Thursday, July 28, 2005

311 finds new direction to its liking (North County Times)

With 15 years as a group under their belts, the members of 311 belong to a veteran band by any definition. But vocalist/DJ SA Martinez sounded more like a musician relishing his first taste of success when asked about the band as it exists in 2005.

"I really think our writing has just, it's really growing, and I think it's something that is only going to get better," Martinez said just before the start of the band's summer tour. "I'm really liking the direction that we're heading in."

That direction is pushing 311 toward a more grooving melodic rock sound and away from the rap-rock hybrid of the group's early albums. Martinez acknowledged some 311 fans aren't embracing the move.

"I know some of our fans think we're becoming too melodic or we're not doing enough rap or whatever," he said. "But honestly, we're just doing what's in our hearts and what wants to come out. I think that really makes us who we are."

In Martinez's view, 311 reached a stylistic crossroads before making 2001's "From Chaos."

By that time, 311 had seen its commercial fortunes level off a bit. Formed in Lincoln, Neb., in 1990, 311 self-released three albums before deciding the group needed to relocate to Los Angeles to pursue a record deal. The move worked, and 311 landed a deal with Capricorn Records. The band's major label debut, "Music," arrived in 1993, but the real breakthrough came two discs later with the 1995 self-titled CD. It yielded major radio hits in "Down" and "All Mixed Up," and sold more than 3 million copies.

Next was the CD "Transistor," which strayed from the group's hard-hitting rock/rap/funk signature to fashion a more relaxed sound, sold only about 800,000 copies. Sales perked up with 1999's "Soundsystem," which produced the hit "Come Original," while moving a step back toward the band's harder sound. But Martinez said by that point, the members —— Martinez, Nick Hexum (vocals/guitar), Chad Sexton (drums), Tim Mahoney (guitar) and P-Nut (bass) —— felt they had reached an important point in their musical development.

The 2001 effort "From Chaos" reflected this mind-set.

"I think we were at a crossroads there, where we were trying to recapture some of what we were known for early on, and then on the other side of that record we let ourselves go a little more," Martinez said of "From Chaos." "Some of the songs toward the end of that record were some of the best songs we've ever written —— 'Amber,' 'Uncalm,' 'I'll Be Here Awhile.' We really just started to say this is really kind of what we want to do, as opposed to let's recapture our youth. Let's embrace the melodies and the things we really want to sing."

Those three songs, which blended smooth-flowing melodies with reggae beats, represented a sign of things to come. The lilting midtempo "Amber" emerged as one of two top 10 modern rock singles ("You Wouldn't Believe," a funk-edged rocker with plenty of melody also was a hit) on the CD.

With 2003's "Evolver," 311 embraced melodic rock even more eagerly, and that shift continues with "Don't Tread on Me." which is one of the band's most focused works.

The reggae element that coated "From Chaos" once again figures strongly in several songs, including the laid-back "Speak Easy," the harder-edged "Frolic Room" and the title track.

But punchy rock is also a primary element on "Don't Tread on Me." "Solar Fire" stands out as one of the freshest-sounding songs, as a hefty rock riff ignites this heavy anthem. "Long for the Flowers" is anchored in a gritty guitar riff that runs throughout the song. "It's Getting OK Now" rides a driving rhythm to lay claim to being the CD's briskest track.

The group will, of course, debut a number of songs from "Don't Tread on Me" on tour. After the band's appearance Saturday at Street Scene, 311 will hook up with Papa Roach for an amphitheater tour.

With 311 coming off what Martinez says are the band's best CDs —— "Evolver" and "Don't Tread on Me" —— he's not only confident about the quality of the live show, but the future of 311 as well.

"I think this really just gives us more life, even down the road," he said. "It deepens our catalog to the point where these songs, I think, are really going to grow on our fans and are just going to be fun to play live. And I think it just points us in the right direction."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

311 has stood the test of time by playing for its fans (Press-Enterprise)

Survival is pretty underrated. In the "flavor of the month" mentality that has encompassed the music industry, career longevity seems to mean nothing to radio stations and MTV.

These outlets fail to appreciate the musicians who start small and get big, the acts who start at a grass-roots level and flourish from there.

Eight albums into their career, reggae/rock fusers 311 know a little something about that.

"It's a progression on the sound that we've developed over the years," P-Nut says of 311's upcoming CD, "Don't Tread On Me."

The Omaha, Neb., band's second album was titled "Grassroots," which has become its de facto mantra. The band has made a vow to play at least 200 shows in support of each record, something that has garnered it a loyal legion of followers.

"I can definitely see a point in our career where we just start releasing our music independently," bass player P-Nut said. "It's hard to say that you don't need the record company's support, but we feel our fans will support us no matter what."

Of course, the band -- rounded out by Nick Hexum on vocals and guitar, multi-instrumentalist S.A. Martinez, guitarist Tim Mahoney and drummer Chad Sexton -- has sold 7.5 million records.

Its longevity has seen a progression from the frat party soundtrack it was in the mid-'90s to the jam-heavy act it became on its last tour with the Roots and Medeski, Martin and Wood. However, no path is without roadblocks, and in 2003 the group hit a snag with the snarkily titled "Evolver."

Whether it was mid-career doldrums or just a lack of inspiration, the quintet decided to leave the songwriting chores solely up to Hexum. The result was flat and left the band and its fans largely unsatisfied.

"What happened there is that we wanted to see what it was like to put out a record that was from a singular mind," P-Nut said. "Nick's ... talented, but it wasn't really what any of us were hoping for."

Its recently wrapped set, "Don't Tread On Me," due out Aug. 16, marks a return to the collaborative writing process. The group tapped longtime producer Ron Saint Germaine to helm the project. The outcome, though still heavy on the reggae and rock, has a more cohesive and energetic feel to it.

Martinez, who in the past employed the use of turntables to broaden the rhythm section, eschewed them in favor of thickening up the sound with another guitar. He penned two of the tracks on the 12-song release.

"It's not totally different ... but it's a progression on the sound that we've developed over the years," P-Nut said. "The strange thing about putting out records is you never know how well they are going to be promoted. We're happy with it and I think our fans will be, too."

Either way, they're in the music business for the long haul.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

311 Release Don't Tread on Me (Music Remedy)

Volcano/Jive Records will be releasing 311’s 8th studio album Don’t Tread On Me August 16. The album consists of 11 new tracks produced by Ron Saint Germain and 311. The title track “Don’t Tread On Me” will be the first single impacting at radio July 25.

Omaha-bred, Los Angeles-based 311 have released seven studio albums (four Gold, one Platinum, and one Triple-Platinum), a live album and three DVD’s (one Gold, two Platinum). Four of their releases have reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Charts. Six singles have gone into the Top 10 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart including the #1 hits “Down” and “Love Song.” The band has sold over seven million albums in the U.S.

The band, known for their dynamic live shows, will go back out on the road in support of the new album (and in celebration of their 15 year anniversary) starting July 27 in Santa Cruz with support bands Papa Roach and Unwritten Law in select cities.


“To me, the meaning of the album title, "Don't Tread on Me" is simple - it's about freedom. Personal freedom. Freedom from any kind of oppression - political, religious, or social.”

“The title track "Don't Tread On Me" is really about emotional volatility when you feel like your freedom is being encroached upon.”

“The title track - "Don't Tread On Me" has a great melody with a dope rhythm underneath. Slightly skanky, but in a good way. Catchy, aggressive at times, and never a dull moment. Classic 311.”

“Don't Tread On Me" has us embarking on what I know will be a great journey. More shows, more reactions; being pushed to my physical limits by the egging on of thousands. This collection is as diverse a group of songs as can be written by 311 and we had fun putting it all down. We love being allowed to continue on our musickal journey and we have you, our fans, to thank for our future. Let there be rock!”

“I think we had a lot to say on this new album (themes range from personal freedom and emotional volatility in “Don’t Tread On Me” to life and mortality in “It’s Getting OK Now” to questioned celebration in “Frolic Room” to sexual abuse in “Getting Through to Her” to the politics of fear in “Solar Flare” to the ups and downs of love and personal relationships in “Speak Easy”, “Waiting”, “Long for the Flowers” and “There’s Always an Excuse”) and I'm very happy with the combination of new styles that we've come up with. Overall, this album musically is a little more straight-forward than our last. It's more like what you see at a 311 show; two vocals, guitar, bass, and drums. Evolver had more overdubs and was more influenced by the British heroes of the past. This one is pure America (with a little Jamaican herb!).”

“The new songs are eclectic as always. There are a handful of reggae influenced tracks, but they're more up-tempo and funky than our reggae has been in the past. There's also a fast punk song with a melodic vocal that Tim & SA wrote called "It's Getting OK Now" and a super slow and heavy rap rocker called "Solar Flare". On "Solar Flare" SA's delivery and lyrics skewer people who use fear to stay in power.”

“When we first started rehearsing "Solar Flare", I thought that the vocal needed something with as much attitude as the music was communicating. I kept getting these apocalyptic visions - these you and I against the world scenarios.”

“The true origins of the song "Frolic Room" lie in the fact that Nick has frequented a bar called "The Frolic Room" in Hollywood ever since he's lived in this city. The bar has had 311 songs on their jukebox for quite some time. This new song is basically an insurance policy to reserve a slot on their juke for eternity.”

“I got the lyrical inspiration for the song "Speak Easy" from Wilhelm Reich's belief that any emotion we carry we must let out - otherwise that emotion will sit within us and manifest itself in ways that may not be good for our health. We can create blocks that turn into physical symptoms that were initially just emotions that we denied ourselves from experiencing. I shared this idea with Nick. I told him that lyrically I wanted to hit on the idea of letting out emotion, relaxing and breathing - because breath is life. I sang, "Nice and easy, and your breathing will be pleasing..." and Nick was quick with the rejoinder "..just speak easy and say what's on your mind.”

“After finishing our eighth album, I look back and notice how lucky we are to have been able to make music for a living for fifteen years! This is due entirely to the level of dedication of the fans we have and the bond that we've developed as a band over the past 15 years. We know we're truly blessed.”