311 and the Offspring Recorded New Versions of Each Other's Material: Exclusive

Dexter Holland of The Offspring
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Dexter Holland of The Offspring performs on stage as part of "Jack's 12th Show" at FivePoint Amphitheatre on Oct. 7, 2017 in Irvine, Calif.

311 and the Offspring have recorded new versions of each other's songs in conjunction with their Never-Ending Summer Tour that kicks off next week, Billboard has learned. 

The Offspring took on 311's 1996 hit "Down," while 311 returned the favor with the Offspring's 1994 smash "Self Esteem." The songs will be released Friday (July 20) to streaming services and radio, while limited edition 7-inch vinyl copies -- 1,000 numbered copies of each title -- will be available via the bands' websites, with pre-orders also starting Friday.

"It was the Offspring's idea, and a great idea," 311's Nick Hexum tells Billboard. "They said, 'We had the idea to cover your song, and we've done it,' and I was like, 'Wow! I have to hear this,' 'cause it's such a signature song. Were they going to cover it faithfully or rework it?' They reworked it just enough; There's punk to it, and Dexter (Holland) actually does a killer job of rapping SA (Martinez)'s parts in more of a punk rock style, with fast drums. We were so blown away, It was so my fun to hear that. So we returned the favor and reggaefied ('Self Esteem'), which is probably my favorite song of theirs. It'll be a lot of fun to give the fans new versions of these songs they love so much."     

The tour, which also includes Gym Class Heroes, gets under way July 25 in Mountain View, Calif., and will play 29 cities before finishing Sept. 9 in Wichita, Kan. 311 and the Offspring are "pretty tight," according to Hexum, both hailing from Southern California and also having toured together many years ago. "We're both veteran rockers and have a great connection with our fans through lots of touring," Hexum notes. "They're down to Earth guys, like I believe we are."

But there is a challenge, Hexum adds. "Last time we toured together we had Pepper as an opener, and they put on a big BBQ every night out in the parking lot after the show. Now we have to figure out who's gonna be doing the grilling this summer."

The tour comes as 311 is celebrating the 25th album of its debut album, Music, which Hexum and company still have strong, and positive feelings for. "We did the original first sessions at Cherokee (Studios) where Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson had recorded," he recalls. "It was overwhelming and exciting and just a dream come true. I can hear the youthfulness in that record. It was an exciting time, and I also had a good amount of nerves, wanting to be sure I could sing in tune and do it right."

Now, meanwhile, 311 has "the bulk of an album written" to follow up 2017's Mosaic, working both on its own and with producer/co-writer John Feldmann. Hexum says the new material is "building on the progressive kind of stuff (from Mosaic), doing intense riffs and being innovative with the guitar work. "Songs like 'Too Late' from the last album kind of signify a direction we're excited about exploring on this one," he says. Nevertheless, Hexum adds, "every song is very different. We keep it all over the place, always with strong melodies, always with reggae and hip-hop and heavy rock influences. It's just fun to keep finding goals and going beyond it."

311 is planning to return to the studio after the tour to wrap things up for a first half of 2019 release. "We were kind of on the fence about whether to really buckle down and crank it out and finish it and send it to mastering," Hexum says, "but we realized that life’s not a race. We should just take our time. I think that will only make (the album) better."