band is really an example of that.
I read that you worked with Skrillex? In the past you have fused together a lot of genres: art rock, alt rock, funk, jazz, nu-metal, rap-metal, and even djembe. He’s world-renowned for using synthetic sounds, but came from a rock background. So how did you all mesh?
The album was already written about a year before Skrillex came in to listen to it as a friend, as a peer. He then mixed the album and co-produced a handful of the tracks on it. He humbly asked if he could do a remix to one of the songs, so we gave him the stems, he took it, and it sounded so much better than what it had before. One of them is called “Loneliest” and another “Familiar Faces”. He didn’t really bring what you’d expect though. Sonny is a fantastic musician, and as you said he comes from rock and roll, so he knows his way around a guitar. It was really exciting to see an added layer to this onion.
Let’s talk about the story behind the song “Nimble Bastard”. Are you the nimble bastard?
[Laughs] I have been called a nimble bastard before by a British friend of mine, and it was meant as a compliment. I always found it a fun, endearing way of describing someone who had a special adaptability to life. There’s also a hint of a friendly envy in the song, I say in the lyric, “Show me how can you see the stars from that far down — you’ve been knocked down so low how could you possibly get back up after that?” — and this person does. It’s like this person is a hero to me. That’s really the meat in the lyric. The video on the other hand …
The video! My good god!
We take our music very seriously and we are serious about the music that we write, but we don’t take ourselves very seriously at all in this band. We’re kind of just idiots who play for a living. Originally it was going to be serious, but then we started to brainstorm with the director, James Larese, and having a laugh when jokingly I said something like, “What if there was this evil band of french bulldogs [puts on menacing voice] trying to destroy Incubus!” He got a little spark in his eye and somehow that’s the video we made.
Ha! It’s truly ridiculous. The video tells the tale of “Agent Nimble,” a French bulldog who has hatched a plan to kill your band with the help of his bulldog squad. They then perform a series of cartoon-esque murder plots, like dropping an Acme weight on your head, throwing ninja stars, and shooting flame throwers.
We were laughing so hard throughout the whole day of making this music video. I don’t know if it’s going to be what you would consider a “successful music video.” I don’t even know what that means anymore, but I do know that I’ve not laughed that hard consistently throughout an entire afternoon in my life. We made these fake french bulldog paws that you see throughout the video, and there was like 10 french bulldog’s cruising around including my own old french bulldog, Bruce. He is the one who throws the star.
You then proceed to paw-fight with the dogs by channeling the cat god hovering in the universe. You basically become the Mighty Purring Power Kittens.
Power Felines! Yeah, at least you get it!
James directed A Tribe Called Quest’s “We The People” and Sting’s recent video “One Fine Day”. How did you get in touch with him?
I had never met him before, but we were all huge fans of the Action Bronson video that he did where it’s all on green screen and he’s playing basketball with a T-Rex. It’s one of the most ridiculous videos I’ve ever seen, and I was just so impressed by how irreverent it was. It’s just one of those things that we kept watching incessantly. So once we got past the idea of doing something serious, got over ourselves so to speak, and just knew together we could make something fun. I think we accomplished that.
Have your experiences, and getting older, caused your perspective to shift, and by proxy had an impact on your music and what it was about?
For most of the time this is a really fun job, and a really fun way to go about our lives. But it is also all-consuming, and has given me pause in the sense that I’m humbled by the opportunity, I’m humbled at the amount of eyes and ears that have been on this band for a couple of decades. It also gives me pause because of the deep reflections it offers, like on some of these bigger topics, on the way that things are changing, not only in our culture, but also as we age in a culture that is obsessed with youth. You can get plastic surgery and try to remain artificially young, or you can age gracefully. It’s also a reflection on how even though we aren’t young anymore, we’re also not old yet; we’re in this interesting sweet spot. Everyone is either 40 or 41, and we’ve been a band for 26 years, so sometimes we feel old, but most of the time we still feel like kids. This band has always been a reflection of a certain dynamism for me. We want to keep moving, we want to stay … sorry to be cheesy for a moment … but, nimble.