It's fair to say that Linkin Park and Incubus are happy to be co-passengers on this summer's edition of the Honda Civic Tour.
Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd calls the show -- which also includes New Orleans electro rockers Mutemath -- "almost like a mini festival" and predicts that the sum will be greater than its parts. "It's a good opportunity to have two giant rock 'n' roll bands sharing a stage," he explains. "There are a lot of Linkin Park listeners who are also Incubus listeners, and vice versa. I think it's going to be better than either of us would do in our own show."
Linkin Park's Chester Bennington feels the same way, noting that "two headlining bands together on one bill...typically can be hard to do." But he adds that his band, which as the nominal headliner customized a Honda Civic Si Coupe and a Honda motorcycle, has no plans to alter its performance especially for the situation.
"We don't really look at what the other artists have done on these tours and go, 'OK, what do we think we should do?' " explains Bennington. "We're just going to go out and do what our fans want from us...Play songs that they're familiar with and catch up on some new music and become familiar with that. We're just going to come out and put on the highest energy show we can and incorporate as much of the new music as possible.
"And I'm expecting Incubus will probably do the same."
The tour actually catches both bands at dramatically different points of their respective latest projects, and in their careers. Linkin Park, which has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and won three Grammy Awards, is at the beginning of the cycle for its fifth studio release, "Living Things," which became the heavy rockers' fourth consecutive album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 after its June release.
Incubus, meanwhile, is winding down from touring to support its 2011 album "If Not Now, When?" The quintet recently released a performance set, "Incubus HQ Live," but the group members are talking about taking a break from the band once the tour wraps up on Sept. 10.
So one's coming, one's going -- and both, of course, plan on rocking. Here's what's up with the two bands as the Honda Civic Tour rolls into town...
Linkin Park hasn't exactly been a band to sit still on one sound during its 17 years together.
Over the course of its first four studio albums, the Los Angeles sextet has plowed through rap-rock and nu metal, industrial and electronica -- all to a remarkably open-minded audience, as its sales and chart positions reflect. But the group doesn't take chart-topping albums -- including the new "Living Things," which came out in June -- for granted.
"I've always felt that we just made the best record that we could make at the time," says singer Chester Bennington. "No. 1 is really something you just kind of hope for when you're making a record, that people respond to it well, but it's not really a goal that we set out for as a band. You're focused more on...other stuff.
"So it's really more of a testament to our fans than to us...to how enthusiastic our fan base is about what we do in the studio. But when (it hit No. 1), it was kind of a cool little moment for us to take a break and go, 'Oh, hey, this is what all our hard work is doing."
Mike Shinoda, Linkin Park's co-frontman and co-producer, says that the creative mission for "Living Things" was to take the experiments of the band's previous albums and find a way to weave them together -- and hopefully sound like something new yet again.
"One thing we had never really tried is to bridge all the gaps between all of that stuff," explains Shinoda, 35, who co-founded Linkin Park together in 1995. "I think at the beginning of this record we were, maybe for the first time or just moreso than ever, really comfortable with ourselves and comfortable with what people thought Linkin Park was -- whether their perception of the band was good or great or bad or whatever.
"We were fine with all that, and we have a sense of humor about ourselves and our past. So after (2010's) 'A Thousand Suns,' which was really ambitious and conceptual and challenging for us and for the fans, we were willing to kind of get back to the things that people think of when they think of Linkin Park."
That certainly worked out of the box. The hard-hitting first single "Burn It Down" topped the rock charts prior to "Living Things' " release, while its successor, "Lost in the Echo," which Shinoda says was one of the first songs to come together for the album, is beginning its climb. But for all the familiarity, Shinoda and company are confident they've broken a bit of new ground this time, too.
"One thing we got into on this record is the folk element," he says, chuckling at the idea of Linkin Park and folk being mentioned in the same sentence. "When people think folk, it's either like (Bob) Dylan and that 60s/70s era of folk, or they think of the resurgence that's happened with Mumford & Sons and the Civil Wars and all of that." In Linkin Park's case, Shinoda explains, it meant going back even further, to the early 1900s and indigenous styles that came from the U.K. and Europe and even Appalachia in the U.S.
"We heard some of that (music), and it occurred to us people don't write like that anymore. Some of those song were written intuitively, without the idea of verse, chorus, structure; all these things that make a modern pop song didn't exist for those people a hundred something years ago. But those songs are inherently fun to listen to, and they carry you through this journey that doesn't have anything to do with writing a hooky chorus.
"That was inspiration for me. I thought, 'Let's try to do something like that and try to make something that has more of a classic songs structure than something that's so contemporary."
The result, for Bennington, is a new batch of songs that he feels are easier to incorporate into Linkin Park's live show than the material from some of "Living Thing's" predecessors.
"We've been fortunate to have a lot of songs that do really well off our records, so people come to hear the songs that they know and adding in new material becomes a little more difficult for us," Bennington, 36, says. "It just felt like it was bringing too much of the energy down. No one wants to come to a Linkin Park show and stand there and look at the band and listen to beautiful music; they want to be kicked in the face and run into each other and jump up and down and sing and have a really great, high-energy time.
"But this new record has so much energy that we feel like we can add a bunch of new music to the set and people will be stoked about it...and actually enjoy hearing the new music at these shows. It's so great to have something like that this time."
Incubus may be sharing the top of the Honda Civic Tour bill with Linkin Park, but frontman Brandon Boys acknowledges his band is really riding shotgun.
"Linkin Park has a considerably larger reach than Incubus has had," he acknowledges, "and I think it's going to be wonderful for us as a band to play in front of more people. We've never done something like this before, so we definitely appreciate the opportunity."
Incubus is hardly a slouch in the commercial department, of course. The quintet from Calabasas, Calif., has sold more than 13 million copies worldwide of its seven studio albums -- the last four of which have debuted at No. 1 (2006's "Light Grenades") or No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. It's also sent 14 tunes into the Top 10 of the magazine's Alternative Rock Songs chart.
But Boyd and company are still smarting from what they feel was a disappointing showing for last year's "If Not Now, When?," which stalled quickly after its No. 2 debut. And, they feel, it wasn't entirely the band or the music's fault.
"If Not Now, When?" came out as Incubus' former label, Epic Records, was in the midst of "a lot of changing of the guard," which meant that the album didn't have the full attention of anyone in the corporate hierarchy. "There was a real lack of direction and leadership when we kind of needed it most," Boyd, 36, explains. "It was hard and it was frustrating, but it was also very telling for us and perhaps educational because we were forced into ingenuity...It forced us into thinking outside of that normal music industry paradigm we had gotten so accustomed to.
"So in that sense the lack of attention from our record label...was really good and really beneficial for us as a band because it gave us a sense of what we might be doing in the coming years."
Incubus demonstrated that new philosophy first with Incubus HQ Live, a pre-release series of performances, workshops, discussions and other activities that are captured on a new CD and DVD package. "We really had no idea what we were doing at all," guitarist Mike Einziger, 36, says with a laugh. "It was a blast, actually. It was really stressful a lot of the time, just because it was so on the fly. We didn't really have a plan; we just kind of wing it.
"So it was a exciting and as stressful as it was fun, but we were glad we did it."
Now Incubus has to decide what it wants to do next.
There's no plan at the moment -- except to take some time off, according to both Boyd and Einziger. "We don't need to be on any schedule right now," the guitarist says. "I know that our fans would like us to just go straight into the studio and make a new record...but everybody's got kind of an urge to spend some time at home and kind of be domesticated for a little bit.
A few of us would like to start families, and this touring life we've signed up for is awesome, but at the same time it's sort of the worst form of birth control you can imagine. It's really time, and it's not just me. A few of us are of that mind to spend more time at home."
They anticipate making music, too. Boyd is "tinkering around...with a second solo album," while Einziger is scoring the film "Scenic Route." Bassist Ben Kenney also tends to keep busy, creatively, between Incubus albums. And while Boyd hopes that the time off won't last as long as the five-year interim before "If Not Now, When?," he also doesn't want to take Incubus back into the studio prematurely.
"What we'd like to do is arrive with the best of intentions and try to create music from a sense of urgency as well as purity and not necessarily based on a schedule," he explains. "I know that can be frustrating for our listeners and stuff, but I think we'll make better music as a result."
And, he adds, sussing out a place for Incubus in the music industry will also chew up a little of that off time, too. "We're just trying to get our bearings to what we should do next, just as a band but also a band that is off in new territory again," Boyd notes. "I'm personally very excited about being in complete control, being a total control freak."
Linkin Park, Incubus and Mutemath perform on the 2012 Honda Civic Tour at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $85.50 general admission floor and $30-$85.50 reserved. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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