At it for a quarter-century, alt-rock-reggae quintet 311 has proved they’re here to stay. Love ’em or hate ’em, the guys have a string of No. 1 hits, toured all over the world, released 11 studio albums, and recently came out with their own line of beer, 311 Amber Ale. And unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two decades-plus, you’ve undoubtedly heard their tunes. Songs like “Amber,” “All Mixed Up” and “Come Original” get consistent radio airplay. The band formed in Omaha, Nebraska in 1990; the current line-up includes Nick Hexum, Doug Martinez, Aaron Wills, Tim Mahoney and Chad Sexton. Folio Weekly caught up with Mahoney, 311’s guitarist, to chat about the group’s longevity, fan base, set lists and, of course, beer. Here’s part of that conversation.
Folio Weekly: At the end of June, you released Archive [on Sony Legacy], a four-CD box set celebrating the band’s 25th anniversary. That sounds like a big undertaking. How did it all come together?
Tim Mahoney: It was a fun project. Our drummer, Chad, did most of the work for us. I mean, everyone was involved, but he really went through the archives and made sure we got everything. There are songs that people haven’t heard and there are the B-sides that have been released, but we wanted to get them all together in one place. The demos, too. Any demos that were interesting — especially for our fans to hear how they’ve changed from the demo stage to when they were on the record. But yeah, it’s nice to have them all together now as far as the random songs that weren’t on the records. It’s kind of like time-traveling listening to them and working on this stuff.
Is it surreal to think that 311 has been together for a quarter of a century?
We’re really just trying to take it all in and appreciate the longevity of it, but at the same time looking to the future. But yeah, damn, it’s like a science project, too, in the sense that five guys have been working on music for that long.
For this current tour, are you playing only songs off the new anniversary albums?
No. We’re trying to get a couple of those in, but we really just try and go through and touch on each record throughout the set and make sure we get some songs in there that were singles. So, if you’ve never seen us before, you have a little something in there. But, for this tour in particular, we’ll touch on some more of those B-Sides.
Have you seen your fan base change a lot over the years?
Yes and no. I mean, I guess there are people that are more like our age and have been listening to us for that long. And then there’s the next generation of younger folks. I don’t know that it changes as much as it just gets added onto a little bit. As we age, our fans age, too. So I still see a lot of the same people, they’re just older.
I saw you guys play almost 20 years ago, when I was 16, at Western Connecticut State University.
Wow. Did you go with your parents?
No. I went with a bunch of friends. We hid a keg in the woods for before the show.
Yeah. That’s a good thing to do.
Speaking of beer, I read that 311 is releasing one. What’s going on with that?
Yes. We debuted it in Vegas with a soft launch of the beer with Rock Brothers [Brewing]. They’re in Tampa. And they came to us — because they work with bands to do beers — so we met with them and said, ‘Yeah. Hey, let’s go forward with making a beer.’ So we went with an Amber Ale just because of our song ‘Amber.’ It’s currently in kegs and they’re partnered up with Nebraska Brewing Company and we’re originally from Omaha, Nebraska, so they’re actually producing it for most of the state. People seem to like it. It’s a slightly bitter ale, but has high drinkability. Hopefully, people like it.