An Inside Look From Nick Hexum
“Creatures” started out as a guitar riff I had played into my mini recorder sometime on tour last year. It sounds like power chords, but it has a major 3rd in it giving more of a complex flavor than regular power chords. I asked Tim to come up with the second part so I gave him the Pro Tools file to see what he was vibing on. He came up with a funky bouncing single note riff that is now the verse. He uses the trademark Mahoney effects that he used on Champagne. I then fleshed out the rest of the song in an marathon seven hour session in my home studio. SA came up with some raps that went with the lyric theme of tension, aggression, and anxiety; the common perils of modern urban life. I wanted the bridge to go into a different world; swirling synths reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. This will be a blast to play live.
It’s one of Chad’s favorites. The guitar intro was intended to be straight ahead punk, implying a double time tempo. But then the drums come in with a half time feel making it distinctly 311. One highlight of the song is a memorable wah-guitar hook played by Tim. Lyrically it’s about thinking for yourself. As the title implies that doesn’t mean reject everything people tell you, but always question things so you can find your true path. Inspired partly by Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. A quote from that book, “Notice how they’ll accept anything except a man who stands alone.”
CRACK THE CODE
I feel this one is a breakthrough because it is so unique. The intro has some Pet Sound-ish bells over a funk bassline. The opening chorus (there are quite a few different choruses in this one) is SA singing about the difficulties of opening up. Then I sing another chorus with a similar but different theme and then a bridge that builds to the hard ass dancehall part. It has a completely different feel with hard rock guitars, rapped vocals, and a crazy beat that combines dancehall rhythms with an almost drum corps 32nd note snare turn around. Lyrically, “Crack the Code” is about finding someone who understands you, which is a marvelous accomplishment.
SAME MISTAKE TWICE
This is the second song written for Evolver. It’s a bouncing punk jam in the spirit of The Clash but with more harmonies. It’s about vice and the struggles that everyone goes through.
BEYOND THE GRAY SKY
This song is an emotional outpouring about my best friend from high school, David Barker, who suddenly took his own life last year.
Looking back reading his emails he alluded to a “cloud of darkness” in his writings. At the time, I read right past it and didn’t even notice those words. You always feel guilty like you should have tried something when something like this happens. Depression is a confused and hopeless state that drives people to desperate lengths. All I can say is don’t be afraid to talk about it and try to be open if others are trying to reach out. Musically, this song started as instrumental demo that Tim made called “Jerrybird.”
Pherrell of N.E.R.D. described “Seems Uncertain” as “the shit.” I played him a demo of it on our tour bus during the Liquid Mix tour. It’s not the first kind of song you’d expect a Neptune to like. It starts out with acoustic guitar in a Beatle-esque figure. Then melodic echoed vocals and 60’s mellotron keyboards come in with a hip hop beat grooving along. I think it should be a single because it has a message of unity. It’s about the uncertain state of humanity. Everybody is dividing up into teams and someone is going to have to give in.
“Sometimes when I’m awake, I can’t tell if I’m still dreaming.” This song is a series of loosely connected images in the psychedelic style of Transistor. Chad wrote the music to this one and you can hear the characteristic heaviness to his riffs.
GIVE ME A CALL
This song is a light reggae jam that gets suddenly heavy at the pre-chorus. Lyrically, we’re pondering the hidden deep subtext of common seemingly mundane everyday sayings. It’s a love song and in this context “Give Me a Call” is way of saying you’re there for someone.
“Don’t Dwell” started out with a wicked slap bassline that P-Nut had been working on. One day while tracking “Reconsider Everything” he played it between takes and I thought it was dope so I grabbed my mini recorder and had him play it. I took it home and built a chord progression around it on my home studio. The end result is a powerful hard rock song with a slap bass, distorted octaved guitars in a latin pattern, and a Smiths-ish vocal melody. Lyrically “Don’t Dwell” is about…well… not dwelling. It’s about breaking free of the mental loops we all get in. Not easy, but it can be done.
OTHER SIDE OF THINGS
Chad’s heavy riff writing starts this one off. The following sections are shuffled rock inverted power chords. In inverted power chords the fifth of the chord is played below the root instead of above making it more dense sounding. The lyrics are about taking a new point of view or looking at the “Other Side of Things.”
SOMETIMES JACKS RULE THE REALM
This one is probably the most acoustic song that’s been on a 311 album. It’s about how life can be sometimes unfair. The song started out as a mellow rant about fools being in charge or as Perry Farrell put it so well, “Idiots Rule.” After I wrote the first half of the song I took a new point of view. Instead of looking at others and pointing a finger I started examining my own thoughts. As in, “why am I saying this?…How do I know any better??”… etc. The lyrics at the end of the song conclude that enlightenment cannot come until a person comes to grips with the sometimes petty emotions that drive us.
At 5:22 or so of “Sometimes Jacks” there is a hidden track. We refer to it as the “Coda” or outro of the album. This is P-Nut’s creation. A nice mellow melody played up the neck of the bass. In the background you can hear me playing the vibraphone, but more notably the double bass harmonica. It’s a huge harmonica with a reedy sound that can play as low as a bass guitar.