When music historians look back on this decade, the most consistently successful modern rock band may turn out to be a bit of a surprise.
Green Day? A good guess. U2? Certainly a contender. Red Hot Chili Peppers? Another strong choice.
It turns out, according to Billboard magazine, that it is Incubus.
And no one is more surprised about that than Incubus singer Brandon Boyd.
"It's strange," Boyd says, laughing. "We never really wanted to be the band that achieves omnipresence. That's not what we were shooting for. . . . We were doing our best to explore weird, wonderful sounds that turn us on and make our eyebrows do funny things."
"It's hard to reconcile," Boyd says, calling from his Los Angeles home. "I know how weird it is to even have one song that gets on the radio for a lot of people to hear. When I read that statistic, I looked away from it, not knowing what I'm supposed to think. All I could come up with was, 'That's wonderful. Who do I thank?' "
With "Black Heart Inertia," the first single from "Monuments and Melodies" reaching No. 7 this spring, that thank-you list just got a bit longer. "Black Heart Inertia," recorded during the "Light Grenades" sessions in 2006, is Incubus' 14th consecutive Top 20 modern rock hit, giving it the longest current streak and the third-longest in the chart's history, according to Billboard.
"We're in a pretty illustrious group of peers with the Foo Fighters and the Chili Peppers," Boyd says. "That's pretty weird for us."
What makes it weirder is that Incubus has basically been on hiatus since 2007. Boyd, who tried a return to college to get a bachelor's degree in fine arts for a semester, opted instead to focus on research of turn-of-the-century photography that inspired a series of paintings and his first art exhibit. Guitarist Mike Einziger went to Harvard University to work on a degree in music composition. Drummer Jose Pasillas had a daughter and spent the time "being a normal dad." Bassist Ben Kenney recorded two solo albums. ("He's definitely the most prolific one," Boyd says, adding that he also spent time learning how to build bicycles and releasing two books of his sketches and journals.)
With all those life changes to account for, Boyd laughs at the idea that "Black Heart Inertia" signals any sort of idea about Incubus' new musical direction.
"We have no idea what will come next," he says, adding that the band hasn't even set a time frame for returning to the studio. "Even when we're not writing, we're still working on cataloging our ideas. Each of us is pooling our thoughts, seeing what random new things arrive."
The current tour, which started last month in San Diego and stops at Radio City Music Hall Tuesday and Wednesday, is a bit more set in stone.
"It's not going to be the greatest hits tour," Boyd says. "It will be more of an Incubus show, more of an opening up of the vault. We'll do some newer songs, some random covers here and there, and a lot of improvising."
The tour will be a reflection of the overall "Monuments and Melodies" package, which includes a greatest hits disc as well as a disc of rarities, unreleased tracks and alternate live versions of Incubus' well-known catalog. It will also get the band, known in the early part of the decade as touring warriors, back on the road.
"We're trying to keep more of a balance now, which is quite a novel idea," Boyd says. "But I have been getting a bit antsy to get out there again. It's really fun, and we really miss each other."
More importantly, he says, they're all interested to see what comes next.
"When we started getting a lot of airplay, we were thinking, 'Wow, this is sort of weird and fun. Let's see where this goes,' " Boyd says. "I think one of the reasons it's still really highly enjoyable is that none of us ever expected any of these things to happen. We weren't opposed to them because we work really hard, and it's nice to see all the hard work pay off at the end of the day."
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Ave., Manhattan
INFO $43-$70; 631-888- 9000, ticketmaster.com