Incubus became one of the most popular alt-metal bands of the new millennium, setting themselves apart from a crowded field with a tireless touring ethic and a broad musical palette. Formed in 1991 in the San Fernando Valley suburb of Calabasas, California, the band's early lineup was comprised of tenth-grade classmates Brandon Boyd (vocals, percussion), Mike Einziger (guitar), Alex Katunich (aka Dirk Lance; bass), and José Pasillas (drums). Their early funk-metal sound was heavily influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but broadened over the next few years to incorporate thrash, rap-metal, post-grunge rock, and grinding alt-metal à la Korn or the Deftones. By the time the musicians had graduated from high school, they had already been playing all-ages shows around Southern California on a regular basis. In 1995, Incubus added hip-hop turntablist DJ Lyfe (aka Gavin Koppel) to their lineup and recorded the independently released album Fungus Amongus. That, coupled with a strong local following, helped the band earn a deal with the Epic Records subsidiary Immortal.
Incubus' first major-label release was the six-song EP Enjoy Incubus, which was released in early 1997 and consisted of previous demos that were revamped in the studio. Their full-length debut album, S.C.I.E.N.C.E., followed before the year's end. Incubus then hit the road with a vengeance, opening for bands like Korn, Primus, 311, Sublime, and Unwritten Law. They had amassed enough of a following by 1998 to land a slot on that summer's Ozzfest tour, and they rounded out the year with a stint on Korn's inaugural Family Values tour, by which time DJ Lyfe had departed and been replaced by DJ Kilmore (first name Chris). With their momentum and exposure slowly building, Incubus returned to the studio and delivered their follow-up album, Make Yourself, in late 1999. The group went right back out on the road, and their stint on the 2000 Ozzfest helped cement the new audience that the band's new single, "Pardon Me," was pulling in.
Although Make Yourself barely broke the Top 50 on the album charts, it was a tenacious seller that eventually pushed past the double-platinum mark. The second single, "Stellar," was a smaller-sized hit on rock radio, but the album's biggest song didn't hit the airwaves until 2001, when "Drive" became their first Top Ten hit on the pop charts. Incubus expanded their audience by playing Moby's Area: One package tour that summer, and with "Drive" still fresh in the public's mind, they released Morning View during the fall of 2001. It entered the charts at number two, confirming that Incubus had diligently worked themselves into stardom. "Wish You Were Here," "Nice to Know You," and "Warning" were all popular on rock radio, and the band naturally toured heavily in support -- this time as a headliner.
In early 2003, Incubus became embroiled in a contract dispute with Sony and filed a lawsuit to have their deal terminated under California labor laws. In April, the band announced the departure of bassist Dirk Lance. Within days, fellow Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger called upon his Time Lapse Consortium mate Ben Kenney (who had also played with the Roots) to be Lance's permanent replacement. The group remained a part of the Sony empire, however, and released A Crow Left of the Murder on Epic/Immortal in early 2004, which hit number two on the Billboard Top 200. Touring dates followed before Incubus headed home in November to take a well-deserved break.
The guys spent the next two years individually exploring things outside of the band -- including music, art, film, and literature -- though they also remembered to work on and finish their sixth album, which was recorded over a year's time in both L.A. and Atlanta. The resulting record, Light Grenades, debuted atop the charts upon its release in November 2006. The musicians then returned to their individual endeavors, with Boyd announcing in early 2008 that the group had taken a loose hiatus. Nevertheless, the following year found them issuing the two-disc hits compilation Monuments and Melodies and returning to the road for a summer tour. By 2010, they'd returned to the studio with longtime collaborator Brendan O'Brien, who helped them compose one of their darker albums to date, 2011's If Not Now, When? The album debuted at number two on the Billboard charts upon its July 2011 release.
As promotion for If Not Now, When? Incubus rented a storefront on LaBrea Avenue in Los Angeles and launched a multimedia retrospective of their career, highlighted by four nights of live music by the band. Selections from those four nights were compiled for the 2012 live album Incubus HQ Live, released in August of that year. ~ Steve Huey