Nick Hexum, co-lead vocalist and guitarist for the Omaha-bred rock-reggae-rap-funk band, says a break is likely next.
The band has been running with its original lineup since forming in 1990, and they’ve never taken a break. But he said this seems like a good time for it.
Hexum and I caught up on the Pops and Hisses podcast to talk about their fall tour, the full album shows they’re playing this fall and then dove into the band’s future plans. There may be a break coming up for the band in the future, so listen to the entire episode or read the Q&A below for the skinny on what’s going down.
Nick Hexum: Did you see when my dad came out at the very end and got a hug from me?
No, I didn’t. But you played Large In the Margin for him, which I thought was really cool.
Nick Hexum: Yes, he loves that song. And it’s just really nice. It’s a real homecoming vibe when we when we play home.
How’s the tour going? What’s happening on this fall tour?
Nick Hexum: It’s like a five-week tour. And then some weekend shows where we’ll go and play albums in their entirety like Chicago. That’ll be really fun. Then winter off, and then a cruise.
I think that having breaks in there is is a good idea. But, you know, I don’t want to miss all these awesome moments with the kids. So it was nice to have a summer at home. It’s like a big long snow day where like, OK, man, we got to figure out what to do. Let’s, you know, do some different projects. We did a lot of fun stuff during that time cooking. And I built the thing called the inspiration station, which is like a gazebo out in in nature. I go and write music.
After the cruise, what might be beyond that?
Nick Hexum: P-Nut has said that he — and I totally understand — wants to take a bit of a break just to, you know, spend a little bit more time on family. And it’s a healthy thing to have some breaks. So I think it’d be good just to take a bit of a breather.
Every band takes breaks, and does stuff like that. It’s healthy, it’s good.
Nick Hexum: I think, if anything, we might not have had had enough breaks in there. I mean, we love what we do. But, you know, it is important to have a nice work-life balance. I think just having little space and to do some side projects it’s important.
I’ve been working on this sort of a tech startup idea to create like a network where artists can get the services that they need, without getting ripped off. And having, you know, doing things like some record deals have traditionally been very unfair. I mean, a lot of times, the record company isn’t even committed to making an album, much less putting it out or promoting it in any way. Basically, they have all the control and the artists has none. So I think that there’s some definitely opportunities in the modern tech world to get artists do the services that they need without having to totally give away their music. I saw an article that you have to stream millions and millions of streams on Spotify to even make like a minimum wage type salary. So there’s some things that need to be corrected. So I’ve been working in talking to some people about to have this sort of like, a marketplace and network, that artists can get stuff that they need.
Would you maybe be doing some other music?
Nick Hexum: I’ve got a lot of songs. I’ve got my Twitch streaming thing. I could just sort of create music and put it out very low key. I could have a quintet. A lot of different options.
But that’s sort of like the next thing that I I want to figure out, and that ties into the whole, tech thing that I was talking about, right? What is what is the smartest way to put on music now? Making CDs is not the way, but what do you put out?
I’ve heard of artists that go on Patreon and have a subscription do a song a week. That would really open the floodgates. What would that do for my creativity? That would be definitely interesting. But there’s so lots of stuff to figure out.
I don’t know that anybody has the solution. But the more you can figure out workable models, the better.
Nick Hexum: I definitely enjoyed doing some collaborations, like doing the vaporwave stuff with George Clanton was a lot of fun, because I would just create these sort of stony psychedelic ideas. It was super effortless. And then you know, I’ve also done a vocal with Tropidelic, who’s out on tour with us right now. And I think some something for HR from Bad Brains, he’s doing a reggae album, and I sang a vocal for him. As I get older, I like to collaborate more and more. As time goes on, it’s like, let’s jam together, man. Let’s have a conversation. Let’s let’s have improv back and forth and see where it leads.
It’s happened outside of 311 and inside of 311 where we would come up with things together more than we did in the past. And I just think every time I collaborate with a new person, I’m learning new tricks.
Introducing a new element of a new person can create some new ways to play off each other.
Nick Hexum: You know, routine can be a trap. And you have to really try and break that.
I’m looking forward to seeing what next year holds. And I’m just really enjoying being on the road right now.
You mentioned on stage Friday that it’s been 32 years. 1990 was your first show. It’s gotta be wild think back and realize you guys been doing this for that long.
Nick Hexum: It’s one of the top five longest running original lineup bands. And it’s a lot of history. On this particular tour, I’ve just been like, “Man, there’s just no substitute for the time put in, you know what I mean? Just like they say in Outliers, there’s no substitute for the 10,000 hours. And we’ve got to be way, way past that. So I think it’s a special thing to see musicians that have been playing together for a really long time. There’s just something about it.
Absolutely. I mean, you guys, you guys are such a tight band.
Nick Hexum: Thank you. We keep finding ways to step it up. Like for me, finding ways to improve the vocals, better microphones, better guitar tones, automating the guitar tones. I have the tones dialed in perfectly from song to song. Like, we just keep trying to find ways to evolve and step it up a little bit.
How was it being back in Omaha?
It was our first time since the what? 5 years ago?
Yeah, it was that 2015 show, which is crazy because you usually tour every summer and come here every other year. But that happens, especially if you when you don’t play concerts for two years.
Nick Hexum: Yeah, all the normal routing has been messed up. And what’s crazy is that there is such a glut of tours going on right now that there’s a shortage of buses and trucks. And we’re like on an antique bus right now. Like, there’s water dripping on my bed. And it because so many tours are out. Because of all the pent-up demand. Like, we fortunately kind of beat the rush to tour last year where not a lot of tours. And together to do that, because of COVID. So then we’re able to kind of pace it. So we’re going to secondary markets right now. So we’ve been the tour has been going great, but I think it’s still sort of resetting after all the craziness of COVID.
You guys have the fall tour and then some of those full album shows. You have done the 3-11 Day shows where you play every song. But are those full album shows hard? Some of the songs, you’ve maybe only played a couple of times ever.
Nick Hexum: We’ve been brushing up on less familiar ones at soundcheck. But truthfully, we could play music and grassroots in our sleep, every any song. It’s, you know, just through the the repetition. It’s so well ingrained. But then when you get up to Transistor, then there’s some we’ll definitely need some practice on. Like when you get to Creature Feature and some of these like real, real deep cuts on Transistor. But the first one is Music one night and grassroots in New York City, and that’s going to be that’ll just be a total victory lap.
Those hometown shows gotta be fun. Like you said, your dad came on stage. I saw Chad’s mom. I saw P-Nut’s, mom.
Nick Hexum: Yeah, it’s a really long guest list on shows, but it was a cool setting.
I had a really nice day off in Omaha to walk around your neighborhood and see my old stomping grounds. It’s a very nice feeling. And I got to we were in Omaha for about five days earlier. We had a traditional family vacation of renting an RV and going up to like the Badlands and Custer State Park and starting in Omaha and doing a family camping trip. So I actually got a lot of Omaha time this year.
Thanks for talking to me and appreciate it, as always.
Nick Hexum: Hey, man, thanks for the continued support and always got to say thank you to all the 311 fans listening for supporting our rock’n’roll dreams. We’re very grateful.
311 is on a fall tour right now that runs through mid-November. On the band’s last five fall shows, they’re playing their first five albums in their entirety. Then 311 has its 7th Caribbean Cruise in March, and it runs over 3-11 Day (March 11).
Check out the band’s full tour schedule and get tickets at 311.com.
For more than a decade, Kevin Coffey has been Omaha's music guy. He's also a journalist, photographer, husband, dad, Mets fan, comic nerd, Dungeon Master and Jays fan. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.