Interview: Nick Hexum of 311 discusses 18th consecutive summer tour, new music

311 is one of those bands that will be around forever, in a good way. The band, who originated in 1990 is set to kick off their 18th consecutive summer tour, will be releasing another new album on June 23 called MOSAIC, and always find a way to keep bringing their fans back for more. Their style, energy and fan base has grown over the years, and clearly they are doing something right. 

AXS sat down with Nick Hexum (singer/guitarist) of the band before they set off for their next tour. Check out the interview below and watch the video for their latest single, "Too Much To Think" above.

AXS: Your 12th studio album will be released this month. How has your style changed and evolved over the years?

Nick Hexum: That’s the biggest challenge when you’re on your 12th album in 2017, is to find new ways to innovate and keep it fresh and also not venture too far. There needs to be familiar elements that people want to hear. If we wrote a country album, people would be super bummed. But, you could have a couple country elements in there, whatever it is so that’s the trick to take the right amount of steps forward.

AXS: What styles of music influenced you on this new album?

NH: For me, I am excited by experimental music, EDM, jam bands, you name it. Our music is creative and going into new territory that I’ll get turned on by. A composer is the sum total of his listening experience, so whatever he listens to is going to come out. For me, the easiest way to keep my writing fresh is to keep listening to new, weird stuff. So, I go back and forth to listening to just brand new music and then I’ll go through a phase of wanting to listen to my high school favorites to be nostalgic.

I like music that has drops to it—high energy, instrumental breaks. There are a lot of times when we will do a build and then it goes into a drop and it’s just musical and it’s just a rock out section. I guess that’s kind of like an EDM thing and so there’s a lot of builds in our music that hasn’t been there before. It’s something where you start quiet and play louder and louder and then we also use some production techniques like you put a filter that only lets the bass through, and as you open up slowly it will let the treble through. It just makes your ears bloom.

AXS: What’s your favorite track on the new album?

NH: I always say that it’s like picking your favorite son or daughter—it’s kind of impossible. I am definitely really proud of the stuff that sounds the newest. “Wildfire,” the song takes the classical influence to a new height, so that’s something I am really proud of. I love “Places that the mind goes” because I found a way to sing in my mix is between your regular voice and your falsetto. So I am kind of going in and out of this new way of singing so I feel good about that, because it feels like a breakthrough. To have songs that totally rip when you’re on your 12th album is such an accomplishment.

AXS: What do you think your fans like better, hearing your classic hits or do they adapt well to the new material?

NH: You know, I think that’s the trick when you’re building a set list each night, there’s a lot of hardcore fans want to hear brand new music because they have seen us so many times. But then there’s new people coming to the shows that will be super bummed if you don’t play “Amber.” So you have to have a nice balance to consider both sides in there.

AXS: Where do you keep finding inspiration to keep creating new music?

NH: I think we just always want to be really honest with what we’re going through. Your life experiences as they change have to come out in your lyrics. It has to be honest, has to be relatable because people can tell if you’re being phony. People in all ways of life seek to relate. That’s why we get into relationships, that’s the root word, relate. We want to feel understood, so that’s why when we listen to music, we hear what someone else is going through. It speaks for us and for me, as a kid, I only felt really understood from certain alternative bands. I love when fans say ,'311 is to me, what the Clash is to you, Nick.' It’s heavy, it’s cool, it’s great to be a part of that family tree of bands that are inspiring a new generation.

AXS: This years tour is your 18th consecutive summer U.S. tour. Is there any show that really stood out to you in the past 18 years?

NH: This is our 18th, but we took the year 1998 off and we had toured five years before that, so we’ve toured for the past 24 out of 25 summers. The event shows are always super special, the 311 Days, and we always try to find ways to top ourselves from the previous 311 Days which is hard, and somehow we have been able to do it, because we do special production and special musical moments. First, we had this huge percussion ensemble, reworking our songs. That was super cool. We had an orchestra, and the last 311 Day we had a huge gospel choir doing these really uplifting tear jerking spiritual versions of our songs. That’s always fun to plan. The cruises are also the most wild, fun party. Everyone is on vacation, and you’re on this boat full of 311 fans that you immediately feel kinship with, so that’s a really special vibe.

AXS: How is the dynamic with the band after all of these years?

NH: It’s a brotherhood. Certain people bicker over certain things. Almost like in a marriage, you have these certain running arguments that maybe it’s better to avoid, and then you get back into it like, ‘I told you last time!’ That happens, but I know we have a special blend of people because I have felt super close to every band member, and I’ve also wanted to ring every one of their necks equally. It’s just a family, so be ready to not get your way.

AXS: What do you still want to accomplish as an artist and as a band?

I think just having another successful summer tour. There are certain bands that blew up bigger than us especially in the late ‘90s especially when grunge rock was super big and they sold 10 times more albums than us, but they’re gone now. So for me, as long as you can do what you love, is more success than how many records you sold. So the proudest thing is how long we’ve been able to do it and have fun, find ways to keep it inspiring.

You can grab select tickets for the 311 summer tour right here on AXS.