The first time 311 bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills saw his future home in La Cañada Flintridge, he was overwhelmed.
“I have a friend who was a real estate agent tell me to check out this house,” Wills said. “It was surrounded by oaks on three-quarters of an acre. I said, ‘I will move heaven and earth to make this happen. This is where I want to be when I get off the road.’”
And he did. Wills moved to the area when he was 30 and fell in love with La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, Altadena and Eagle Rock.
It works out perfectly this weekend when he travels 34 miles south to Redondo Beach for the BeachLife Festival.
“I can’t wait,” Wills said. “Some of my favorite bands who we don’t really get to play with are going to be there.
“The festival circuit is hit or miss for us. The promoters want us to bring our huge number of fans. You’d think they’d want to bring us. We’re a 32-year-old band. I don’t know if younger promoters know how big we still are.”
Wills said he and his 311 bandmates don’t let that get to them. They make the best out of “every situation we’re in.”
“We have a good time on stage,” he said. “We’ll bring a positive element to the BeachLife Festival. I don’t think it’s going to be hurting. Weezer is so easy to enjoy. Black Pumas are one of my favorite newer stories in music. Milky Chance are still kicking out great music and great things. It’s another wonderful thing to watch.”
The band 311 has one of the longest-running original lineups in rock. Forming in 1990 in Omaha, 311 is dedicated to touring, leading to a grassroots following. Besides Wills, the lineup features vocalist/guitarist Nick Hexum, guitarist Tim Mahoney, singer/DJ SA Martinez and drummer Chad Sexton.
During its career, 311 has played more than 2,000 performances across 27 countries, released 13 studio albums, achieved 10 Billboard Top 10s on Billboard’s Top 200 Sales Chart, and sold over 9 million albums in the United States.
Their list of Top 10 radio hits includes “Down,” “All Mixed Up,” “Amber,” “Love Song,” “Come Original,” “Beautiful Disaster,” “Don’t Tread on Me,” “You Wouldn’t Believe,” “Hey You” and “Sunset in July.”
Wills said the set list will include most of those hits as, for festivals, it’s hard to deep dive into albums.
“Festival sets are a little vanilla, if I may be so bold,” he said with a laugh.
“I feel like I’m the driving force in the band, pushing rare cuts like stuff that fans who have seen 20 or 30 shows haven’t heard. I’m balanced out by a conservative mindset in the band. Together we cover all the bases — the hits, new things they may or may not have heard, some middle-of-the-road stuff, drum solos.
“The crowd will be putty in our hands. We’ll try and make people cry a little bit, bludgeon them with ‘Amber,’ with the softest hammer, rock it out with ‘Down,’ and send everyone to bed all sweaty and relaxed.”
Wills likes to relax himself when he’s at home with his wife of 21 years, Abby, and 11- and 8-year-old children.
“My wife and I love to indulge in everything culinary,” he said. “Nothing is off limits. We will eat our way through town one way or another — or regret not doing so if we ever move.
“Seriously, that’s one of the things that keep us here. (DTLA’s) Shibumi is like another world. It’s like a science fiction experiment. You trust the chef and the staff so much.”
The couple also enjoy Pasadena’s Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery and Sushi Enya, as “we were thrilled when Sushi Enya moved into town. We spend a hell of a lot of money there. It is not cheap. They take great care of us. The chefs and the staff are just amazing.”
He works out two to three times a week at SoulCycle in Pasadena. The visits expose Wills to music that he normally wouldn’t listen to.
His playlist is chill, a stark contrast to 311’s music.
“I’m a 47-year-old man in a loud-ass band,” he said with a laugh. “So ‘quiet’ goes over really well. I’ll listen to Bon Iver, Band of Horses, any quiet thing works really well.
“When we get off the stage, after a show, SA and I will play the Bluetooth and listen to jazz or Chet Baker — something melancholy and downtempo. I’ll put on Tame Impala, something that’s not too sleepy but not too heady. It’s a nice way to wind down.”
The pandemic lockdown allowed Wills to wind down a little too much. He considered taking time off in 2020, coincidentally. But the quarantine made Wills miss playing shows.
“I’ve been playing since I was a teenager,” he said. “We’re fiscally responsible, thank goodness. We’re not trying to buy a bunch of chains and cars we can’t afford.
“If we were going to go crazy indulgent, we already would have. Any financial speedbump or professional speedbump wasn’t that hard for us to take.”
He laughed and said he knows he disparaged — jokingly — his production and management team, but he’s going to “lift them up now.”
“We started streaming shows during the pandemic,” he added. “We had a couple thousand people watching every night. We wanted to take care of our crew and management. They’ve been taking care of us. The crew really couldn’t do anything. It was nice being able to get a loan from the government and have it turn into something we didn’t have to pay back. It was really, really advantageous for us to take care of them. Again, everyone takes great care of us.”
WHEN: 1 p.m. Friday, May 13, and 11 a.m. Saturday, May 14, and Sunday, May 15
WHERE: Redondo Beach, 137 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach
COST: Tickets start at $159 for single-day general admission tickets
INFO: beachlifefestival.com for set times