Image: Cause Celeb
Greg Knapp
Members of the band Incubus pose with fans who purchased a concert package on e-Bay to benefit the Make Yourself Foundation in Boston in August 2007. Band members, from left to right, Ben Kenney, bass, seated, facing down; Jose Pasillas, drums; Brandon Boyd, vocals, standing in center with hat; Chris Kilmore, turntables/keyboards, standing; and Mike Einziger, guitar.
NBC News
updated 9/19/2008 5:52:29 PM ET 2008-09-19T21:52:29

Each month, we highlight a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This month we speak with Brandon Boyd, the lead singer of the band Incubus, about his group’s charity organization, the Make Yourself Foundation. Through the foundation, Incubus donates a portion of the proceeds from its concert tours, record sales, online auctions of merchandise and special events to a range of worthy groups and causes selected by the band members, including the Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, California Wildlife Conservatory and Camp Painted Turtle, among many others. They also maintain an emergency fund for international natural disaster relief.

Question: When and why did you decide to found the Make Yourself Foundation?

Answer: I think it was 2003. … All of us kind of realized how we had sort of arrived at this place of visibility, I guess you could say. … I know from personal experience that we really paid attention to the bands that we were listening to. … (Many of them) were promoting certain things at their shows -- booths you could go to here you could find out about certain causes or certain organizations they were working with. … It kind of made it OK as a teenager to get involved with something. … It was an interesting way to be introduced to philanthropy, I guess you could say. So we started really realizing that we had a wonderful chance here to raise awareness about some important things that were going on, (but) where do we start? We figured we would just raise money for and raise awareness towards things that were important to us, which started around some, humanitarian causes that we’ve worked with on small scales and then some environmental causes that we’ve worked with on small scales, like the Surfrider Foundation and Heal the Bay and whatnot.

Q: Was there a specific catalyst for the initial start-up?

A: I think the first major thing that we did was the bootleg series.  There were quite a few really bad quality bootlegs, (recorded) via snuck-in cell phones and video cameras, on the Internet, and a lot of people were watching them and downloading them. So we figured if there’s going to be bad bootlegs out there, we might as well make them ourselves and use that as the first kind of  big push. … So we did a series of bootlegs during our last big album cycle. ... We just recorded every show and started sifting through them, which is kind of a monumental task because we played something like 250 shows that year. We did like a basic mix, and we put together a real basic album package, a little nicer than your average bootleg. And then we used all of that money toward the first major push with the Make Yourself Foundation.

Q: Why did you decide to establish a foundation that has rotating charities, rather than devoting yourself to one cause in particular?

A: It may arrive at one particular cause, but for the moment, there are so many things that we feel are deserving of people’s attention. Not that these causes aren’t getting attention, but they just could always use more. We’re sort of products of our culture in the sense that we are a little bit all over the place, you know. We’re a little bit scatterbrained; our music has always been a little bit scatterbrained. … And you know our audience is very broad. … There’s not like one group of people in particular that listens to our band. Usually people that listen to our band are into a little bit of everything. So, we have worked with I don’t know how many different charities for the past five years or so. … We’ve been able to be very successful in helping to promote and raise awareness for all of these very important charities, so it still seems like it’s a good thing.

Q: How do you decide which charity to feature? Right now you have the California Wildlife Foundation.

A: It’s usually just what comes up. One of us or all of us will be doing specific individual work with that charity. This one came up because I happened to go to the California Wildlife Conservatory up in Malibu a couple weeks ago and do a tour of the place and really get an understanding of what they do up there. It’s a small facility but it’s really essential. … It’s a place where people can take a hit animal in the road, or if they see an animal that’s injured -- everything from a coyote or bear to a housecat or a pigeon. They will do their best to rehabilitate the animal and send it back into the wild..

Q: You said that you also are doing your own separate work. Can you tell us about that?

A: Well, it’s usually rooted back with the Make Yourself Foundation. Some of the things start with things brought to the attention of the Make Yourself Foundation … and one of us will be interested in one of these organizations. Like I’ve been an avid surfer since I was 11, 12 years old, so my interest in surfing and protecting the water that I go in and my neighbors go in led to our interest in working with the Surfrider Foundation and Heal the Bay. Other guys in the band surf as well, so that was kind of a no-brainer for us. …

Michael, being friends with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was introduced to Flea’s music conservatory– the Silver Lake Music Conservatory. And so Michael introduced that idea to us, and all of us got to learn about that via his interest in it. … Another one is Future Forests, which used to be called Carbon Neutral. And once again, this is a no-brainer. We make donations to this charity, and they will buy up forest land to help offset our carbon emissions while we’re on tour. … It’s a wonderful way for all of us to not only show each other as friends in a band some of the things that are important to each other, but it has much further reaching implications. .. It really comes down to, what do you do with people’s attention once you have it? We make music and we try to bring art to people and share it with them, but it’s like once the song is done, they’re still looking at you like, ‘Really? That’s it?’ And it’s like, ‘Actually no. …There’s this great idea going on over here; want to come check it out?’ … I think that’s probably been the biggest thing with the Make Yourself Foundation, just helping people -- especially young people -- into the first stages of charitable work and philanthropic work.

Q: Do you host special events to raise money for the cause of the moment or is it mostly the donation of part of the profit from concerts and things like that?

A: We’ve never done one big event as yet. … First it was the bootleg series and the next most common way that we’ve been raising money is these concert packages, where people get the best seat in the house, the best T-shirt, the concert poster and they come to a meet-and-greet before the show and we hang out, talk for a while and take some pictures. They bid for those on, e-Bay. … We’ve also done live auctions on e-Bay  of Incubus-related stuff, memorabilia, keepsakes, concert things…. We set a goal for ourselves last year that we actually reached: a million dollars raised from all of these Incubus-related things. We’ve been able to donate to these charities and also when there have been unfortunate natural disasters in the world, there’s been sort of money in the Make Yourself Foundation bank, as it were, to be able to help there, as well.

Q: What do you think is the most impressive thing that the Make Yourself Foundation has achieved?

A: We’ve been able to meet a lot of really great people, thousands and thousands of people around the world who’re really interested in helping. … The thing that’s been the most wonderful for me is a sense that there a lot of truly good people in the world. Just when you think that … people only care about themselves and their property and their own lives, you get these little glimmers of hope here and there that  there actually are quite a few people who are willing to lend you their hand, to lend you their shoulder and to lift each other up.

Q: Is there any singular experiences that stand out to you as kind of ones that touched you personally, affected you personally?

A: Absolutely. There’s a camp called Painted Turtle. We’ve made some donations to them, and we got a chance to go to the Painted Turtle camp in California and see the facilities and meet some of the counselors and some of the campers. My first impression was, ‘This is the coolest summer camp I’ve ever seen, as far as the layout, the architecture, all Newman organic food in the kitchen.’ And the counselors are the most beautiful, open-hearted people you’ve ever met in your life. The camp itself is designed for children with chronic or terminal illnesses, kids who weren’t ever able to go to summer camp because of their disabilities. … The camp offers them that opportunity for the first time, and you see in their eyes and in their expressions how much fun that they’re having. And you see how grateful their families are that this place exists.

Q: What are the biggest reason people should support the Make Yourself Foundation over other charities?

A: You know I wouldn’t really try and compete with other foundations. This is something that we hope will always be here, even beyond the lives of our band. It’s really, in the most simple way, just an opportunity for people to, to learn from each other and to lend a hand. … I think that on a very basic level we have a design in us as human beings to help each other, and we also have this self-serving survival mechanism, which is there for a reason. But I think that one of the higher callings is to be in service to each other. So I would just say to people that if you’re interested in learning about wonderful ways to help people and to help each other and to help the world that we live in, you can learn about them through the Make Yourself Foundation. And if you don’t do it through this foundation and with us, then do it through another one. It doesn’t really matter. I think that, it’s almost like a human responsibility to an extent to inform each other and to help each other along.

Q: What’s next for the Make Yourself Foundation?

A: We are just finishing up an Earth Day auction. I auctioned off a 2006 Vespa and I would like to move toward greener and greener things that we’re auctioning. … I think we’re auctioning a surfboard, too. And you know, just raising more money and doing work with these different charities.

Interviewed by Ariel Schwartz, NBC News

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