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Incubus Playing For Love, Not Money -- Or Sales

Of the Oakland Press

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Bringing Incubus back into the musical marketplace after what was — for the group — a prolonged absence was something of a shock to the system.

“I just couldn’t believe how a lot of the (stuff) that happened in the ’80s that wasn’t cool the first time it happened is coming back around again,” says guitarist Mike Einziger, who cofounded the Calabasas, Calif., quintet in 1991.

He quickly adds “that doesn’t mean nothing good came out of the ’80s. A lot of great (stuff) came out of the ’80s, like Prince. But all the make-up and all the ... whatever. I guess that (stuff) just kind of bugs me. “But ... whatever, y’know? David Bowie did it, and he was amazing. Freddie Mercury did it, and he was amazing. So let all these kids try it and have fun with it.” But it’s clear that the emergence of Panic! at the Disco, the Killers and others of the ilk have thrown down a gauntlet for Einziger and his Incubus mates.

The group’s sixth album, “Light Grenades,” did debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart when it came out in late November — Incubus’ fi rst No. 1 album ever — but its fi rstweek sales of 165,000 copies were about half of those for it predecessor, 2004’s “A Crow Left of the Murder.”

And “Light Grenades” set a dubious record when it plunged to No. 37 on the chart in its second week — the biggest drop ever for a No. 1 debut. And the album still hasn’t been certified gold. That’s not necessarily great news for a band riding a string of three straight platinum-or-better releases, but Einziger maintains that Incubus is not driven by sales and airplay fi gures.

“It’s a labor of love for us,” he says. “Our motivations have always been based on our friendships with each other. We get to travel around the world amidst my best friends that I’ve grown up with and I’m playing with forever. I love those guys, and our friendships are why this has been able to last so long.

“We have an amazing time, no matter what’s happening.”

Though not uncommon by current music biz standards,

Incubus’ two-year break between “A Crow ...” and “Light Grenades” is the longest the group has ever taken between albums. Einziger says that was not the result of any conflict, however — simply that the band was “tired.”

“We’d been on the road for, like, nine years,” he explains. “We just decided it was time to take a little break and just give ourselves the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with living and real life for a little while. We’ve never done that before.”

Life outside Incubus for the guitarist meant making more music. He scored the surf documentary “Flow” and produced an album for his younger brother’s band, Agent Sparks. And even though Incubus was off-duty, the group was still getting together with some regularity.

“We’d write and record three or four songs and go, ‘Eh, I’m gonna go screw around for a couple months. I’ll see you in a bit,’ ” Einziger recalls. “We ended up writing maybe 17 or 18 songs, but we stopped there just because we felt satisfi ed. “

Though the start-and-stop process made things “diffi cult,” Einziger still calls the recording of “Light Grenades” “a dream situation” with no outside parties pressuring the band or producer Brendan O’Brien.

“We’re in this position where we can take as much time and can do anything we want to,” he says.

Nevertheless, Einziger says Incubus always wants its music to be “relevant, not out of touch,” and he feels the group accomplishes that by the wide range of sounds it puts into its albums, from punk and metal to heavily melodic pop influences — an approach the group continued for “Light Grenades.

“Look at all our records — they’re all over the place,” he says with a laugh. “There’s nothing unifying about them. They’re not very cohesive. It’s just this random, unexplainable thing that happens when we start writing songs. Sounds like a bunch of different bands playing a bunch of different songs — maybe with the same singer.

“But we don’t care. This is what comes naturally for us. This is our sixth full-length record, and we’ve been successful doing this for a long time, so I don’t think we’re going to force ourselves to do something else just to be different.”

Incubus and Albert Hammond Jr. perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Feb. 2) at the State Theatre, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are sold out. Call (313) 961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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