311 has always been a band with staying power due to their rabid fan base, constant touring schedule and their ability to keep things fresh while maintaining their key sound.
Fusing alternative rock, hip-hop, rap, metal, funk, reggae and jazz all together makes for a unique sound that has served them well over the years.
Recently, the band released their eleventh studio album Stereolithic. their first truly independent release.
The 16 track album presents a hint of nostalgia as it leans towards the band's classic sound but also shows some progressiveness with new guitar effects and tones present throughout.
During their long career, the band has sold close to 9 million albums in the U.S. alone and have had nine Top 10 radio hits all while headlining amphitheaters across the country on their summer "Unity Tour".
If that weren't enough, the band hosts an annual Caribbean Cruise departing from Miami to a private Bahamas Island and on March 11, 2000 began celebrating the bi-annual 311 Day, which has featured the band playing a day long show that most recently took place in New Orleans with a 5-hour, 66-song set.
This summer 311 is heading back out on tour and will be making a stop in Sterling Heights at Freedom Hill with The Wailers on Sunday, July 6 and in Lansing on Wednesday, July 9 at the Common Ground Music Festival at Adado Riverfront Park with Violent Femmes and The Wailers.
311 vocalist/DJ Doug "SA" Martinez says that the band is ready to get back out on the road.
Q: So I'm sure you guys are looking forward to getting back out on tour. What's different about the shows this time around?
SA: Well one thing is that we'll be playing different venues this time, which is good. Most of this run is going to be in new places and that's awesome. We've been going to the same places for almost twenty years so getting a change of venue is great not only for the fans but the band as well. It'll feel like maybe a real tour again if that makes sense. Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day when you go out. It's like we were just here, weren't we? You know, when you go to a venue that you've been to a gazillion times! But yeah, the fans are going to love the show this time. We're gonna most likely be playing a lot off the new record so I know our hardcore fans will be happy with that because they've really taken to it. That's exciting and yeah, I can't wait!
Q: You are playing some clubs this time doing "An Evening With" shows too.
SA: Yeah, you know it's a little bit of a challenge because there's no one to essentially break the ice so to speak. However, we might have a deejay with us on a few of those shows just to sort of warm up the crowd just because it's a little odd and truthfully, I think it's good for the fans. [laughs] You know, just to warm them up to the idea of oh, we're out tonight as opposed to having to get them ready from the get go. Yeah, I think it's nice to have someone be there to play some music first but there might be a night or two where it's just us but we'll act accordingly and we'll come out slowly!
Q: So you've seen a good response to the Stereolithic album then?
SA: Yeah, the response has been amazing. Like I was saying, we have the hardcores who love it and when you get these kind of responses you know that you've hit the mark. Honestly, we haven't gotten that on the past few releases. They were good records but this one just hits home in a lot of ways. This new record has got so much character to it. It has a lot of layers and I think it just keeps opening up for people. The fans just really, truly enjoy it.
Q: The album definitely has your classic sound to it but there is quite a bit of experimentation as well. Are you guys enjoying trying new things?
SA: Yeah, I mean I think we've always tried to do new things but what I think now is that we're really a lot more comfortable I guess in executing these types of songs live. When we tried new things on a record before we really weren't playing those things out on stage but now we do. It's sort of different and there's a lot more freedom I guess in that. It's been great.
Q: What song/songs from the album are you looking forward to playing live the most?
SA: Well there's a few that we haven't played yet live. We've almost played the whole record so far but yeah, there's a song called "Existential Hero" that we've played once or twice and we really want to start playing that more often. There's a song called "The Great Divide" and then a cut called "Tranquility", which I think will be a great moment to the show. There's just so much. It's just gonna add another dimension to the show. That's the most important thing when you have a record out; just thinking of ways to work it into the set because it's fresh and in many ways, special.
Q: You're known for switching up your set list nightly. Can we expect that from this tour as well?
SA: Oh, absolutely. I mean we do that all the time. We never repeat a set ever on tour. There might be some of the same songs from night to night but the vast majority are different. There's a few of the hits that honestly you should play. Most of the people are there to hear what they know but you have to mix it up because we have such a deep catalog and we have fans that expect that as well. It's an art to comprise a set and make it one that keeps everybody happy.
Q: And on your end I'm sure it helps keep things fresh for you as well.
SA: Yeah, definitely. I can't imagine, and most bands do it, playing the same set night after night. We tried that one time and I think it lasted like half a tour because it just got stale fast and boring fast. We fall apart from it. It just doesn't work for us.
Q: You are celebrating your 24th anniversary as a band this week. How does that feel? I know you came in a little bit later but did any of you ever see the band lasting this long?
SA: I don't think anyone really had any idea of that or any long-term prospects for the band at all. [laughing] We never thought that far ahead. Here's the thing, if you stick together long enough with the nature of time going by, the next thing you know it has been that long. We are fortunate to have the support that we do. It's just amazing. We've got this fan base that keeps us working.
Q: What do you think it is about this band that keeps that loyal fan base coming back?
SA: I think we have a good time, man. I think we enjoy each others company. I think they can see that. We enjoy them and respect them and they realize that. The songs and just the spirit of what music can do and how music can touch a community of people. That's the cool thing because in a lot of ways it feels like whenever we roll into town we're sort of like a home team so to speak. You're never like in enemy territory. When you have such great fans, you get them to travel with you. It really is almost like a sports team. It's kind of odd in that regards but there's such a love and you really feel it. It's truly a blessing.
Q: I saw you back in 2010 at DTE when you came through with Pepper and The Offspring and it was a really hot summer here and that day was almost 100 degrees. I was struck by how everyone stuck it out and and were still on their feet at the end of your set. It was kind of amazing. Your fans really have a serious rapport with you.
SA: Right! Yeah we've had some brutal summers out there where it has just been insanely hot. It's like why would you want to come out in this but thank god they do. It's funny because I'll go to a show and I'll see someone and I'll have a great time and there might be 30 minutes left in the set and I'm like, you know what, I'm out! Nothing against the band and I've had a good time but I'm just done. So I get it when I see people heading to the exit. I'm like, I hear you!
Q: Yeah you just never know what you're going to get with an outdoor show.
SA: Yeah and it's like a lot of times you're out somewhere in the boondocks somewhere and it's like we've gotta beat the traffic. People think of all sorts of reasons why you've gotta leave a show early.
Q: Is there still a goal out there for you as a band?
SA: Well I mean you can always say that. I think you have to know that with your career you just have to tour and continue on with what you do. A lot of bands, for example, were amazed that we still had an inspiring record in us. So if you think about things like that and you let time go past and you process that, you might end up agreeing with them. It's like why does this one turn out like that and that one like that? I mean they can't all be slam dunks. You have to go through life and you have to learn and you have to keep growing. I learn about new music almost daily and when I say that I don't mean just new, new music but new to me music as far as older music. I mean you being from Detroit I'm sure you can understand, but I love soul music and that is inspiring to me. So yeah, there is just so much time and it's getting back to the nature of the fact that there's just so much great music out there to digest and to live your life to and be inspired by but there's just not a lot of time. I'm still young but man I wish I could get like ten or twenty more years just because there's that much to experience. It's fun and it really resonates with me and makes me tic and it makes us grow as a band. I love it all. I just want to listen to all the music out there and be inspired by it all.
Q: You grew up in a musical family so it was always around but is there one moment that you can point to as being the moment you decided that this was it for you?
SA: Well when I was growing up I always had a feeling that it was going to be something musical. I just didn't know how or when it was going to happen. Then when we linked up with the band it was like I think this is how it is finally gonna happen. I mean it was just growing up and playing 45's and just sitting in my room. You know, if your folks were fighting it was like who cares, I've got these great records to play. If there was something new out and you went to buy it, you would just play that record over and over. That's what we did when we were growing up and now there's Youtube and I understand that now. It's great. There's all this great music on there. In a lot of ways, it's like flipping through the FM dial when you're flipping through the videos on Youtube and not knowing what to expect but with way more channels. It's a great thing really. It's an evolution of sorts I guess with just advancing technology and a way to be exposed to so much more. It can really blow your mind away.
Q: You guys have toured with a wide, diverse range of bands over the years but if you had to choose someone way out of left field to go out with, who would it be?
SA: I would say it would be someone like Sharon Jones. That would make sense and would be a great fit I think. A great performer and great music. It's someone that our fans would really resonate with. We don't have those types of acts necessarily because in the U.S. a lot of times promoters want to pigeonhole you with other similar sounding acts but when you go to Europe it's just not like that at all. It looks more like your record collection where you have a little bit of this and a little bit of that across the board. I guess in the U.S. you get a little bit of that with the festivals but when it comes to touring it's a little bit different. I don't know why that is because I would be up for seeing whoever I might like that I possibly have in my record collection. You know, maybe there's an old school country act I'd want to see. I saw Willie Nelson on his seventieth birthday a few years ago but had there been someone who opened, like let's say The Roots, I would have been like, yeah that makes sense. I wish it was more like that but I guess we just have to make it like that.
Q: So where do you see 311 going moving forward?
SA: I think just continuing our pace and continuing the trajectory that we've been on and not letting go of that and I think we will. I think going forward we're going to want to make another record starting at the beginning of next year. Maybe even a little sooner. I think going forward we're just going to keep doing what we do and embrace all that comes with it because I know for me, it's just like getting back to time and how it doesn't last forever so you just need to enjoy it and ride it out as much as you can. That's life.