The members of 311 have come a long way from their high school days in Omaha, Nebraska. After moving to Los Angeles, and three albums later, they found mainstream success with a self-titled CD. In 1996, their single "Down" made the top of the modern rock charts and "All Mixed Up" hit number two. In 2004, they returned to the top of the charts with a cover of the Cure's "Love Song."
Since that time, the reggae, rap, rock influenced band has remained a massive live draw with their annual Summer Unity tours and their 311 Day concerts falling on March 11 (or 3/11, get it?!).
Days before 311 bring the 2013 edition of the Summer Unity Tour with Cypress Hill, Pennywise, G. Love & Special Sauce, and Sublime with Rome to Cruzan Amphitheatre, singer and DJ S.A. Martinez cordially spoke with us about Mayer Hawthorne and the "live experience" of his band.
New Times: 311's been throwing their Summer Unity tours since 2003. From Matisyahu to Snoop Dogg you always have an eclectic line-up. What's the process of deciding who will tour with you?
S.A. Martinez: There's no rhyme or reason. Sometimes it falls together nicely. Maybe there's a band on our radar that we've toured with. Maybe they're touring a new record or something. We really lucked out over the years as far as attracting acts to come out with us. This year's no exception. We've been blessed.
Is there a dream line-up of bands you've yet to have on the Unity Tour?
I really like Mayer Hawthorne, he's sort of a retro-soul. I would love to tour with De La Soul. It's been a number of years since we toured with them. Jurassic 5. Gosh, there's so many great acts out there.
Any reaction to Rolling Stone magazine calling your tour one of the summer's best concert bargains?
I think it is. We've got a great bang for the buck. We deliver a high energy show night in and night out. Our set lists are never the same. Not many acts come close to that, and the package we're bringing is tough to beat.
As performers, what do you hope audiences get from your concerts?
We just want people to have a good time. It's really all about that. 311 is about the live experience. Our fans really crave it. We see so many faces that come to multiple shows. There's a hardcore staple that travels around with us, so we're fortunate. I think someone who has never been to a 311 show are in for a treat.
Your tour itinerary has an intense schedule the next month.
Actually, it's the shortest tour we've done in a long time. We're working on a record, so we want to keep it short so we can get back and finish some new songs. We haven't had a record out in a couple years, so instead of our usual two month summer tour this will only be one month.
I must be soft. I saw you were playing in Atlanta on Saturday and West Palm on Sunday, and I thought you guys are tough. Since you brought up the new record what can you tell us about it?
We're working with Scotch Ralston who produced our fourth album (Transistor). I know a lot of our fans have been wanting us to work with him again. It's a good mix of what they love and some new sounds. We're still working on it. When you work on something new, you never know how it's going to go, which turns you might take. Something that starts out sounding not so good in demo form comes out great as a final product and vice versa.
Are you touring any of the new songs that might be on the record?
No. No new material on this run. You know, that's always hard to do especially when you've got to appeal to everybody. The hardcore fans are really open to hearing songs they never hear, but it's a hard trick to pull, because we feel a need to play the songs fans expect to hear. I know how it is because I'm a music lover. When I go to a show, I want to hear my favorite songs, and so as a performer I get it.
What are the great concerts you've seen lately?
Oh man, it's tough having two little ones in the house. I got a three and a half and a one and half year old and we live out in the country, so it makes hearing music really hard. What was the last show? Gosh, I did see Cypress Hill's set last night. Does that count?
They were awesome and so was G. Love. But prior to that, I think I have to go back to December. You know that band Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros? They played in the town where I actually live. A buddy of mine invited me to the show, and they were a really, really great band.
Your band being originally from the landlocked state of Nebraska, how did you guys enjoy your 311 Day cruise from Miami to the Caribbean?
It's incredible. We've done that now for three years. Initially we didn't know what to expect. None of us had been on a cruise before. We love it. We curate the whole event and have a hand in which bands will be on the boat with us. Fans love it and keep requesting us to do another one. But this year we're going to skip it, and maybe bring it back in 2015.
Your annual 311 Day concerts keep getting bigger. Next year, you're playing in New Orleans. Is there a dream location for a 311 Day show?
New Orleans is hard to beat. The fans love that you can pretty much drink anywhere in the city. But if we could do it anywhere else, I'd love Jamaica. That would be great. Have a few guest appearances by legendary dancehall reggae acts. That's a good question.
Thanks. I'm here to help you brainstorm.
311's Unity Tour with Cypress Hill, Sublime With Rome, Pennywise, and G. Love. 5 p.m. Sunday, July 21, at Cruzan Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $14 to $49 plus fees. Call 561-795-8883, or visit cruzanamphitheatre.net.