After nearly three decades touring the world, rock group 311 shows no signs of slowing down as it embarks on its 18th consecutive summer tour.
“Mosaic,” the Nebraskan band’s 12th album, debuted on June 23 and will be accompanied by a return to Columbus on June 28, where it will play with New Politics and The Skints.
In advance of its tour, 311’s bassist, Aaron “P-Nut” Wills, sat down with The Lantern to talk about the band’s new album, how it came together and 311’s honorary holiday.
311 will perform at Express Live on June 28.
Q: How would you describe 311’s music?
The first time I heard the Japanese talk about “hybrid music,” –– I credit it to them –– I thought that was a cool way to put it. We’re kind of a hybrid, but so is everything nowadays, so it’s kind of hard to make that stand out in this really diversified world where people are grabbing from every genre, using every instrument, using every trick in the book. It’s pretty cool –– I think we had a little generational help in spreading out that ever-changing web of interests from people, and where music is now so diverse that everything is in this hybrid world, but back in the day when I heard that said the first time, maybe in ‘95 or ‘96, it was profound to me. It doesn’t seem so much anymore, so… I mean, it’s rock and roll. And rock and roll has always been a giant mish-mash of ideas and influences, so that kind of covers the gamut.
Q: How did you get the nickname P-Nut?
I got the nickname P-Nut from my elongated cranium when I was a teenager, rockin’ out and playing the bass.
Q: How long have you been playing music – both with 311 and on your own?
I started playing violin at age seven in elementary school, probably more out of boredom than anything else. I moved over to bass at (age) 11, and I wanted to just play the music that really reflected what I was listening to, and I was listening to a lot of metal and a lot of everything that was on MTV because there wasn’t much. What was on there was so diverse and so different and grabbing from all these different genres, and all this keyboard-heavy stuff, (and) whether I liked it or not, it had a gigantic influence on what I like now.
I met “SA” (vocalist Doug Martinez) (when I was) 12 or 13. My brother’s wife and SA were in the high-school choir together, so he was always around and always super cool, and actually ended up being (drummer) Chad Sexton’s roommate in college, which actually is the link for me through the whole thing. SA said, “You gotta meet this kid,” to Chad. Chad came home from California after (vocalist) Nick Hexum and Chad’s old band Unity fell apart, and he’s like “Do you know a bass player?” And he’s like “Yeah, I know a bass player, but he’s a kid” –– and like 15 (years old) –– and he’s like “I don’t care!” We linked up and started playing together, and then Nick came home from Germany where he was trying to get a band together. We started playing together in ‘89, maybe early ‘90, and had our first show June 10, 1990, opening up for a band from D.C. called Fugazi.
Q: Every year the band celebrates “311 Day” on March 11 as a tradition. How did the tradition start and what was this year’s celebration like?
The fans in 2000, or before 2000, while we were setting up the show in New Orleans, were like, “You guys need to do a special show on 3/11!” They were doing their own gathering independently all over the country, and we figured it was a good idea to have the band play a special show, especially in one of our favorite cities like New Orleans. We play as mixed-up of a setlist as we can, we play songs we’ve never played before — the few that still exist — and we have a ton of fun with it.
Q: What do you think the future of 311 looks like?
We’re just having fun writing. We’ve got the opposite of writer’s block and we can’t help ourselves, so we’re going to be creative as long as we’re breathing air and as long as we’re still having fun. That’s kind of our band’s personality construct, we’re going to have fun no matter what, whether we’re the only ones having fun or there’s 10,000 of us having fun. It’s just enjoyable –– it’s an enjoyable situation to be in, and we love playing live, and we’ll do it if we’re the only audience, so it’s great. You can see it on our faces, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it fun to come to a show.