In the special way that certain songs can, hearing “Aqueous Transmission,” the final track from Incubus‘ fourth full-length album Morning View, transports me to a place. In this case, it’s a humid and rainy day at Houston’s 16,500-person capacity Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. It’s a full house and the general admission section on the hill is mud covered. No one cares about the less than ideal conditions, though. We’re all too busy listening to the band’s lead singer Brandon Boyd‘s suggestion that we float “further down the river.”
Hearing Boyd sing the nearly eight-minute odyssey with his high school buddies Mike Einziger, Jose Pasillas and Alex Katunich (Dirk Lance) after a solid decade of writing, recording, and playing rock music with, these Calabasas High School alumni feels like the culmination of a dream that me and my own high school buddies are at the start of. In a sense, we felt our own musical endeavors — be they confined to marching bands and jazz ensembles, or embarrassingly unbounded by whoever’s garage could fit a drum set — might live as long as theirs had. That we too could, as Boyd sang, “share what we… discovered then revel in the view” years later.
Like the “pins and needles” of a “waking limb” described by Morning View‘s second single, “Nice to Know You,” though, these ooey-gooey feelings were destined to evaporate. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe they’re fifteen years old. Not too long after the tour’s final performance a few days later, the band collectively decided to part ways with Lance, their bass player. The news wasn’t made official until early 2003 when Incubus announced Lance’s replacement — former Roots guitarist Ben Kenney — ahead of their summer stint at Lollapalooza, but the preceding rumors had both primed fans for the disappointment and eroded the notion that the band and those friendships were on a solid footing. Due to my teenage brain’s less than developed sense of logic, I felt more connected to Incubus’ members than anyone I personally knew in high school. So the split hurt.
With labels as varied as alternative rock, nü-metal, and pop, Incubus never were the kind of band who were easily categorized by radio DJs. This is exactly what made me gravitate to them. I related to the band’s lack of easy categorization as a high school senior who — despite worrying about SAT scores, college applications, and whether or not I’d have a prom date — still didn’t know what the word “belong” really meant. I wasn’t sure if I was a freak, a geek, a dork, a dweeb or whatever caste-like term applied.