Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 | 2 a.m.
With its funky, reggae-tinged rock, 311 is the perfect band to play a summer night’s concert at Mandalay Bay Beach, which is happening Friday night. But the five-man group originally from Nebraska is also just a great band to play Vegas, thanks to a deep, broad fan base, a dozen albums worth of material and 27 years of concerts. And they do play Vegas, quite a bit. I recently spoke with frontman Nick Hexum about why 311 fits so well here, how they found their current creative groove and why the band’s fans make all the difference.
How did you forge such a great bond with Las Vegas? Vegas is great for us, both with the local following and the people who like to fly in and make an occasion of partying with us. We’ve had it on the route since ’93. Our first show was at some weird little cowboy bar 24 years ago, it went off and it always just made sense to get back there every year, including the times we’ve done 311 Day [a special concert on March 11] there. It’s just been awesome.
What do you like to do in Vegas? I enjoy some Texas Hold ‘Em but I wouldn’t say I’m particularly great at it. I do okay. It’s always fun. Going to see “The Beatles LOVE” was a really powerful experience for me. I just like taking it all in a few times a year.
In June you released your 12th album, “Mosaic,” which has been very well-received as a collection of a lot of different sounds. Was that the intention? I think the touchstone of the album was that it needed to be different, a step forward in some way, or else we weren’t going to pursue it. [Previous album] “Stereolithic” was a bit more throwback with some riff-rock and rapping, and this time we were ready to forge into the unknown. The way to do that is to pursue the weird ideas—if it’s strange, go for it. We took nearly three and a half years with it and I think we made some big steps into updating our sound and getting into new territory, opening up influences. It felt good. And I think that in mining our foundation, we hit a vein and we’re going to go after it quickly and turn around the next album fast. [Bassist] P-Nut said it best, which is whatever the opposite of writer’s block is, that’s what we’re having now.
The “Mosaic” album cover is a collection of photos from fans, and Billboard recently called 311 one of the biggest cult bands in America. We’ve always enjoyed that [label]. The Grateful Dead is a great example of somebody that does things their own way, that created a culture around themselves. It’s a way of looking at the world, a lifestyle, and we’ve always pursued that. It’s nice for us because we’re not subject to the whims of radio and press the way another band might be. So we encourage that … Our fans call themselves “The Excitable Ones,” which is taken from lyrics many albums ago. It’s really a fun, good-natured, happy cult. It’s an all-inclusive unity thing with no rules.
311 performs at Mandalay Bay Beach on Friday, August 18 at 9 p.m. For more info, visit mandalaybay.com.