311 stay on track and keep it fresh 

Morphing into a classic

For those who remember the tumultuous tangle of hybrid bands during the 1990s, it feels strange to adjust a specific tag like "cutting-edge rap-metal" to the more general "classic rock."

While the flash-in-the-pan acts who topped the charts during the heyday of the alt-rock era dissolved and disappeared after doing their respective things, others carried on and pushed into the 2000s. L.A.-based rock/reggae/hip-hop band 311 may be a prime example.

"I'm glad that we're among the bands of our era that are still going strong," says 311 vocalist/turntablist SA Martinez. "It's a testament to everyone's commitment to playing and seeing this project — and, of course, our fan base. It's not a 24/7 thing for us now. As the '90s were going away, we decided to take an extended break, which we'd never done before. You do lose momentum, but you avoid breaking up. You can find a way to recharge and keep going. That's the chief reason why it still works."

Martinez, vocalist/guitarist Nick Hexum, guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton, and bassist P-Nut first came together in Omaha in 1990. They earned success in the '90s with the release of the albums Music and Grassroots and a series of hit singles, including "Down," "Love Song," and "Come Original."

After their hiatus in the 2000s, they regrouped for 2007's Unity Tour with Ziggy Marley. In 2009, 311 assembled in the studio with acclaimed producer Bob Rock and recorded Uplifter.

"We found that we can earn new fans, which is great," says Martinez. "The challenge is to keep what you have going."

There's a mix of some classic 311 moves and new twists on Uplifter. The funky rhythms, amp distortion, and dynamic shifts from rock to reggae sounds on "Hey You" are very familiar. The muscular and lunkheaded "Never Ending Summer" is practically a brand-new fight song. "Two Drops in the Ocean," on the other hand, lilts like a classic soft-rock ballad from the mid-'70s; it's squeaky clean with a few unexpected harmonies enhancing Hexum's nasally croon.

"It's always got to come from the heart, no matter the style," says Martinez. "We've learned that and gone forward making the music that we want to make."


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