For over 20 years, 311 have made their mark on the music scene. With countless live shows all over the world, a catalogue of amazing music, and an uplifting message to come along, they really know how to make a music fan have a good time. I wish I could put an actual number on how many times I have seen them live, but I lost count about 10 shows ago. If you haven’t had the chance, it will be an experience you never forget, leaving with a guaranteed smile on your face.
I recently had the chance to interview 311 bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills about life on the road, their fans, and how things have changed throughout the years. Check it out below!
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. So where are you right now?
Hey Maria, the pleasure is all mine. Believe it or not I am in my car, on my way to go play some pick-up basketball before band practice. Is this the good life or what? Nick [Hexum, vocalist/guitarist] has gotten insanely good these days too; he’s a tough one to beat.
Amazing, I am so jealous of this day right now. The weather is good?
Yeah, it’s perfect, actually. Not too hot right now, so I am all over it. It’s hard work (laughs), if this is making it, I am okay with that!
First off, you guys just celebrated your 26th anniversary as a band, which is insane! And over the years you have remained relevant all of this time. What would you say is the key to success and longevity?
It’s crazy, right? Honestly, I think it’s because we enjoy it so much. We honestly love what we do. If we can stay sane this long doing what we love, it’s well worth it. We’ve always tried to switch things up, keep it fresh and different, while still having fun. I think that’s very important if you want to remain in this business for a long amount of time. It doesn’t feel like work, and that’s key. We have such a strong foundation of support with one another; it’s such a healthy environment on all fronts.
Well that’s great advice, and good to hear! From a fan standpoint, I have seen you countless amounts of times, and the energy gets stronger each and every time. At this point in your careers, with such a long catalogue, how do you choose your setlist night to night?
Honestly, that’s one of the hardest parts (laughs). For me, at least, I try to think of our setlist in the mindset of the biggest diehard 311 fan there is. What I mean by this is, if we throw a song in there that we NEVER play, they’ll remember it like, “Oh man, I can’t believe they are playing this right now!”
On the contrary, you have the 311 fans that expect to hear the “hits,” and of course we want to satisfy those people as well. It gets frustrating, because there is so only so much time for so many songs! I think we’ve done a good job balancing it out and changing it up tour to tour, trying to keep every type of fan satisfied.
That’s a great attitude to have. I personally love when you guys throw in some surprises. So many fans have grown up with you over the years, and I always notice familiar faces in the crowd at your shows. On the contrary, do you guys still notice younger, new fans just getting into your music as well?
Yes actually, lately especially we’ve been noticing it more and more. It’s cool because they may hear a new song or two that they dig, which will then cause them to go listen to some of our older stuff. Also, music listeners are all over the map these days, there is just so much cool stuff to get into. I think it’s great because we are opening the ears of music lovers who may have never even heard of us before. There is a real revolution as of late too for people who enjoy acts that pride themselves on playing their instruments. So the short part to that long answer is YES.
You are returning to the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park on Friday, July 15. New Jersey has always had this insane love for 311, do you love it as much as we love you?
(laughs) ABSOLUTELY. It’s a seesaw, they push us up and we push them up, if that makes sense. We love playing in New Jersey, the energy is always amazing. We can’t wait for this show!
This time around you will be joined by Matisyahu. That’s a great combination, with a strong crossover of fans. Do you guys hand pick who joins you each year?
YES! We do. We handpick from a small list of bands that are willing, and of course capable (available) to tour with us. It’s not like this endless pool of bands all of the time (laughs). But it’s great; we try to keep our shows, The Unity Tour especially, a great time for the crowd. There is a lot of crossover with fan base on this show, and it should be awesome!
Having done so much in your career, is there anywhere in the world you haven’t played yet that is on your bucket list?
Oh yes, so many places. Africa being one of them, absolutely. Russia would be amazing. We really need to get back to Europe, I know we have a solid fan base out there, get them back on the menu because it tastes so good! Any and everywhere, we love our fans!
I am sure they would welcome you with open arms. Once the summer tour is done, what is next?
Working on album number 12! Honestly, this is the longest it’s ever taken us to record an album, but we are taking our time with it. We want it to be meaningful and memorable, so we are perfecting it. We want to have fun with it, and take our musical freedom to the next level. As I said earlier, people are much more open minded to music these days, so we can get very creative and innovative with this one. Soon I promise!
Well thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, and good luck playing basketball vs. Nick. I will see you this summer!
It should be a good day! I will see you in Asbury Park, Maria!
Catch 311 at the Stone Pony Summer Stage on July 15, the Coney Island Amphitheater on July 16, and Festival Pier At Penn’s Landing July 22. For more information, go to 311.com.