BY NICK McCOY
Whenever it comes to bands and their music, there’s always the song that first introduced you to them. Whether you’re just casually listening on the radio, have a friend recommend a song to you, just see the CD lying on a rack in a store, or maybe even hear it in a video game soundtrack. That first song, at least in my experience, sticks in your mind, and either piques your interest or makes you never want to listen to that band again.
For me, it was 100% the former. It was ultimately Guitar Hero that would introduce me to not only one of my favorite songs but my all-time favorite band: Incubus. And that song? “Stellar.”
Incubus was first formed in 1991 in Calabasas, California, by high school classmates Brandon Boyd, Mike Einziger, and Jose Pasillas. Boyd would become the lead vocalist, Einziger the lead guitarist, and Pasillas the drummer, while bassist Alex Katunich, better known as Dirk Lance, and turntablist Gavin Koppell, better known as DJ Lyfe, joined the band later on. DJ Lyfe was replaced by Chris Kilmore in 1998, while Lance left the band and was replaced by Ben Kenney in 2003.
The band’s early catalog consisted primarily of funk and nu-metal styles, heavily influenced by groups such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, and Mr. Bungle. Following the independent release of their debut album Fungus Amongus and the EP Enjoy Incubus, the band received much more recognition with their sophomore album, SCIENCE, released in 1997.
The album featured a heavy funk metal, almost experimental metal sound, along with some smooth and even jazzy songs that would allude to their future work. SCIENCE remains popular and is a favorite among fans to this day.
However, the album that earned the band mainstream popularity and platinum sales was their third studio album, Make Yourself. Aside from being just a great alternative metal/nu-metal album back to back, its popularity was heavily boosted by its three singles: “Drive,” “Pardon Me,” and the topic of this article, “Stellar.”
“Stellar” is the second single off of Make Yourself, released on June 13th, 2000. The single was immensely popular and charted well, reaching number two on the US Modern Rock Tracks Chart. The single was written by the band and produced by Scott Litt.
The best way to describe “Stellar” is as a sci-fi love song. Its lyrics have a longing, almost seductive feel, which translates well into the song itself, as well as its music video. This type of feel is only helped by the vocals of Brandon Boyd, whose smooth, almost otherworldly singing is on full display. What’s also on display is Mike Einziger’s incredibly unique, intricate guitar playing. The song’s opening riff is just as recognizable as Boyd’s vocals.
The song begins with Boyd’s chant of “You are Stellar” before going into the verse and Einziger’s guitar line. Boyd’s delivery is a mixture of both desire and comfort, as he sings to an unknown person. Boyd and Einziger are soon joined by the laid-back bassline and drum beat of Lance and Pasillas, as well as occasional DJ scratches, almost wooshes, from Kilmore.
Then, the band kicks it into high gear in the chorus, Einziger kicking on the distortion and Boyd belting out a powerful “How do you do it?”. At the end of the chorus, the band once again dials it back. This time, Einziger delivers a soothing, reverb-laden version of the riff, along with Lance, who gives a twangy, groovy bass line.
As the second verse and chorus ends, the song enters another interlude. This time, Einziger plays a completely new riff, laden with chorus as Boyd repeats the lines sung at the beginning. Then, the band enters the third and final chorus. The song closes out with one last powerful chord from Einziger, along with some subtle scratching from Kilmore.
The true meaning of the song is ambiguous, and much more open to interpretation. No matter what you think the song is actually about, “Stellar” portrays a strong sense of longing, desire, and undeniable love. From the incredible vocals of Brandon Boyd, Mike Einziger’s unique and fun guitar playing, the amazing rhythm section of Lance and Pasillas, combined with the ambiance and subtle sounds provided by Kilmore, “Stellar” is an almost otherworldly ballad about love, and longing for a special someone. You may even feel like you want to spend the night in space with Boyd.