Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Evolution of Incubus, Brandon Boyd, and Me

When I was in high school and college, my favorite band was Incubus, hands down. I have never stopped liking them, but as life happened and I paid even less attention to media than the little I'd paid before, I just kept listening to the albums I already had. Not that it's not much. I have everything from Fungus Amongus and Enjoy Incubus to Light Grenades. Today I realized they made another album in 2011, and Brandon Boyd made a solo album. I immediately looked them up on YouTube and they are awesome. Of course they're awesome. Some bands sound the same album after album after album. For example, Maroon 5 is great, but within 10 seconds of listening to one of their songs you know it's them. The musicality is the same, even the lyrics are the same things said with different words. But Incubus (and now Brandon Boyd on his own, too... next thing to Google is his new band?) is a sound constantly in flux with an underlying personality that ties everything together. Every song resonates with my heartbeat and respiration in a different way.

Sometimes I feel young and rebellious and crave the barely reigned funk of their early music. Sometimes I'm in love and relate to the galactic metaphors that take Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" to the next level. Sometimes I just like to relax and breathe deeply, purge the thoughts that plague my mind, and listen to Aqueous Transmission. As I grow and change myself, my favorite song of theirs changes as well. And, to be honest, there are a couple songs I've never liked. But with almost 20 years of music and a fan base as varied as their albums, that's inevitable. I tend to lean more towards the exotic rock than the funk metal.

I bring this up because it's a link to my past, and Incubus songs have been my comfort for years. I started listening to them because my older brother liked them and I worshipped him because I was little; but, while we both still listen to them, we favor different phases of their musical evolution. It's very representative of our lives. We started in the same place, and have now lived completely different lives since high school. Both have been tumultuous and full of learning life lessons the hard way, and we are still very strongly connected. We may not talk much but we don't need to. Just like these days I've started listening to more Latin music and artists like Adele and Lindsey Stirling, I go back and listen to Incubus every now and then and feel a deep familiarity, like I'm home.

Thinking through the years, I see the evolution of Incubus's sound corresponding with my own emotional journey over the past 10 or 15 years, although the order in my life is maybe in a little different order. Listening to the most recent album, If Not Now, When?, I feel like I'm in a place where I can appreciate it. It's like an album-length Aqueous Transmission with more and different facets. It's peaceful and content, with a bit of lingering uncertainty. To be honest, I haven't listened to the words yet. I usually hear a song at least 5 times before I pay attention to the words. So, I could be a little off base there.

I've been composing piano music before I even started piano lessons. Granted, my pre-lesson songs were probably terrible. But I liked it. I took 8 years of classical piano lessons starting when I was 10. My first real song was in the works almost as soon as I started. I eventually named it Neptune's Lullaby (sea god Neptune) for its soothing, regular tidal rhythm and sweet, calming high notes. Its simplicity gives it a certain innocence and charm. After that, all of my songs are dark. Some are sad, some are angry, some are just masterfully dark, the darkness we all do our best to keep from reaching the surface and scaring everyone away.

Now I have a piano and a lot of free time. I still teach ESL to seniors at a nonprofit two mornings a week and salsa dance almost every Wednesday night, but aside from that I don't really do anything. But I barely play. When I do, I just practice what I've already learned and written so as not to forget. When I do try to compose, it doesn't feel right. The darkness is gone and there is no mania to replace it. I don't feel bipolar anymore, and am really starting to doubt if I am actually clinical or if I'm kind of borderline and was just always under so much stress I couldn't handle my own life. I don't remember ever being content. This is completely new to me.

I still live with the boyfriend I mentioned in the last entry and I'm sure this is it for me. I am coming to terms with my shortcomings and realize that I won't get a job without any marketable skills, which I am slowly building. All I've ever done was because I was in the right place at the right time, or because I was so desperate I found a way to earn cash (not prostitution of the body, only of the mind: private tutoring). And, except for half a year in which I was manic and borderline insane, I have always been short on money and felt it. Now I need for nothing and I don't have to bend over backwards just to get it. I have stresses, but now they are normal ones, like social issues and family things. Nothing like losing my job and visa and running out of savings to the point where I couldn't stay  in Korea but couldn't afford a ticket home. I haven't yet figured out how to compose music from this place.

Music used to be catharsis. Now I don't need an outlet for my darkness. I'm starting to piece together something more serene and I like it, but it doesn't flow from an innate need to create an expressive sound. I can say what I want to say now with words and actions. Piano seems... redundant. Now that I've discovered Incubus's and Brandon Boyd's newer music and felt a similar peace in it, I have some inspiration to get back at it and renew my own music to reflect this new spiritual place.

If you're wondering, no I am not trying to promote my own music. I don't even have all my songs written down, and none of them exist outside of my computer and my head. If my computer and I die, my music will die with us. If someone were to come along one day and offer to publish it, I would probably agree, but I feel no urge to be my own salesperson. I am not cut out for sales. Although, I'd probably be a pretty good salesperson for Incubus, seeing as I just wrote an entire entry on how integral their music has been and continues to be in my life.

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