Summer means different things to different people. Long flat spells for East Coasters, prospective south swells for Californians, and plenty of free time for school kids. It also means a lot of great live music acts hop on buses and tour the nation, and every so often the surf and music worlds collide. The Surfing America Summer Surf Jam at Irvine's Verizon Wirelesss Amphitheatre happens to be one of those events. With much of the proceeds benefiting the PacSun Surfing America USA Surf Team, we caught up with the Nick Hexum, lead singer of the Tour's headlining act, 311, to get the inside scoop.
So how'd you guys get involved in Surfing America Summer Surf Jam?
We've just always been tied into a lot of modern sports and alliances with skating and other action sports. I particularly have been connected with the ocean for a long time so it seemed like a perfect fit.
How does it benefit Surfing America and Team USA?
We're raising funds to promote youth surfing and the USA Surf Team. That's such an important thing. Surfing is a type of thing that is such a positive and constructive use of energy that kids can have fun and be in the cool crowd without being into destructive things. I personally have a baby on the way, and I would encourage my kids to get into surfing. But it's a spiritual thing, too. The water makes me feel like part of something bigger than myself…honestly more people should learn to love surfing.
So 311 grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, right? I'd imagine there's not much surfing going on there.
No there isn't, but I was fortunate enough to take summer trips every year to Hawaii and California and the Caribbean ,so I grew up visiting the ocean a couple times a year and learning that way. Also, we've been in L.A. for about 20 years so we've had a chance to be around surf culture and get in the water fairly often, but not as much as I'd like.
So where would you say you learned to surf?
The place I learned was the jetty off of Venice with some skater friends of mine.
So did you guys grow up skating in Omaha?
Part of the punk rock experience was skating, and it was a perfect fit with our kind of music – doing things your own way. We've always been into doing things our own way.
I saw that one of your videos was directed by the Malloys at Crystal Cove. Do you spend much time with them?
Well, we haven't done any shows with Jack Johnson for a while, but I think they did a kick ass job on that Amber video. We wanted to capture that California Surf vibe in it, and I have a lot of respect for them and the things they've done.
How'd you choose the acts for the Unity Tour with Ziggy Marley and The Expendables?
Our band is all about unity and people who have a more positive outlook in their music. The Unity Tour is about bringing all kinds of different people together. We pick bands that go along with that. We've had some great hip-hop like The Roots and Snoop Dog. Snoop talked about that a lot when he was on with us and Matisyahu and Ziggy… reggae tends to promote these positive vibes, and that we're going for…
How has the Unity Tour gone thus far?
It's been good. It's flown by, and we have three shows left and has been an amazing way to spend the summer. I just feel lucky to do this every year; we started this with a band called OAR in 2003.
What's your favorite song to play live?
I think what sets 311 apart is that we have high energy to our shows so the rocking songs like "Down" and "Beautiful Disaster" are really fun, but then there's also "Amber" and others. I just love getting up there and letting off some steam.
If you have to choose one venue and two bands to play with for your final show, where do you play and with whom?
Our 311 Day show in New Orleans is an incredible thing to be a part of. People come from all over the world to enjoy our music. Honestly we don't have openers and all the hardcore fans from all over the world are there, so I'd say that's my favorite show.
Are there any more philanthropic events benefiting surfers on 311’s agenda?
I don't know if we have anything planned right now, but I think the spirituality of surfing really fits with us, and we've had a long relationship with that community so there will be more stuff in the future.