311 (pronounced three eleven) is an American rock band from Omaha, Nebraska, formed in 1988. Their musical structure incorporates a variety of musical styles including alternative rock, hip hop, ska, reggae, and funk. Since their self-titled album in 1995, all but one of their albums (the exception being Live) have been in the top 15 of the Billboard 200. Six of their songs have been top 5 hits on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart.
In 1990, Nick Hexum started his own small record company, called What Have You Records, for the purpose of releasing 311 albums. Their first release, Dammit!, was released that year on consignment in record stores throughout Omaha. After the departure of Jim Watson, the remaining members asked their friend Tim Mahoney to take over.
In 1991, 311 released their second independent release, Unity,(recorded at Rainbow Recording Studios ,Omaha) which was released with far greater numbers. While Dammit! only printed 300 cassettes, Unity had 1000 CDs and 500 cassettes printed and was distributed through consignment and also sold at shows. The band began to headline shows in local clubs, such as The Ranch Bowl and Sokol Auditorium, and became a local success.
1992 was a big year for 311. S. A. Martinez, who had been making various appearances with 311 over the past years as a vocalist, had officially been asked to join the band as well as Mark Simkhayev, former bassist of Time Machine. The newly formed 311 recorded a six-track demo, called Hydroponic, and moved to Los Angeles. Within their first few months, 311 was signed to Capricorn Records.
311 considers their first show to be held on June 10, 1990, opening for Fugazi in Omaha, NE at the Sokol Auditorium.
Their first major record, Music was released in 1993. The single "Do You Right" received airplay on modern rock stations and reached #27 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. However, the album failed to chart at the time.
The lack of album sales came at a cost; Capricorn pulled its tour support right after the release of the first album so the band responded by financing their own tour. The band drove around in an old recreational vehicle borrowed from Chad's father, and towed a Volkswagen bus which held their equipment. After tackling a steep incline while en route to an Omaha show, the RV caught fire. The only door out of the vehicle was surrounded by flames so the band jumped through the fire. All of their equipment and possessions were lost, though no one was injured and the band continued their tour using borrowed equipment. The incident is referenced in various songs, including Omaha Stylee, with the lyrics:
When one girl dreamt a fire in hers and then it happened
To me and my family my bro's and I were driving"
The RV bleeding flames us leaping through fire surviving
Zoned with no home there was fire all on it
Umm let me have my life I want it
The following year, they released their second studio album, Grassroots. Although none of the singles charted, the album reached #8 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart and #193 on the Billboard 200, and tracks from Grassroots began popping up on college charts nation wide. It was during this time that 311's loyal fan base began to take form.
Mainstream breakthrough (1995?2001)
In 1995, 311 released what was to be their biggest selling CD, the self-titled 311 (also known as The Blue Album). Produced by Ron St. Germain, the album was recorded live in contrast to their previous two albums in which all instruments were recorded separately. The first single "Don't Stay Home" was a modest success, reaching #29 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart but struggled with the older folks. But the follow-up single "Down," which was released 14 months after the album, received heavy airplay on mainstream radio and the accompanying music video was on MTV's rotation. The song hit #1 on the Modern Rock chart. The band made their Network Television debut on Late Night with Conan O'Brien on August 23. The third single, "All Mixed Up", enjoyed almost identical success, reaching #4 on the Modern Rock chart. These singles propelled the album to platinum status in 1996. The album eventually went triple-platinum. They also appeared on David Letterman playing "Down".
In the following years, 311 continued touring and on August 5 1997 they released Transistor which debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200, their highest position on that chart. While featuring popular tracks like "Beautiful Disaster", "Transistor ", and "Prisoner," the album also dealt with more weighty subject matter such as world affairs ("Borders"), spirituality ("Inner Light Spectrum"), and mysticism ("The Continuous Life"). Although not garnering as much fame as some of 311's previous output, the album quickly went platinum.
In 1999, 311 released their fifth major album, Soundsystem. "Come Original" was the album's first single and had success on radio and MTV. The song reached #6 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. The video was heavily requested on MTV's TRL, and was #60 on TRL's Top 99 of '99. The second single, "Flowing," had American Pie's Eddie Kaye Thomas featured in the music video.
The success of these albums helped the band's first two major albums, Music and Grassroots, reach certified gold status.
Starting in 2000 the band began celebrating "their holiday" of 311 Day, held on (3/11). Every other year the band and thousands of their most loyal fans gather to New Orleans and celebrate with an extended concert put on by 311. In 2000 they played 47 songs and in 2002 59 songs were played. In 2004 311 played 68 songs in 5 hours, and later that year a DVD was released of 311 Day 2004, containing 64 of the 68 songs. 311 Day in 2006 was held at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. The band played 65 songs, the setlist was cut short from 69, because of a strict curfew of midnight. The band recorded the entire show in high definition. A 2 hour edit of the show aired on HDTV on . 311 day in 2008 was held in the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana. They played 63 songs total, over three separated sets.
In 1995, the band purchased a communal living space/recording studio in North Hollywood, California called The Hive. The band has recorded every album at The Hive since 2000, beginning with the sessions for From Chaos, 311's sixth major record release.
From Chaos was released in late 2001 and debuted at #10 on the Billboard 200. Its first single, "You Wouldn't Believe" featured basketball star Shaquille O'Neal in the video and had a solid run of success on MTV. The album is also known for its third single, "Amber", an ethereal love song with surf guitar and the group's signature reggae-flavored sound.
Evolver / Don't Tread On Me Years (2003?2006)
Their seventh major release, Evolver (Produced By Ron Saint Germain), came in 2003 and marked a return to the straightforward guitar-heavy sound that the band had become known for. Overall opinions of the album were mixed. Evolver debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200, and the single "Creatures (For A While)" reached #3 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart.
In 2004, 311 covered the Cure's "Love Song" which became a #1 hit on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also reached #59 on the Hot 100, their first single to reach that chart. It was featured on the soundtrack for the motion picture 50 First Dates and then a few months later on their own Greatest Hits '93-'03. The compilation debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold. The album also featured two new songs. "How Do You Feel" and "First Straw". Of these new tracks, "First Straw", was released as a single and reached #14 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
On , 2005, 311 released their eighth studio album, titled Don't Tread on Me. "Don't Tread On Me", the first single, reached #2 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart and #1 at R&R. The next two singles, "Speak Easy" and "Frolic Room", did not receive the same success as the first, neither of which made it past #20 on the Modern Rock Charts.
Neither of their newest studio albums, excluding Greatest Hits, have received an RIAA certification yet.
On , 2006, 311 kicked off their Summer Unity Tour, playing 37 shows in 27 states and featuring opening bands Pepper and the legendary Wailers. Though their album sales have declined in recent years, the band continued to attract record crowds to their shows. Over 18,500 people came to see the band in Atlanta, their largest audience ever. Other cities with high turnouts included New Jersey (17,210 people), Boston (15,276), Washington DC (13,812), Omaha (13,467), Kansas City (11,156), and Colorado (10,000).
After completion of the tour, 311 announced they would be taking a break, their first official one in over eight years.
In January 2007, 311 stepped back into their Hive Studios with Nick's younger brother Zack Hexum. They recorded a cover of Toots & the Maytals song "Reggae Got Soul" for the soundtrack from the film Surf's Up, which was released on , 2007.
Their Summer Unity Tour in 2007 included supporting acts Matisyahu and The Dirty Heads.
Their Summer Unity Tour in 2008 featured opening acts Snoop Dogg and Fiction Plane.
311 toured with The Expendables and Ziggy Marley for the 2009 Unity Tour Uplifter, 311's ninth studio album was released on June 2, 2009 and was produced by Bob Rock. The CD/DVD combo includes 14 songs (12 w/ the Standard edition plus two extra tracks)and an 83 min video of the "Road to 311 Day 2008," a behind-the-scenes look at the band's celebrated day: March 11. There are also two exclusive tracks from Amazon and iTunes, so 16 total new songs. The album was produced at the Hive Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA, currently owned by 311. When asked how the new album fits in with the older releases, Nick Hexum (lead singer) said, 'It?s a similar feeling among the band members to the one we had after recording Music and the Blue album.' And according to SA Martinez, the band's Vocalist/Turntablist 'We?ve just finished what is perhaps our finest album yet.' The band recently released a video on their official YouTube page featuring Bob Rock and the band recording a track using Guitar Hero World Tour. The video features clips from Uplifter's first single titled "Hey You" which was released April 7. To premiere the new single, Nick called the Manno Brothers on Q101 in Chicago and revealed "With Bob Rock producing, this is the heaviest 311 has ever been. He has helped us step up every different side of it."
Nick "White Pants" Hexum - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Programming (1989 - present)
Doug "SA" Martinez - Vocals, Turntables, DJ (1992 - present)
Tim Mahoney - Lead Guitar (1991 - present)
Aaron "P-Nut" Wills - Bass guitar (1989 - present)
Chad Sexton - Drums, Programming, Percussion (1989 - present)
Ward Bones - Guest keyboards on the version of "Fuck the Bullshit" on Dammit!.
Black Chiney - Back-up vocals on "Creatures (For Awhile)" and vocals on "Are You Ready" Stage Intro
Daddy Freddy - Back-up vocals on "Nix Hex"
Robert Greenridge - Steel Drums on the song "Speak Easy"
Zack Hexum - Nick's younger brother, plays saxophone in "Outside" a 311 B-Side. He also plays the horns on 311's cover of the Toots & the Maytals song "Reggae Got Soul", recorded for the Surf's Up movie soundtrack.
Marcus Watkins - Guest guitar on the version of "Fat Chance" on Dammit!.
Eric "Bobo" Correa - Guest percussionist on "Running", "Strangers" and "Stealing Happy Hours" on Transistor.
Shaquille O'Neal - On Enlarged to Show Detail 2, Shaq made an appearance with 311 at the 2001 KROQ Weenie Roast, performing his song entitled "Psycho".