Phoenix was one of the first cities that really clicked with the band’s vibe, frontman and guitarist Nick Hexum says. So 30 years into their career, the multiplatinum rockers — who have sold more than 9 million albums in the U.S. — will return to the Valley for a one-off New Year’s Eve concert at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
And they’re going back to their musical roots, too, as Hexum, singer and DJ S.A. Martinez, drummer Chad Sexton, bassist P-Nut, and guitarist Tim Mahoney re-embrace the band’s Jamaican influences on 311’s new album, MOSAIC.
Phoenix New Times talked with Hexum about playing in Arizona, EDM family dance parties, and MOSAIC. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Phoenix New Times: Tell me about the one-off show this New Year’s.
Nick Hexum: We haven’t done a New Year’s show in a really long time. The last one I remember is 2000, when we played The Forum with the Chili Peppers, which was so cool to have a band we looked up to so much, to bring in the millennium like that.
You guys always do a great job of really connecting with the fans. Do you have any favorite cities that you really like to hit on tour?
Man, I’ve gotten to know the vibe of every city, and I always make a point of getting out and going for walks and taking it in … But cities like Atlanta and Phoenix were a couple of the first ones that clicked with us, so there’s always a special vibe being there.
What do you mean by one of the first ones that clicked with you?
I remember doing a radio show in Phoenix where there was this massive pit, and it was our first time to the city, and we were like, “Well okay! There’s something going on here.” And it’s been great ever since.
If this album is a snapshot of 311’s place in time right now, where would you say the band is at?
The album is the best representation of that ... but it also shows a step of creativity, a bigger step than we’ve been taking lately. More innovation, more open-mindedness when it came to production, vocal style, groove style … we really let our creativity run wild. I think that’s why people have been reacting the way that they have been to it. It’s been a nice shot in the arm to have that type of excitement.
311 came up in a time when grunge was really big, yet you guys pulled influences from bands all over the country. What are your thoughts on today’s popular music?
I think people can easily say, “Back then is when all the good music was being made.” But I think that is more the perception of a person at a certain age. The things people like in high school always have a special place for you, because your mind is so open and the music is able to make that imprint, and it totally blows your mind! But I think there’s music being made throughout of all modern history. And you just gotta look. Just give it a chance and be open-minded. I’m all over the place. I have three daughters, so we listen to pop music and EDM and have family dance parties. I still love the classics, but I just believe there’s plenty of stuff to love in modern music.
311 are scheduled to perform at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Sunday, December 31. Tickets are $65 to $125, via luckymanonline.com.