Despite relentless touring and near-annual trips to Tampa Bay, it’s still hard to believe that American rock, rap and reggae band 311 has been performing for almost three decades. As the band nears its 30 year anniversary, 48-year-old Nick Hexum, lead singer, rapper and guitarist of 311, believes the band’s magic has only grown stronger.
“We feel like we’ve stumbled on a very special thing, a special lineup of guys and we take care of it,” Hexum said on a phone call with CL. “When you see us live, you can sense that it’s been evolving on and on. There’s just a magic with five guys playing together for that long that can’t be there with a new band. We’re very comfortable being the veterans, the elder statesmen, because the journey continues.”
And what a journey it’s been.
Since it formed in 1990, 311 has maintained a massive grassroots following around the country and globe. While the rap-rock trend of the 1990s and 2000s saw its mainstream appeal come and go, the five-man group — comprised of Chad Sexton, P-Nut, Tim Mahoney, S.A. Martinez and Hexum — continues to be a big selling point everywhere. The group has sold over nine million records in the United States alone, and its last 10 albums showed up in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. Its most recent album, 2017s Mosaic, charted at no. 6. The band even has its own holiday (March 11, known as 311 day) which it celebrates with annual shows to spread a message of unity and positivity.
The group also released Enlarged to Show Detail parts one and two in 1996 and 2001, giving fans a pair of behind-the-scenes documentary films that detail the group’s life on the road and backstage. Now Hexum & Co. are gearing up to release the third installment in the series, which will be the first time the band has a movie release in theaters. This time around, the group hopes to focus on that band-fan relationship that’s helped given it such longevity.
“The first two Enlarged to Show Detail movies were more about backstage shenanigans, humor and excitement, but this new movie is more about the community that’s evolved out of band,” Hexum said. “These people have formed marriages and friendships. There’s just a community around us that didn't exist in the early days of 311. Now it’s something very tangible.”
Hexum said that the new movie will be a much different film than parts one and two were. He says that the clips showcase a new level of gratitude that 311 has yet to have shared.
“It’s emotional,” he said. “I think it’s uplifting and inspiring. You can sense the band’s gratitude. There’s also a lot of talking to fans about what the 311 community has meant to them.”
In this pursuit of a fan focus, 311 tapped into the fanbase to help put the film — debuting on March 11 — together.
“The guys that made it were people that started out as fans, and their own movie making careers evolved simultaneously. They’ve also become close friends of ours, so it really is made by some hardcore 311 fans with the band’s involvement. We’re not a band where it’s the band and the fans are separate. It’s a community, an exchange of vibes. We’ve always tried to be one with our fanbase and this movie really represents that.”
Prior to celebrating the third film release, the group will spend the beginning of March in Florida, which Hexum calls “a home away from home.” Since 2011, the annual 311 Caribbean Cruise has launched out of Tampa Bay, and the group is set to embark on its sixth sold-out venture on March 1. Several years back ,the band’s roots in Tampa went even deeper when its long-time interest in craft beer evolved into a partnership with Ybor’s Rock Brothers Brewery. The venture birthed three different 311-branded beers: 311 Amber Ale, 311 Beautiful Disaster Imperial IPA and the brand new I’ll Be Here Awhile Honey Apricot Ale.
“We’d been wanting to make a beer for awhile, but we had just never found the right people to do it with. Then the Rock Brothers and Cigar City contacted us and it just seemed like a really good fit with people that understood what we were trying to do,” Hexum said. “So we formed a good friendship and working relationship with them. I think it was just also a good coincidence that the cruise launches out of Tampa.”
As if it weren’t busy enough, 311 has also been working in the studio on a new album, due this summer. With this new project, the band hopes to build off the new, modern sound it discovered on the last LP.
“I think on Mosaic we kind of kicked open a new door for us to new styles, new dynamics and some more modern elements with builds and drops and things that feel a little more current. It’s a very eclectic album because we’ve taken the modern side and taken that a lot further,” Hexum explained. While the group continues to work on modernizing its sound, one thing that remains is the music’s message of positivity — something that has always been present in the 311 catalog and mindset.
“I think there’s a positive message that really just resonates with certain people. We’re kind of like the band that they’ve been waiting for or looking for. When they discover us it's like this whole world of kindred spirits,” Hexum said.
“Music has always, at its core, been a uniting force in this world, so we really just focus on what music can be, which is something that brings people together and to share the human experience. People want to relate and that’s why we seek relationships. We put ourselves in our music and that’s, I guess, the magic.”
If you didn’t grab tickets for the sold-out 311 Caribbean Cruise, you can still see the band when it hits the road this summer on a soon-to-be-announced tour that Hexum promises to be “good summer party music.” Celebrate 311 day this year and head to the movies to catch ‘Enlarged to Show Detail 3’ at select Tampa locations. More information is available via 311incinemas.com.