Q&A: 311's S.A. Martinez on the Pow Wow Festival, and Universal Pulse

It's not easy to maintain the same energy, verve and passion you started out with when you've been doing something for 20 years. Just ask 311. They've been at it for more than two decades. What was once five starry-eyed kids in Omaha became a platinum-selling, genre-smashing entity. Now, scores of fans faithfully made pilgrimages to partake of their stories live celebrations.

But you certainly wouldn't know it listening to their tenth studio record, Universal Pulse, which just released in July. Both fans and the band seem to agree that the sound on the eight-song album is vintage 311.

County Grind caught up with vocalist/DJ S.A. Martinez before he and bandmates Nick Hexum, Tim Mahoney, Chad Sexton and P-Nut travel to Northern Florida for the much anticipated 311 Pow Wow this weekend.

More in this week's print edition here, but here's a little taste.

County Grind: Universal Pulse just dropped recently. Tell us about it.


When we finished it, I was listening to it nonstop. And it's a short

record, so it goes by quick, which is great, because you want to hear it

again. You don't get lost, you're not skipping ahead, necessarily. I

think the songs get to the point. It's vintage 311. It's got a very

signature 311 sound to it, which I think is definitely resonating with

the fan base. The fans are really responding in a positive way, so I

think that says something. We really kind of put the record together

with that in mind.

And it's something that we might play the whole thing soon too [like the upcoming Transistor performance at Pow Wow].

Yeah, you definitely display some very vintage 311 on there.


And that's something that I think we've been missing, that energy. That

was, I think, a little bit of something that we all had to get on board

with. Not to say that we weren't. Just, is this 311 energy when you're

putting songs together?

There are some deep discussions going on

in the process, and really getting at it, and making sure we're all

feeling it. Because if we're not all feeling it, it's not going to

happen. And I think that's the key to the record. You know, we all felt

this energy, and felt strongly about it to develop it. That's why there

are only eight songs.

You worked with Bob Rock again on this one. How did he influence that?


was a large part of that discussion. And guys like him come in and

they're cool. You're comfortable with him, but he doesn't pull any

punches either. He's going to speak his mind, and let you know how he


So it's good to have that ear in the room, and someone

who can help that process, and help the energy get channeled in the

right way. Because there are times when it can get too tense, and

nothing gets resolved. But he's a very good mediator, and you need that

when five guys who've been together so long are working together.


Hexum has said that the focus of the album is good energy and

happiness, and that's really something that's been at the root of all

your previous albums. We actually talked

a bit about it when you were getting ready to launch Uplifter, and you

told me you thought there was, "a little overcast on the American soul.

And that music made everything seem all right." What are your thoughts

on the present time and place that Universal Pulse is releasing to?


know, very much the same. The thing about living here, in this country,

is the amount of programming that we're all exposed to. And propaganda.

And the media's just so saturated. It's everywhere and you can't turn

it off.

It's great being on the bus with P-Nut, we don't ever

turn the TV on. Which is great [laughs]. We keep ourselves busier

throughout the day. He goes and shoots hoops; I like to ride my bike.

It's great to get away from all that.

And the thing about

music--perhaps the most wonderful thing--is that it takes you away from

all that and opens you up to something else equally beautiful, something

that you're needing. And hopefully Universal Pulse is that for some


311 Pow Wow takes place next Thursday, August 4

through Saturday, August 6 at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park (3076

95th Dr., Live Oak) in Northern Florida. 311 perform two sets Friday and

two more. They're joined by Deftones, Sublime with Rome, G. Love &

Special Sauce and more. Tickets cost $145.

Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind

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Christopher Lopez