Stability and rock bands are typically mutually exclusive terms. Lineups usually change. Bands such as U2, with no personnel alterations after 40-plus years, are as rare as reclusive Kardashians.
Few lineups in the world of rock are intact after a generation has passed, but that’s so for 311. The eclectic group has had the same lineup since 1992 – before the internet and cellphone era commenced. Only one member of 311, which formed out of Omaha in 1988, has left the band.
“I think that has had an impact on our music,” vocalist-DJ Doug “S.A.” Martinez told me during a 2017 interview. “We know each other as well as possible. We’re good friends. This group is like a pair of jeans that five brothers wear. We’re that tight.”
The quintet’s connection and its sound have enabled 311, who will headline Sunday night at Knitting Factory, to thrive. It’s an unusual sonic mix of pop-rock, funk, reggae, hip-hop and jazz fusion.
“I think it’s a good thing to sound like no one else,” Martinez said. “That’s especially so in this age when everybody sounds like everybody else. It’s not something that we consciously try to do. It’s just something that has always happened.”
The band has never followed trends. “But we had hits even though we followed our instinct,” Martinez said. “It’s so satisfying to have success when you don’t follow what everyone else has done.”
The band’s eponymous 1995 release went triple platinum thanks to the groove-laden singles “Down” and “All Mixed Up.” The band has consistently racked up good commercial numbers. Nearly 9 million 311 albums have been sold to date.
“The fans have stayed loyal,” Martinez said. “It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were an unknown band slugging it out in Omaha.”
311, which also includes vocalist-guitarist Nick Hexum, guitarist Tim Mahoney, bassist P-Nut Wills and drummer Chad Sexton, is on a roll. 2014’s “Stereolithic” features the familiar, fuzzy guitar lines, upbeat raps from Martinez, funky bass and drums. It just lacks the killer single about each 311 album packs.
Nothing hits like the 2011 single “Sunset in July,” which was a summertime anthem. Despite the lack of an overwhelming track, 311 earns points for rendering agreeable, diverse and celebratory tunes.
2017’s “Mosaic” reflects the array of sounds the group uses. The album is primarily comprised of warm, upbeat and provocative songs.
Deep grooves, strong melodies and the dynamic vocal interplay between Martinez and Hexum are among the highlights throughout 311’s latest album, 2019’s “Voyager.”
“We just try to be consistent,” Martinez said
And expect 311 to remain intact. “I think we’ve stayed together for so long because we let each other breathe,” Martinez said. “Time is taken for side projects, and we genuinely enjoy being around each other. If that weren’t so, we all still wouldn’t be with this band.”
If all else fails, just remember that amber is the color of your energy.
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