SoundTrax: Brats And Brews

We’re starting your weekend off right with a SoundTrax playlist built with backyard barbecues in mind. Call up some buddies, throw some burgers on the grill, and blow up the water wings because we’re celebrating all the weekend warriors out there with 21 tracks about friends, youth, drinking, and just having a good time. We all need to just take a minute to kick back and hang out, so let these summertime jams rock your socks off as you welcome the long-awaited break from the work week. Have an extra cold one for us, will ya? Cheers.


Bronze Radio Return warms things up with their summer anthem, Down There, followed by the perfect message from The Expendables, telling us to “Let Loose.” After the Foo Fighters, Ballyhoo, and Insolence get things going, we hear the bouncy pump-up “The Circus” by Native June, and some hometown vibes from Authority Zero and Frank Turner. The High, Matisyahu, Pepper, Tim Armstrong, Sam Page, and many more keep things rolling all night to give you awesome summer jams that will keep your weekend rocking.


Q&A With 311

After interviewing another member of The Unity Tour earlier this summer, we were excited to sit down with the tour’s founding and headlining band 311. The easy going nature of their music and unique blend of multiple genres are perhaps their most striking attributes not to mention the band’s work ethic and glowing chart track record. Everyone one of the band’s releases have peaked within the Top 15 on the Billboard Top 200 album list. With catchy songs, charting albums and industry respect, we were curious to pick guitarist/vocalist Nick Hexum’s brain about the band’s techniques, releases and accomplishments. Check out what he had to say!

OS: You’ve been doing the Unity Tour for 5 years now. What has the name come to mean and why has it become such a staple for the band?

NH: “Unity” is one of the coolest words in language.  It means oneness.  It has always been associated with us. First, it was the name of the first CD we ever put out”that was a huge deal in ’91 Omaha “311 actually has a CD! They are big time!” It also is a song on our first album and in 2003 we started branding our summer tour with that moniker.  In order, our main support for the Unity Tour has been:  OAR, The Roots, Papa Roach, The Wailers, Matisyahu, Snoop Dogg, Ziggy Marley and this year, The Offspring.  What a great way to spend a summer!

OS: The Unity Tour has featured quite an eclectic lineup of support acts (Snoop Dogg, The Dirty Heads, The Offspring, etc). How do you decide on who will come along on the tour each time?

NH: We want to make sure the bands have the right attitude.  No shoe-gazers or anger merchants for the Unity Tour. We invite bands that are going to be fun and put on a good show.

OS: You’ve called Uplifter your heaviest record. What inspired a release like this?

NH: Some of it is heavy.  As always, you get an eclectic blend with 311. “Too Much Too Fast,” “Two Drops” and “My Heart Sings” from the new album are not heavy at all.  We try to take both sides, the hard and the beautiful, farther each time around.  Perhaps our next album we will attempt to put the hardest and most beautiful into the same song.  The possibilities are endless.

OS: Bob Rock produced the latest album (perhaps one of the reason for its heavier sound). What was the artistic process like with a guy who’s worked with bands like Metallica?

NH: We learned so much from him.  His vast experience was an endless well for us.  He’s a really nice guy, too.

OS: You’ve all had a positive, easy-going attitude on and offstage throughout your career. How has the band been able to maintain this during all of your hectic schedules and the stresses of being such a noteworthy band?

NH: We work hard on ourselves on and off stage.  You only go around once so why not do your best to face your issues and help mankind?

OS: 311 celebrates 311 day every year with shows, sales and live streaming. How did this whole thing get started?

NH: People had been suggesting that perhaps our name was in reference to a date.  We realized we could turn this into a holiday and it’s been gaining steam ever since.  This last one was the greatest night of my professional life so far.  There was so much love in the room you could taste it.

OS: Many of your albums and songs have ranked well on the Billboard charts. Is there a song or an album that you think really captures the 311 sound the best?

NH: I’m quite fond of Uplifter right now.  It’s standing the test of time.  We plan to make the next one our best yet!

311 has schedule a cruise to celebrate March 2011 that sets sail on 3/3/2011. In the meantime, check out some of the band’s fall dates:

10/16- DeLuna Festival, Pensacola, FL

10/17- Alabama Theatre, Birmingham, AL

10/19- LC Pavillion, Columbus, OH

10/20- Sherman Theatre, Stroudsburg, PA

10/21- House of Blues, Atlantic City, NJ

10/23- Pier Six Pavillion, Baltimore, MD

10/24- Charlottesville Pavillion, Charlottesville, VA

10/26- Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville, TN

10/27- House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC

10/29- The Fillmore,  Charlotte, NC

Q&A with Pepper

Pepper packs laid back, easy-going attitude. While this may seem to be a contradiction of terms, the band’s sound drives the point home. With rhythmic, chest-pounding bass, complex, evolving guitar effects and a thick, reggae backbeat, Pepper’s live show is the perfect outing for any Sublime or 311 fan. Throw in the fact that they hail from Hawaii, and you’ve got a three piece with a sound that simply oozes “summer”.
The band has toured around the world on Warped Tour, 311’s Unity Tour and even their own headlining trips. They just wrapped up this year’s installment of the Unity Tour, with other support act The Offspring. We got in touch with drummer Yesod Williams to pick his brain about the band’s dub style, recording techniques and touring schedule. Check out what he had to say.
OS: Being a dub-influenced band, guitar effects and processing play a big role in your sound. How much of an influence do these effects have when you’re writing songs?
YW: I think it’s more that the songs have an influence on whatever effects are used, in terms of that vibe. We’ve been blessed that one of our best friends we grew up with does all of our dub effects. That all comes from growing up around reggae music and whatnot. Being from Hawaii, UB40 is one of the biggest influences in our music. They’re one of the biggest bands in Hawaii, and there were a  lot of them on the radio growing up. I think it’s just more that the music has the main influence on the effects.
OS: So it’s kind of inherent in the sound?
YW: Yeah, and it’s like the music comes first and all of the effects, the icing on the cake, comes from the sound of the music.
OS: Your albums each have their own distinct character. What is your technique when going into the studio?
YW: We really have no technique. People ask us what have influenced our albums or sound, but we’re so spur of the moment, whatever we’re feeling at the moment is what’s going to happen.
OS: Along those lines, you also have a really organic flow to your live show. How do you develop a set list?
YW: Well, that’s another thing. Getting back to the spur of the moment concept, there is no set list. We kind of go off the crowd every night. We let them choose what they want to hear. When it comes down to it, they’re responsible for Pepper. There’s no other way we could exist if it wasn’t for them.  We usually plan out the first four songs. Then we let it go from there.
OS: The band has played the Warped Tour several times. How do you fit in with a punk crowd playing a main stage like that?
YW: I think we fit in perfectly. We play reggae influenced, dub music, but we fit in perfectly with the whole attitude of punk. We’re all about the vibe and everything that goes with it, even though you may hear us and it doesn’t sound like punk rock music. I just think we’re on that same wavelength.
OS: You guys tour a lot with 311. Why is that and what is your relationship with the band?
YW: For one thing, we grew up listening to them. They’re a big influence for us. We’ve worked with Nick Hexum who produced about half of one of our albums for us. That’s kind of where the whole relationship got started. We worked with them on the production side, and then it lead to us touring with them, and then we realized that they’re such great people. They’re really good people to hang out with and tour with. They’ve got great friends in the industry. Like Slightly Stoopid or The Expendables. We just hold them in high regard.
OS: So how did you get introduced to them?
YW: It was actually during our album In With The Old which came out in 2005 or 2004. The guy who produced that album, Ron St. Germain, he had produced a few albums for 311 before. So we started to work with him, and he was like I know this great studio. It happened to be the studio that 311 owned. So, we ended up recording that album at their studio and that was where the initial introduction was.
OS: Does Pepper have any onstage surprises planned for the upcoming Unity Tour with 311 and The Offspring?
YW: Yeah, we have a huge theme for these first bunch of stops, and I’ll let everyone come out to the show and figure out what it is.
OS: You haven’t released an album since 2008, are there plans to hit the studio after this summer tour?
YW: We’re actually almost done working on our album. We just built our own studio and now we have our own record label, Law Records. So we can release our own albums and whatnot. We’re almost done and the album should be out this fall. We also have a new single coming out on the radio in the middle of the summer. It’s called Wake Up.
Stay tuned for the new single and catch them at this year Xclamation Festival in Modesto, CA on 8/7/2010.