|Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament is seen playing with Pearl Jam. QMI AGENCY FILE
Jeff Ament is doing the evolution.
After spending a few years in rewind mode with his Pearl Jam brethren, the bassist is moving forward again with RNDM, his trio with New York singer-guitarist Joseph Arthur and drummer Richard Stuverud. But ironically -- or appropriately, depending on your view -- he might not have one without the other.
"There was definitely a direct link," explains Ament from his Seattle home. "I asked Joe to play our PJ20(th anniversary) shows last year in Alpine Valley. And that was where we really first started talking about doing this. Undoubtedly, a psychiatrist could probably get underneath all that and go, 'In the middle of looking back, you were looking for ways to look forward.' And I certainly was. There were a couple of times in the middle of working on the last box set or looking at the (Pearl Jam Twenty) documentary when it was just incredibly painful "¦ I just feel like the band has done enough of that stuff in the last couple-three years."
So, Ament will spend the next couple-three months getting back to basics with his new bandmates, hitting the road to bang the drum for their debut album Acts. Written and recorded at Ament's home studio in Montana last spring, the album marries the bassist's muscular rock with Arthur's singer-songwriter sensibilities and poetic lyrics. With the disc due Oct. 30 on Pearl Jam's Monkeywrench Records -- and with a handful of Canadian stops on their itinerary -- Ament called up to chat about black slates, clearing his cupboards, and what's new in his day job.
What made you want to work with Joe?
Mostly, it just comes from me being a big fan of his. That's the initial part of it. In 1999, he did five or six shows opening up for (Ament's band) Three Fish, and I just thought he was a huge talent -- all the textures and how his voice sounds and how his music sounds. It's this layered, dark, cinematic music, yet he has a real pop sensibility too. So when I was putting together my last little solo group of songs, I sent him one, and within 48 hours I got the track back with vocals and it was amazing. And I thought, 'OK, there's what could happen.'
How did things go when you got into the room together to write?
What I've learned over the years is never to have preconceived ideas. Even with Pearl Jam, you try to go into it like a blank slate. And it was easy with this because we'd never played together. It wasn't a band; it was just us getting together to see what came out of it, so there was even more trust and less baggage than normal. You always hear that people's first records or first books or first groups of paintings are always the most special, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it isn't anything yet. Nobody's worried about getting paid; it's just purely creative.
Was there a division of labour, or were you all contributing to everything?
It was kind of a melting pot. I didn't really have a ton of finished songs. We recorded a couple of my finished songs and five or six bits of my music that he had to write lyrics to. The other five or six were songs he had written. Half of it was us having to learn his songs, and half was him having to write lyrics to the music. So it feels like a true band. It feels like everybody's involved.
How did it compare to recording with Pearl Jam?
Well, it's a three-piece, so there's all kinds of space. In Pearl Jam, everybody's trying to find their spots and support the songs the best they can without playing what the other person's playing or playing over somebody's cool part or playing over the vocals. So it's a little trickier to find your spots. With this thing, your nature is to fill it up. But part of my thing was to leave that space there, so at least half the songs are pretty stripped down.
Between all your solo projects -- this, Three Fish, Tres. Mts. -- you seem to be most prolific guy in the band lately. Why is that?
That's probably been more true the last few years. I spent 15 years writing bits of songs. And there was a point maybe 10 years ago where I started to finish songs. And maybe five or six years ago I started looking at my cupboards and realized I had, like, 200 unfinished songs. So I took it upon myself to finish things. Whenever I had two or three weeks off I would go in the studio for a couple of hours every day. That's how it started. And it feels good now. My cupboards are a little lighter and that feels somehow better.
What's next for Pearl Jam?
There's nothing really scheduled right now. That's a little bit by design. Whenever we come out of a time when we've had a bunch of stuff lined up, we like to have a few months where we just kind of clear the plate a little bit. I'm sure once we get through the holidays, we'll get on the phone with each other and figure out what we're doing next.
Nov. 9 | Montreal | Coronoa
Nov. 10 | Ottawa | Algonquin Theater
Nov. 11 | Toronto | Lee's Palace
Nov. 26 | Vancouver | Biltmore Cabaret