Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament has put his trio RNDM back into gear, and the busy bassist checked in with Fuse to share what went into the side band’s new album, Ghost Riding, which drops today (Mar. 4). Ament also filled us in on what Pearl Jam has up its sleeve this year, as debut album Ten celebrates its 25th birthday.
RNDM’s sophomore record exists in the space in which Seattle streets, vintage New York sounds and addictive rock melody converge. Ament explains that NYC singer-songwriter (and RNDM’s chief lyricist) Joseph Arthur was “on a tear” when they convened in Seattle.
“He’s got a phone full of poems,” he says. “That’s where [the song] 'NYC Freeks' comes from--it immediately puts you in a Manhattan club in 1978."
And if Pearl Jam fans detect a vaguely familiar depth to the way the Ghost Riding songs sound, they aren’t hallucinating. With a hand from mixer Rick Parker, "Tchad [Blake, co-producer of PJ’s Binaural] could have been our spirit producer for this record," Ament says. "There was a thought early on about getting him involved with it and then it just never happened. ... [It's] probably one of the best headphone records I’ve been involved in.
“We wanted the [second] record to be a stretch for us and we wanted to do somethings that we’d never done before,” he continues. With keys, drum machines melded with Richard Stuverud’s live drums, mellotron, and judicious guitar solos, look for the live show to be an entire experience as well. “We’ve all been home doing our homework because we’re a three-piece trying to pull off how we infuse in some of these sounds. We’re going to have loopers and samplers that we’re triggering.”
Ament adds, “Hopefully somebody hears the record and loves it and offers us an opening slot for a few shows." On the wishlist? Future Islands. "We’d be a good opener for that band, just to see him dance every night,” he says with a laugh.
For now, RNDM’s got just seven gigs lined up, because “all of the sudden Pearl Jam got really busy.” PJ “added a bunch of shows” to its calendar — a North American arena run, headlining slots at Bonnaroo and Ride festival, and four huge baseball stadium gigs at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field — so "studio stuff is probably not going to happen” for a while, he says.
But have no fear, Pearl Jam diehards. “We’ve thrown ideas around on how we want to do it,” Ament explains. “Everyone’s been working on songs and ideas on their own, but we don’t have anything in the plans at all other than shows and trying to make the shows great. That’s mostly what we’ve been talking about lately.”
And how does Pearl Jam, a band already known for great live shows with inventive set lists every night, amp up a tour just as its 25th anniversary on record approaches? “My idea was that I hoped that Boston would open up the Fenway shows and that Chicago would open up the Wrigley shows,” Ament says. But since they had “such a good run” playing without an opening act last year, they’re sticking with that format. “It’s exciting not just have the set go out and bash your brains out for two hours. it’s two-and-a-half or three hours so there needs to be more dynamics in the set...It’s been fun to change the rhythm of the setlist.”
Don’t hold your breath for a Ten-played-in-order set at Wrigley Field, five days before that album turns 25, but do get ready for a spring and summer full of epic concerts. “It’s a celebration for me at this point to still be playing, and playing at a high level, and playing some of the biggest shows we’ve ever played,” Ament says. “That part is crazy and super exciting. I think we’ll just focus on that.”
Listen to RNDM's Ghost Riding below: