Who the #@%! are...311? -- Meet the Hollywood-by-way-of-Omaha band behind ''Down''

Hometown: Originally Omaha; currently Hollywood.

Latest album: 311

Reason you’ve noticed them: Mainly because of the hypnotic rap-dancehall single ”Down,” and its levitating-Buddha video. You may also have seen them on the H.O.R.D.E. tour.

How they would describe their sound if they were rock critics: ”What we’re doing is a continuum of the most basic form of communication, going all the way back to an African drum circle, where a few people banged on drums and the other people danced,” says singer and frontman Nicholas Hexum.

How we would describe their sound: Funk-metal with a strong sense of melody.

Target demographic: Guys who mosh to the Wu Tang Clan, and the women who love them.

Fashion sense: Who’s got the basketball?

Triumphant tale of how they beat the odds: Rather than rely on radio, 311 won fans the old-fashioned way — by playing live. It took 14 months for 311 to crack the top 20, but that’s fine by them. ”Our goal,” says Hexum, ”is to get such a strong album-oriented fan base that we don’t have to worry about hits, promotion, the radio whoring, and all that stuff.”

If this band were a breakfast cereal, it would be: Cap’n Crunch With Funk Berries.

Stock quote on the pitfalls of fame: ”We’re more concerned with how to preserve our underground status than with how to move tons of albums,” says Hexum. ”We want to preserve the vibe that we’ve created.”

Lead singer’s instant charisma rating (out of a possible five): Three

Funky fact: Drummer Chad Sexton learned his stuff from playing in a drum-and-bugle corps back in Nebraska.

Albums that never leave the tape player on their tour bus: Chemical Brothers’ Exit Planet Dust, Tricky’s Maxinquaye, U2’s Achtung Baby, Joan Armatrading’s Track Record.

What’s next: More touring (of course), and then into the studio for their fourth album, which Hexum predicts will have a more ”psychedelic, trippy” sound: ”There’s going to be ear candy galore.”