By Steve Baltin
SA Martinez and Nick Hexum of 311 perform in Clarkston, Michigan.
Scott Legato/Getty Images
Since their mid-Nineties breakthrough, when songs like "Down" topped the alternative charts, 311 have been a constant presence on the summer tour schedule, becoming almost as ubiquitous in the months of June, July and August as the Dave Matthews Band and classic rock packages.
On their new album, Universal Pulse, the band is embracing their role as ambassadors of summer fun. "We're just making songs that celebrate what people love about us and what we enjoy most – being out touring," 311 lead singer Nick Hexum tells Rolling Stone (from the road of course). "That's the core of what we do."
The band got back to its roots in another way as well, returning to the days of rap/rock for the track "Rock On," which has, not surprisingly, already become a live favorite. "On this one we realized that the heavy rap/rock thing was something we hadn't done in a minute and it was a good time to revisit," Hexum says.
Despite the nod to their rap/rock past and maintaining their busy summer schedule, there are some big differences with 311 these days. As Hexum points out, "People know from our old videos – it was a non-stop party before." But now that three of the six members are fathers, those days are behind them. "I'm definitely excited about my wife and daughter visiting next week," Hexum says.
Hexum has been reading Keith Richards' autobiography, Life – which has been raising some through-provoking questions for him on the role of substances in creativity. "The thing I glean from that, just like everybody says, ‘Wow, he's survived so much,'" Hexum says. "But I don't think all that heroin and coke helps the music. Like, how much greater could he have been without that? There are different schools of thought for that, but I know for me, having a clear head allows me to be the best that I can for the individual shows and being in the studio."
Hexum and his bandmates have had some close calls of their own – and he's grateful to have put that behind them: "I'm just so stoked to be having such a big tour, all original band members, everybody coming through unscathed from all the craziness."