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Incubus continues to grow, 12 years after major label debut

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I remember being in college and getting a phone call from a publicist at Immortal Records asking me to check out an EP by a new band the label signed called Incubus. I didn't need to review it -- "just give it a listen and let me know what you think."

A few days later, the CD arrived in the mail, and I'll be honest and say I didn't expect much. If there's one thing I've learned in the world of music, it's not to judge a band by its name or album cover.

So, I popped in Enjoy Incubus and was immediately impressed by the hard-charging swells of music, interesting lyrics full of inuendo and overall energy of the group. I hammered out a quick review and got it into the next week's paper -- much to the surprise of the publcist. More people needed to hear them and I quickly shared the disc with co-workers.

Not too long after that in 1997, the band dropped its major label debut, S.C.I.E.N.C.E., and I was impressed that the band had kept its energy alive while streamlining its sound a bit. As the years went on, the band seemed to grow out of its harder edged rock and find something more toward the pop side of the road while picking up fans and becoming more mainstream.

If you ask drummer Jose Pasillas, it's all part of a natural progression. "We don't really try to keep a balance of any sort," he says by phone during a recent tour stop in Cleveland. "Everything that comes out of the group is pretty natural. We like to cover all grounds. We have heavier sides and lighter sides and everything in between. That's very natural for us. It just kinda comes out as is. If you don't change, that's a sad thing."

The band is currently touring in support of Monuments and Melodies, a double-disc collection of hits, rarities and unreleased material. Pasillas says the disc was done in part because of a record contract obligation, and in part because of the desire to release old material that was unfinished.

"A couple of the songs were almost completely recorded and others were just demos," he says. "We just thought we'd release it all at once and have a nice bigger package. We don't have that much surplus when we record records. We usually record x amount of songs that we've written. From time to time there are a couple left over that didn't make the cut or didn't get completed. That was pretty much all of it."

The band's set on the tour have been made up of more than 20 songs as they try to include the hits -- such as "Drive," "Anna Molly," "Wish You Were Here," "Megalomaniac," "Pardon Me," "Dig" and "Nice to Know You" -- but switch up a few to make it fresh and cover more of the band's history.

The tour is also catching the band fresh off of a hiatus that happened after their last tour. They all needed a break and left it open-ended. With the release of the new album, it seemed like the right time to hit the road again. Pasillas says they'll probably start writing for their next disc after the tour ends on Aug. 28. A record could come out some time next year if all goes well.

As for those early days, though none of the Enjoy Incubus or Fungus Amongus songs are on the new album, there are still glimpses into the band's past. The infamous black and white photo of a man simply known as "Chuck" can still be found in their albums at times and on their Web site. "He's still around, he's just not at the forefront anymore," Pasillas says.

The band has also put together a "Vault" online at its site, enjoyincubus.com. "It's just a collection of photos, videos, backstage footage, making videos, performances and things we've done on tv over the years," Pasillas says. "It's just something cool we put together for fans. It was cool sifting through all these things we hadn't looked at in a long time."

Live or online -- enjoy Incubus.

Incubus will perform at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on Aug. 12. The Duke Spirit is the opening band. Tickets are $12.50 - $39.

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