After eight albums, 15 top 25 hits and 15 years together, 311 has withstood the test of time
If bad luck always strikes in threes, Scott Stapp has 311 to thank for a recent spate of problems. It all started in November, when 311 vocalist/DJ Doug "S.A." Martinez got into a fight with Stapp at a hotel bar in Maryland. The two traded blows after the former Creed frontman reportedly directed inappropriate comments toward Martinez's wife.
311, left, with opener Pepper, at right
» Time: 6 p.m. Saturday
» Place: Waikiki Shell
» Tickets: $38
» Call: 296-1019
"Look at his track record since," Martinez said via phone earlier this month from Alabama. "He's got problems keeping his nose clean."
Stapp has since battled the release of an illicit sex tape and was arrested for allegedly being drunk and disorderly while attempting to board a flight to Hawaii from Los Angeles. Despite the release of "Don't Tread on Me" last August, the tabloid-fodder altercation shone the brightest light on 311 since their single "Love Song" enjoyed mainstream success a year earlier.
"It was our brush with lameness," Martinez said. "People like that -- bands against bands. It's going to turn some heads ... (but) we just had to take care of business that night."
IT'S NOT as though 311 really cares what critics and casual listeners think about them anyway.
With eight studio albums to their credit and a solid fanbase built on years of hard work and perseverance, the band knows there is a demand for their reggae- and funk-infused style of rock.
"We're just going to plug away," Martinez said. "It's always nice to have something that crosses over and appeals to a bigger audience ... but we're not a pop act. Maybe there's some pop elements to what we do at times, but our staying power is our rock magnetism."
The best indicator of that staying power comes from Billboard Magazine's Modern Rock chart, where 311 has ranked among the top 25 more than 15 times since their first major-label album, "Music," was released by Polygram in 1993.
While the singles "Down" and "All Mixed Up" cracked Billboard's Hot 100 in 1996, neither song charted higher than No. 36. "Down" did make it to No. 1 on the Modern Rock chart, however, along with "Love Song" eight years later.
"We're lucky like that," Martinez said. "We've been able to do this for 15 years running, which is a pretty good track record in this day and age."
AFTER TAKING some time off for the holidays, Martinez and bandmates Nick Hexum, Tim Mahoney, Chad Sexton and Aaron "P-Nut" Wills regrouped for "3-11 Day" earlier this month. Another tour is planned for summer.
But come fall, all five plan to go their separate ways for a few months before getting back into the studio next year to start work on a ninth album.
"We've got a lot of great music left to be made," Martinez said. "But we're taking 2006 off completely as far as recording. Everyone wants to explore some other options, and why not? I don't think we should limit ourselves."
Longtime fans shouldn't expect a return to the fusion of hip-hop and rock prevalent in the band's earlier work. Ever since the release of "From Chaos" in 2001, there has been a conscious shift away from an earlier sound that made them popular in their hometown of Omaha, Neb.
"We have nothing but love for our Midwest upbringing," Martinez said. "At the time, we were all into Public Enemy, Urban Dance Squad, the (Red Hot) Chili Peppers ... and we listened to all kinds of reggae.
"From the very beginning, we were trying to juxtapose (genres). I would say it's kind of disappeared from our lives in general. I still cherish a lot of hip-hop, but that's not necessarily going to mean it's going to creep into the music."
Now 36, Martinez understands the need for change in order to maintain a sense of freshness in a highly competitive environment. Just don't suggest that it might be time for the band to hang it up.
"We've seen a lot of bands come and go, but we've also seen a lot stay around that have been doing this longer than us," he said. "Look at U2, REM, Aerosmith -- those are great examples of bands continuing to reinvent themselves. We'll keep doing this until it's not fun anymore."
BACK TO TOP
The Big Island boys are glad to be returning to Hawaii, albeit for just 13 hours
The last time Pepper performed on Oahu, they were here for just one day. That was in 2004, when Big Island boys Bret Bollinger, Kaleo Wassman and Yesod Williams headlined "Band Camp" at the Falls of Clyde. As the opening act for 311 this weekend, they'll be on the rock for about 12 hours before flying back to California.
"('Band Camp') was kind of hectic ... this time it gets even nutser," Wassman said via cell phone while shopping at a Trader Joe's in Southern California last week. "This time ... we fly in at 9:30 (a.m.), play the show at 7:45 (p.m.) and leave that night at 10:30."
THE HIT-AND-RUN approach isn't new for the trio, which played more than 250 shows last year. Their growing success is due to relentless touring after moving to California from the Big Island in 1999.
An affiliation with Volcom led to a spot on the 2001 Warped Tour, followed in 2002 by the release of "Kona Town." In 2004, the band dropped "In with the Old," and continued with its practice of touring relentlessly and building personal relationships with fans around the country.
All that hard work paid off for Pepper in 2005, when Atlantic Records signed them to their first major label deal. After getting back into the studio in November, Wassman expects big things from their next album, due in July.
"You can stay in hiding for only so long before you get restless," he said. "Plus, the fans need a fix."
The new album, tentatively titled "No Shame," will mark a return to the slightly more laid-back sound of "Kona Town."
"'Kona Town' ... pretty much encompassed what we were all about," said Wassman. "We felt that with 'In with the Old,' it brought us to a new level, but not to the level we were hoping to get to.
"It's not that we didn't like the album, it's just that this next one really has to come back to where we started."
ONCE "No Shame" hits store shelves, it's back to the grind. The rest of 2006 will see Pepper back on the road, before they return home in December for the annual Kona Town Music Festival.
After almost seven years of living on the mainland, the guys haven't lost touch with their island roots. Besides the obvious local connotation of "No Shame," the new album will contain skits in pidgin between tracks. Wassman explains that it's hard to take some of the local qualities out of the band, regardless of how long they've been gone.
"Brah, right now ... I'm at Trader Joe's with nothing but haoles around me, and everyone's laughing at my pidgin," he said. "They don't even understand what I'm talking about!"
Pepper is also committed to introducing new bands to their hometown fans, launching Law Records as an independent side project in addition to their major-label aspirations. The Supervillians, a rock group based in Florida, was the first band signed and will release an album later this year.
At 28, Wassman realizes the need to prepare for the future. The plan all along was to move back to the Big Island at some point.
"This job has no longevity," he said. "The only thing we're working for is to get a piece of land back home, and the only way to get land is to have choke money."
Plus, all three members of the band are getting a bit domesticated. While he wouldn't let anything slip, Wassman said it's likely everyone will be married by the end of this year.
As he moved into the checkout line, a cash register beeping away in the background, the excitement in Wassman's voice about coming home was undeniable. Even though it's only for a few short hours, he already has tomorrow's visit completely planned out.
"Soon as I land, my dad's going to meet me and we're going to go surf," he said. "We'll get like an hour and half in the ocean, then we'll get some poke ... and hit the show."