311's Nick Hexum Reveals Even More Details About New Album 'Stereolithic'

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Photo by Dave Nagel/Jena Ardell.
311 knows a thing or two on how to stay connected with their close-knit fan base of 'excitable ones'. The band hosts destination cruises, bi-annual 311 Day extravaganzas (complete with a five-hour show setlist of rarities), and offers numerous opportunities to receive exclusive offers from the band.

We sat down with lead vocalist Nick Hexum in his private studio to discuss Stereolithic, 311's eleventh studio album, and the band's first fully independent release since Omaha Sessions. The new album will unironically be released on 3/11 (311 Day). Here's what he had to say about the new album, his musical inspirations, fans, and fatherhood.

OC Weekly (Jena Ardell): How does Stereolithic compare to previous 311 albums?

Nick Hexum: I think it's been more of a creative flow with this album than our previous album. With Universal Pulse, I think we had eight really good songs, but you can kind of see when you only have eight songs, it's not really as productive of a time. This time, we have 15 songs. "It's just exciting when a band has little creative re-births over and over again. I feel we're in one now. We have a handful of songs that feel very ground-breaking to me and that--to me--is the most exciting; when you're getting into new territory.

What was it like to work with producer Scotch Ralston again?

One thing that's been cool about having Scotch Ralston back is that he has just become so immersed in this album, where he would be at The Hive going through the hard drives and finding old demos that had just not really panned out for whatever reason, and was like, 'You guys have to do this one'! So there's a few dusting off some old--I guess you would call them C-sides; they're not B-sides because they never were finished. They were just something that got started.

From how long ago?

Well, one of them was once known as "Stealing My Girl", which was a Don't Tread on Me outtake. I think that one is the furthest back. Maybe there are a couple others from that era. A couple of them are from Universal Pulse, but they've gotten completely re-worked, so they're only somewhat recognizable from the older versions. Then of course, the majority of the songs on [Stereolithic] are just brand-new ideas.

What makes working with Ralston so different from other producers?

We've had great experiences working with super established hundred-million selling producers like Hugh Padgham and, of course, Bob Rock; but you've got those guys for the month or two that you have hired them and then they're off doing something else. Scotch has been working on nothing but our album for a year solid. He's one of us. He has our similar level of experience; he's our same age; he started in this business as being an assistant [to Eddie Offord] working on [the album] Music. He's a really super talented guy and he's really diplomatic and delightfully eccentric and weird. (Laughs). He's just a funny dude, so he's a lot of fun to have around.

He's like the sixth band member of 311.

Yeah, he really is; more than there's ever been one.

Did you purposely craft the new songs to translate well live, since live shows are what 311 is most known for?

Yeah. I'd say we've shifted to realizing that the core of what we do is playing live. Seven or eight years ago, we were like, 'We're going to tour and when we can make albums, we'll do that; but it's not like living and dying by the album cycle like some bands are forced into who are in a major label system and that also kind of influences how the music is written, and it is intended to be exciting to play live and have big moments.

There's one particular song [on Stereolithic] that goes through a lot of peaks and valleys. There's been a few--what we call--'epics' over the years like "Sometimes Jacks Rule the Realm" and "There's Always an Excuse When You Need One" and there's one ["Friday Afternoon" on Stereolithic] that goes through even crazier peaks and valleys. I'll let you listen to it later, if you turn off the recorder.

SIDE NOTE: The word 'epic' is totally fitting. . .

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