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Good Vibes: History Will Be Kind To 311

In Music
COME ORIGINAL: Who cares what the haters say? 311 are pioneers.

COME ORIGINAL: Who cares what the haters say? 311 are pioneers.

Dave Matthews gets hated on a lot. So does 311—for the rap rock thing, for the often-ridiculous lyrics, for the signature PRS guitars and for those white-dude reggae vibes. Back in 2014, they were listed as one of Rolling Stone’s top 20 “Frattiest Bands” listicle. But what if the Grateful Dead had been around in the age of infinite internet snark? Would they too have made that fateful list? After all, their concerts were as much about partying as they are about the music and they have an obscenely sprawling catalog that rewards an obnoxious kind of super-fandom.

Similarly, 311, who come to San Jose this Wednesday, are touring on the heels of their 12th studio album. That’s in addition to two live albums, seven DVDs and four EPs—plus six compilations and rarities collections. 

And the dudes seem to genuinely still like each other just as much as they did back in the ’90s when they were just a bunch of fresh-faced kids with bleached hair, bowling shirts and baggy jeans.

Maybe it’s the pot.

Tim Mahoney, 311’s guitarist, seems like the ideal stoner dad. He’s the kind of guy for whom weed is a lot like caffeine—just a part of the routine, but not the kind of thing that keeps him glued to the couch taking pulls a honey bear bong.

“I never feel like I have to have the reefer to go write a riff or play music or anything like that,” Mahoney says. “I do really enjoy getting a little lifted and playing music.”

Speaking with the laid-back, inciteful and gregarious Mahoney—and revisiting 311’s catalog, nearly 30 years on from when they first came together in 1988—it starts to feel like all the music critics who have trashed the band over the years might have benefited from a puff of some kind.

At the end of the day, Mahoney and Co. are just a group of dudes making music they think sounds good, drawing upon the myriad influences you would expect a collection of musicians to have. The guys in 311 grew up listening to metal, reggae, ska and hip-hop. It only made sense that they would bring it all together, Mahoney says. 

“I’ve always loved hard rock and punk rock and guitar-driven music,” Mahoney says. “We are all fans of Bob Marley.” 

You can hear it all on tracks like “All Mixed Up,” from the band’s 1995 self-titled full-length. The song begins with a Sublime-esque marriage of SoCal turntable effects, a lively boom-bap shuffle and bouncy bass line, before the track drops into a punchy, overdriven guitar riff and a tongue-twisting dancehall vocal line courtesy of the band’s co-frontman Nick Hexum.

It’s worthwhile to recall that 1995 was a full two years before Limp Bizkit signaled the beginning of the end of the nü-metal craze with Three Dollar Bill, Y’all$, and a full 20 years before Twenty One Pilots exploited a very 311-esque formula to become one of the biggest alternative bands in the world.

The Omaha-born band’s musical melange is on display in 311’s latest single, as well. “Too Much To Think” features airy, ska guitar upstrokes and dubby, tightly wound drum-and-bass interplay, as well as gauzy vocal harmonies, which the band may have first perfected when covering The Cure’s “Love Song” back in 2004—in retrospect, that song is perhaps the best part of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s mid-aughts rom-com, 50 First Dates.

In true musician form, Mahoney isn’t so concerned with what his band has done in the past, but is rather looking perpetually forward. He says he is excited for the band’s latest LP—Mosaic, their 12th.

“I think we did a better job of getting good sounds on there,” he says. “The songs are a bit more exciting—nothing against the old stuff. I enjoy playing music more and more. It’s a gift for me to be able to wake up and work on music.”

311
Aug 16, 8pm, $45+
City National Civic, San Jose

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