This archived article was written by: Nathan Manley
What is 311? It’s not what but who is 311 you should be asking. The fearsome five-some have a style all their own and are defined by no musical genre. An eclectic mix of jazz fusion, rock/rap, reggae, funk and even metal at times creating an unmistakeable sound. They have roots originating in Omaha, Neb. are now based out of Los Angeles and although their style has evolved, they’ve always stayed true to their musical selves.
Like most rock bands it all started in high school and for 311 it began the same way when drummer Chad Sexton met guitarist Tim Mahoney in jazz band. Across town at different schools singer/songwriter Douglas “SA” Martinez met bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills. Knowing both sides Nicholas Hexum introduced everyone forging the group when all members were attending college and the rest as they say is history.
In their first two recorded albums entitled “Music” & “Grassroots,” both are heavily oriented towards blues fusion rock. Songs like “Nix Hex” “My Stoney Baby” and “Lucky” display a heavy influence of 70’s funk guitarists, whereas “8:16 a.m.,” “Taiyed,” “Six,” pay homage to such jazz gurus like John Schofield. All of these songs are coupled with funky walking bass lines and genius syncopated, salsa, and offbeats.
The next three albums were personally coming to age albums for me. Their very rockin’ yet very raw self-titled is home to my all time favorite 311 diddy “Sweet”. The next in line is a long experimental(and almost double album) “Transistor,” takes you on a very unique musical journey. And “Soundsystem” is the album in which personally I believe 311 really came into their own. It encompasses everything about the five-some. Great melodies, unmatched guitar harmonies, soaring solos and just overall great songwriting. As a whole it’s the best album created.
Basically the next three albums “From Chaos,” “Evolver,” and “Don’t Tread On Me,” are just extensions of “Soundsystem,” in terms of quality while still maintaining creativity as the number one priority. But in the next full album “Uplifter,” they acquired an entirely different feel. Produced by longtime friend and producer of Metallica’s work, Bob Rock, helped them move forward once again. The rock songs are heavier, the ballads are deeper, and the reggae songs have more meaning. But the amazing thing is that he draws out 311’s natural energy throughout the entire album.
311 released their tenth album last summer titled “Universal Pulse” and because I might do an extensive review of just this album in the future I don’t wanna go into much detail, but I’ll say that 311 doesn’t let us down and it actually debuted at #7 on Billboards Top 200 list. But take it from me that 311 is an awesome musical group who is diverse in their writing and has developed much depth in their writing style.