The band 311 doesn’t believe in taking summer vacations.
Summer, in fact, is when they go to work.
For the 18th straight year, the genre-bending band originating from Omaha and now based in Los Angeles is taking its Unity Tour out for a summer spin, including a stop Saturday at USANA Amphitheatre in West Valley City.
Guitarist Tim Mahoney told The Tribune in a phone interview that while the group has discussed eventually abandoning its moratorium on touring in the other seasons, right now it makes too much sense to keep the summer party rolling.
“For us, it’s the best time to be out traveling and playing music, and it seems to work,” he said. “[It’s] just always kinda been … you know, ‘It’s summertime, let’s go out and play music.’ It’s kind of our favorite time to get out there and play.”
And this year, there’s a bit more to play than before.
311 just released its 12th studio album, “Mosaic,” which debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 200 — making it the group’s 10th straight top-10 release.
Many have noted that “Mosaic” has a bit of a different vibe than previous 311 efforts, which Mahoney said is no surprise, considering that the songwriting came from more sources than usual, with all five band members, longtime confidants and co-producers Scotch Ralston and John Feldman, and some further trusted associates of vocalist/guitarist Nick Hexum all contributing.
“Mosaic” is further an anomaly in that it’s the first 311 album with more than one track clocking in at 5-plus minutes.
Still, Mahoney was quick to note, if you go below the surface, you’ll find 311’s unmistakable DNA coursing through each song.
“I think our approach has kinda been the same all throughout the years, in that anything that’s fun to play or sounds cool or is a hard, rocking riff, no matter where it’s coming from style-wise, that everything’s fair game as far as being able to incorporate into 311 music,” he said. “… But the approach to songwriting, for me, has always been the same — just trying to channel some good vibrations!”
Many of those good vibrations have already made their way into the band’s setlists, with as many as 10 of the 17 tracks on “Mosaic” populating the group’s 23-ish songs per show.
While the band has been eager to showcase its new material, they’re cognizant that doing so creates a conundrum. Specifically, they’re concerned with striking the right balance between keeping a show fresh enough to intrigue the long-devoted, hardcore fans seeing 311 for the dozenth time and retaining enough of the “radio songs” to leave the first-timers feeling as though they didn’t miss what they came for.
“Yep, that’s exactly the predicament that we’re in,” Mahoney said. “… A song like ‘Beautiful Disaster’ and ‘Amber,’ those might be the more common songs that come night to night, but then, the new songs, although there are a few that we’ve been doing every night, we tend to mix up and go heavy on those. It seems like it’s been working well, like the new songs seem like they’ve been coming off good, and the people have been digging them. So we’ve been trying to lean on that. It is something we think about every day when we make a setlist. It’s a lot. We don’t ever intentionally neglect songs.”
And 311 definitely doesn’t ever neglect Utah.
If it seems like the band comes through the Beehive State more often than many other places, well, Mahoney said you’re on the right track.
“Yeah, there is something to that. We do, every year, make it through Salt Lake. We do have a good group of fans there, and it’s fun for us to go there and play,” he said. “… Usana is such a nice venue. And even before that, Saltair. And even a few years back we did a couple nights at a club — I feel bad for not remembering the name — but we did a few nights to get warmed up. Salt Lake’s one of those cities where we could do a couple nights, where we don’t repeat songs and have fans that would like that and come out and support. But yeah, we always look forward to coming through there, and over the years it seems … it’s always enjoyable for us to roll through there. It’s a nice vibe.”
For his part, Mahoney is hopeful the nice vibes keep going for a nice long while.
311 was formed back in 1988, and he replaced lead guitarist Jim Watson in 1991. The existing lineup has been together since ’92.
The sheer amount of time spent together over that many years either forges an unbreakable bond among the individuals involved, or stirs up the underlying fault lines that could break them apart.
The guitarist, frankly, can only see the band’s future going one way.
“I enjoy playing music now more than I ever have, and as time goes on, I just enjoy it more. And I think everyone in the band is probably on the same page,” Mahoney said. “We just, hopefully, will be able to continue to create music and get it out for people to hear. It seems like a simple thing! … But to evolve, and keep evolving and keep growing with the same group of people — it’s been the same five of us this whole time — so to continue the experiment like that is what I’m hoping for.”
With Blue October, New Politics, DJ Spider
When • Saturday; doors 4 p.m., show 5:30
Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5150 Upper Ridge Road, West Valley City
Tickets • $20-$55; Smith’s Tix