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Interview:
311 makes its own declaration of independence
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

Frontman Nick Hexum says that 311 was "pretty non-calculating" about its new album, "Stereolithic" -- despite some attempts to the contrary.

"I recall our manager trying to sit us down and say, 'Let's talk about how we want the music to sound and how we want to do it' and stuff," says Hexum, 44, who co-founded the rock, reggae and rap-blending group during 1988 in Omaha, Neb. "I remember Chad (Sexton) shutting him down; 'That'll work itself out. We don't need to get in there and try to force anything. All we need to do is get in a room and try to put some stuff down and it'll take care of itself.'

"That can be the frustrating part of it," Hexum adds. "People get too introspective about how other people are going to react. Right now we try to just worry about what we like rather than trying to put us in the shoes of somebody else -- 'Are they gonna like it or not?' We figure, 'Let's just do what we like and trust ourselves.' "

311, of course, has a track record to defend that philosophy -- 13 studio albums that include 1995's multi-platinum "311" and 1997's platinum "Transistor," as well as four more certified gold titles and alt.rock hits such as "Down," "All Mixed Up," "Come Original," "Don't Read on Me," "Hey You" and a cover of the Cure's "Love Song." "Stereolithic," meanwhile, debuted at No. 1 on the Alternative Rock Albums chart after its March release, and No. 6 on the Billboard 200.

But the stakes were a little different this time out. After recording for national labels since 1993, the quintet bowed out of that world following 2011's "Universal Pulse," firing up its own 311 Records to release "Stereolithic." It's a big move that Hexum says connects the band more to its business operation -- but with a greater and welcome degree of control it didn't have before.

"It's very empowering, but you're also like, 'Oh, man, now we can't blame the label if anything goes wrong,' " Hexum explains with a laugh. "But we had a really great first few weeks 'cause we were responsible for our own promotion and making the videos and the teasers everybody shared on social media to get our fans really excited. There was a level of anticipation that was the best we've had, and that was because the band members realized it was up to us, strategically, to kind of hype people on what's coming and everything."

For "Stereolythic" the group also brought back studio collaborator Scott Ralston for the first time since 1999's "Soundsystem" -- this time in the role as full-fledged producer.

"When we worked with Scott early on he was just responsible for recording us," Hexum says. "Now he's in there as a collaborating songwriter, which is a way we've never worked with him before. He has a lot of creativity about him, and he's lived with 311 for so long he can imagine a 311 song that never was and help us get there, which is pretty cool."

311 is bringing in others to be part of the group's universe, particularly in the areas of radio promotion and marketing. Ultimately, he says, the band is happy having more control but really wants to focus on making music rather than micro-managing the business side.

"We like having the responsibility," he says, "but we just kind of stay up to bat and keep controlling what we can control, which is making great albums and playing great shows. That's what we do best."

311 and the Wailers

6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 6

Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights

Tickets are $49.50 and $39.50 pavilion, $26 lawn.

Call (586) 268-5100 or visit www.freedomhill.net


Web Site: www.freedomhill.net

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