311 (pronounced "three eleven") is a band from Omaha, Nebraska. Their musical structure incorporates a variety of musical styles including hip hop, alternative rock, punk, reggae, metal, and funk. Since their self-titled album in 1995, all but one of their albums (the exception being Live) have been in the top 15 of the Billboard 200. Nineteen of their singles have received significant radio airplay since Do You Right in 1993; five of those songs being top 3 hits on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Early 311 (1989–1994)
In 1990 and 1991, 311 released three records on their own independent record label, What Have You Records. These records, titled Dammit, Hydroponic, and Unity, and alongside their energetic live shows, launched their career in the Midwest, after which they moved out to California in an attempt to be signed onto a major record label.
Their first major CD, Music was released in 1993. The single Do You Right received airplay on modern rock stations and reached #27 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. But the album failed to chart at the time. The following year, they released their second album, Grassroots. Although none of the singles charted, the album reached #8 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart and #193 on the Billboard 200.
Mainstream breakthrough (1995–2000)
In 1995, 311 released what was to be their biggest selling CD, the self-titled 311 (also known as The Blue Album). The first single Don’t Stay Home was a modest success, reaching #29 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. But the follow-up single Down was a major success receiving heavy airplay on mainstream radio and the accompanying music video was on MTV’s rotation. The song hit #1 on the Modern Rock chart. The third single, All Mixed Up, enjoyed almost identical success, reaching #4 on the Modern Rock chart. The singles propelled the album to platinum status in 1996. The album eventually went triple-platinum.
In the following years, 311 kept their mainstream success going strong. 1997’s Transistor debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200. Transistor is known as a fan-favorite throughout the 311 community, and sports popular tracks such as Beautiful Disaster, Transistor, and Prisoner. All three enjoyed solid success on radio and MTV, though not as much as their previous singles. The album very quickly went platinum.
In 1999, 311 released their fifth major album, Soundsystem. Come Original was the album’s first single and had huge success on radio and MTV. The song reached #6 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. The video was heavily requested on MTV’s TRL, and was #60 on TRL’s Top 99 of ’99. The second single, Flowing, had American Pie’s Eddie Kaye Thomas featured in the music video.
Later albums (2001—present)
In 1995, the band purchased a communal living space/recording studio in North Hollywood, California called The Hive. The band has recorded every album at The Hive since 2000, beginning with the sessions for From Chaos, 311’s sixth major record release.
From Chaos was released in late 2001 and debuted at #10 on the Billboard 200. You Wouldn’t Believe featured basketball star Shaquille O’Neal in the video. It had solid success on MTV. The album is mostly known for the third single, Amber. The song reached out to a new crowd, different from the usual fanbase. The band also played tribute to another band with the song I’ll Be Here Awhile, by lifting several lines from the 77s‘ 1987 The Lust, The Flesh, The Eyes and The Pride of Life.
Their seventh major release, 2003’s Evolver, was a very different album for 311, and fans’ overall opinions of the album were mixed. Despite debuting at #7 on the Billboard 200, the album became their first major studio release not to reach gold status. The single Creatures (For A While) reached #3 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart.
In 2004, 311 covered Love Song which became a #1 hit on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also reached #59 on the Hot 100, their first single to reach that chart. It was featured on the soundtrack for the motion picture 50 First Dates and then a few months later on their own Greatest Hits ’93-’03. The compilation debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold. The album also featured two new songs. One of these new tracks, First Straw, was released as a single and reached #14 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Also that year, 311 played a 68-song setlist during their concert on "311 Day", which the band has held in New Orleans every other year since 2000. "311 Day" occurs on March 11, also written as 3/11. The most recent 311 Day, in 2006, was held at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, due to the destruction from Hurricane Katrina. The band recorded the entire show in high definition. A pay-per-view version is in the works, along with another 311 Day DVD.
On August 16, 2005, 311 released their eighth studio album, titled Don’t Tread On Me. Don’t Tread on Me, the first single, reached #2 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart and #1 at R&R. The video achieved massive success on MTV, Fuse TV, and VH1. The next single was titled Speak Easy, with a hook similar to such hits as Amber and Love Song. Despite the song’s success, the album has not reached gold status. On June 13, 2006 the third single, Frolic Room, hit radio.
In 2008, 311 ventured on a Spring Tour, highlighted by an epic 3-11 Day show in New Orleans; the show was sold out (14,000 tickets) at New Orleans Arena, selling tickets to fans across all 50 states and 12 other countries! 311 put on a legendary performance of 63 songs with fans on their feet and cheering for more after 5 hours straight!
In May of 2008, 311 entered the studio with esteemed producer, Bob Rock (Metallica, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, The Cult, etc) to begin work on the band’s ninth studio album (planned for release in May 2009). The band will did the recording in two parts; first part before the 2008 summer tour, and the second part after the summer tour. Snoop Dogg was the support on the tour.
Aside from their currently released albums, the band has created three well documented videos (Enlarged to Show Detail, Enlarged to Show Detail 2, and 311 Day: Live in New Orleans) of their touring, friendship, positive messages, and of course, music.
All five members grew up in Omaha in the 1970s.
* Nicholas Lofton Hexum – Rhythm Guitar, Lead and Harmony Vocals, Programming
* Timothy Jerome Mahoney – Lead Guitar
* Aaron Charles ‘P-Nut’ Wills – Bass Guitar
* Chad Ronald Sexton – Drums, Programming
* Douglas Vincent ‘SA’ Martinez – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Turntables, percussion
Claims of racism
In 1997, a rumor started that the band’s name was a reference to the Ku Klux Klan because K is the 11th letter of the alphabet. It was also rumored that Nick Hexum was a member of The National Front, which is a white supremacy group.
The name actually came from a skinny dipping incident when the bassist P-Nut was charged with indecent exposure by the Omaha Police Department and escorted home handcuffed and naked. The police code which appeared on the citation was "311". Nick Hexum has said:
After the humor of the name wore off, we still kept it because we liked that it was just abstract and that it did not define us in any way. The name did not describe our sound or our politics, it just let the music speak for itself.
Of the racist institutions, simple minds belong;
Not happy being human, no wish to get along.
Little people need exclusions; sucker groups to throng.
It makes them feel special; it makes them feel strong.
In response to the rumors, Nick Hexum began to write a song for the 1997 release Transistor titled "Fuck the KKK". After thinking about the title a little more, he revised it and ended up with Electricity, the sixth track on the album.
First two lines from Electricity:
This song started as a rant against haters
But that’d be giving into the instigators
A call out for unity
In every province and city.
What do you think we’ve been saying
Since we first started playing?
(These last lines can be seen as a reference to the early 311 song Unity.)
It should also be noted that singer Doug "SA" Martinez is of Latino heritage.
311 vs. Scott Stapp
While taking Thanksgiving Day off on their Fall 2005 tour, Martinez and Sexton were involved in a lounge brawl with former Creed lead singer Scott Stapp in the Harbor Court Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. Martinez told MTV:
He was acting out of control, looking for attention and being loud and obnoxious. He walked up to the bar, took a shot of whiskey and then slammed the shot glass down on the bar, and it shattered everywhere.
He said some disrespectful things towards my wife and I asked him what he said, and then Chad came over and said, "Don’t talk to her that way," and Scott got up and Chad followed him. After a while he went back to the bar and was looking for attention. And then a few minutes later, he came back to the table where my wife was, sat down across from us and wanted attention, he started the fight, then the police arrived, escorted Scott to his room and then told him to get out of the hotel.
A spokesperson for Stapp did not return MTV News’ requests for comment on the altercation, and according to the Baltimore Police Department, no charges have been filed.
The melee left Martinez with a fractured knuckle on his right hand, which he fitted with a soft cast the following day. P-Nut reopened a surgery scar in the fight, though Martinez is not exactly sure how that happened. In keeping with 311’s always positive, optimistic vibes, Martinez was just happy that the Los Angeles Lakers won that night.
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