UNIVERSAL CITY, California — 311 didn't expect big things from their latest single.
"We knew 'Beyond the Gray Sky' wasn't the most commercial song in the world," singer Nick Hexum said recently. "It doesn't have a lot of repetition. It's dubby and kind of experimental." So why release it?
"We knew that if it helped some people, that'd be more important than the business side of things," Hexum said. "I got a letter that said, 'I'm in drug rehab and ["Beyond the Gray Sky"] is the only thing that gets me through. I don't want to go on [living], but this song lifts me out of total despair.' "
Hexum wrote the atmospheric track after learning that one of his best friends from high school had taken his own life.
"The message is about hanging in there, because you'll be able to see beyond the gray sky," he explained. "It also deals with my feelings of like, 'Should I have known? Should I have tried to help in some way?' It's something people always go through when there's a loss like that. So we're trying to make a positive thing out of it. You just gotta hang
in there, if not for yourself, then for those around you that care about you."
311 are changing gears entirely for their next single, which isn't on Evolver, their seventh and latest studio album (see"New 311 Album Aimed At Old-School Fans, 7-Year-Olds Alike").
The tune is a cover of the Cure's "Love Song" from the new Adam Sandler comedy, "50 First Dates." Sandler, a 311 fan, asked them to contribute an '80s cover with an island vibe, since the movie is set in Hawaii. Hexum also produced some other tracks for the movie, including Jason Mraz's version of Modern English's "I Melt With You," Alien Ant Farm singer Dryden Mitchell's take on the Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" and
Seal's rendition of Echo and the Bunnymen's "Lips Like Sugar."
311 and director Mark Kohr (Green Day's "Good Riddance," 311's "Don't Stay Home") recently shot the "Love Song" video in Orange County, California. Cure drummer Lol Tolhurst even has a cameo in the clip, in which 311 perform in a tiki bar.
Expect the song and video to surface in late January; the soundtrack album is due February 3. "50 First Dates," which co-stars Drew Barrymore, opens February 13.
311, meanwhile, will return to the life they like best — touring. The band headlines a trek beginning February 29 in Anaheim, California."When we play our show, it's like there's nowhere else our fans would rather be," Hexum said, "and there's nowhere else we'd rather be.
Everyone's bouncing together and it's like this sort of oneness. There's no question our career's going well when we're out on tour." The new batch of dates leads up to a special March 11 show. For the second year in a row, 311 will celebrate 3-11 Day in New Orleans, where they played 59 songs last year. "We don't wanna try and out-length ourselves," bassist P-Nut said. "We don't want to die. We have many more years left in us."
"Three hours and 11 minutes is plenty for any band, so we'll probably shoot for that," Hexum added. "We're planning certain songs you've never heard before, like maybe the debut of 'Sometimes Jack Rules the Realm,' the last track on the new album."
311 might also pull out "Love Song" and another cover the band recently learned, the Clash's "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais."
"That's the coolest song ever written. It fits us so well because it's hard driving, then reggae and then melodic," Hexum said. "It talks about being a white guy doing reggae, so it's the perfect Clash song for us to cover."
311 have yet to name an opener for the tour, for which more dates will be announced, but fans can expect something different than in recent months.
"We like to switch it up," Hexum said. "We've gone from hard-rock bands to O.A.R., which is kind of a jam band, to Something Corporate, which is like piano rock. I'd love to have some sort of emo band, like Jimmy Eat World, 'cause our tastes are very diverse and we wanna show our fans new styles. We'd love to have a straight reggae band." After the outing, the band will decide whether to release another single and keep touring or return to their studio, the Hive. "There's definitely singles left on the album, like 'Crack the Code' and 'Give Me a Call,' " Hexum said.
311 tour dates, according to Jive Records:
- 2/29 - Anaheim, CA @ The Grove of Anaheim
- 3/1 - San Diego, CA @ Remac Auditorium
- 3/3 - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues
- 3/4 - Tucson, AZ @ Rialto Theatre
- 3/5 - Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theatre
- 3/6 - Las Cruces, NM @ Pan American Center
- 3/8 - Wichita, KS @ The Cotillion
- 3/9 - Tulsa, OK @ Brady Theater
- 3/11 - New Orleans, LA @ UNO Lakefront Arena