Surviving in the music industry is a rare thing. It’s even rarer, no it’s nearly impossible for a band to find both success, and maintain the same line-up for 25 years.
That’s what makes 311 not only an impressive musical outfit, but also one of the most respected and beloved acts in music today. Seeing 311 in concert, especially in the summer months is a musical rite of passage. One has not experienced what a high-energy, leave it all on the stage live show is until they see 311 serenade a massive sold-out outdoor show or an action-packed intimate indoor concert venue.
To commemorate their silver anniversary of amazing live shows, and unforgettable anthems, 311 decided to treat its enormous fans with the 311 ARCHIVE Box Set, an incredible 4-CD collection featuring 81 unreleased songs, demos, b-sides, and alternative versions of some of their most iconic tracks.
We recently spoke with 311’s incredible bass player, Aaron “P-Nut” Wills about the new box set, how the band has evolved over the years, staying together for so long, and much more. Check out the interview with P-Nut below, and read our past interviews with 311’s Nick Hexum, and S.A. Martinez.
It’s crazy to think that the band has been together for almost 30 years. What is it about the dynamic of the group that keeps you guys together and making new music?
We’re still those people, nothing too exciting, but we are those people who picked up those instruments that had that need to say things without word, or put your words with melodies and all that stuff. To still get together, and play together, it’s still so much fun, as well as to write together, tour, and get on stage. It’s all so interesting and motivating, we must have picked the right guys to stick together. It’s too much fun to not keep doing, and when you are thanked for doing what you love doing, then you never stop doing it.
What advice would you give bands juts starting out to stay together, and keep doing what they are doing?
I don’t know, the advice is just to keep yourself sane. The job is to really take care of yourself, put your oxygen mask on first before anyone else. If everyone else is doing that, then you have a good chance at staying together, but at the same time you need to have an audience that sustains all of your whimsical interests and that’s pretty rare. Given the hits we have sang, and how much we have hit the road, it makes sense we still have that audience. At the same time, we are supported by that audience, to keep having fun, and ultimately keep being ourselves. Which is again another great gift the audience has given us to sustain ourselves and the band.
Like I said before, we picked the right people to make us last this long, so I’m not sure how to tell another band to do that. Trust your instincts, maybe picking a better player than your friend, its tough you have to silence everything out. Life happens to people, like pregnancies and jobs, which are all reasons to stop chasing the dream, but we have had enough time to keep chasing that dream and make a career out of it.
Is experimenting with different sounds and styles something you as a band strive for, or is it something that happens organically?
I mean listen to the first 30 seconds of our first album; there was reggae to riff rock, so that is in our core sound base. So we don’t know any better, and we won’t stop digging through multiple influences to try and find a new way to say what we want to say. We keep digging through our minds to find new things, but we don’t feel pressure about it. It’s more about just being ourselves.
When you started to collect the unreleased material for the 311 ARCHIVE box set, what was your first reaction to listening to these demos that were over 20 years old?
I’ve been listening to those demos here and there; I think all of us have as a band, juts every once in a while. You don’t really forget stuff like that, and at the same time it is a total revelation, even if it’s just a few years, much less 20 years, its crazy. It’s a time warp, and its fun to just have that much material lying around and a group of people wanting to hear it. It actually just charted this week on the Billboard charts.
That’s crazy, a box set of unreleased demos and B-sides charting. That’s how you know you have a great fan base!
I know, it is!
Was there a certain song that you kind of wished made it on to one of the albums?
“Firewater,” I think that’s a brilliant song. It had a lot to do with who we were at the time, and to play it again is pretty fun because we aren’t those people anymore.
It feels like you guys are always on a massive tour every year. When you aren’t performing, what are somethings you do for fun while on tour?
I’m playing Diablo 3 before I get home, and then I put on my dad jeans and chase my kids while I get home, which is my favorite thing to do when I am home. On tour I write songs and play games. It’s funny that work is a vacation in the summer when we go on the road. I get to sleep in, not woken up by the kids or putting anyone to sleep. I miss it as much as I take advantage on not having to do it.
What artist are you currently listening to?
I am listening to the Milky Chance album; my wife and I were listening to it on a road trip before the tour began, so it’s kind of been my album of the summer. I’m also listening to The Head and The Heart, the more I listen to those guys I am blown away. I also like the indie, folk rock thing.
So what is the plan for the rest of 2015?
We are writing our 12th album right now, we are four, five, or six songs deep into it. We are working on plans for next year, 311 day, plus the rest of this lovely, lovely tour. Which will end in Omaha, for our 25th anniversary show, where we played our first show, which will be super fun.
311 performs at Borgata Festival Park with SOJA and The Wailers on Sunday July 19th. Click here for tickets.
Al Mannarino is the managing editor for Pop-Break. He is also host of the News Over Brews Podcast, Loot Care Unboxed, Backstage Break, and the producer of Behind the Brews. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History and is currently a Promotions Assistant for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino