As he takes his new Ashes Divide on the road, Billy Howerdel calls the project "a work in progress. I'm ready to grow with this band." But he's not ready to say whether the inaugural touring edition o

As he takes his new Ashes Divide on the road, Billy Howerdel calls the project "a work in progress. I'm ready to grow with this band." But he's not ready to say the touring edition of Ashes Divide will turn what was essentially a solo project into a full-fledged band.

"I don't know about that," Howerdel, who also co-founded A Perfect Circle with Tool's Maynard James Keenan, tells Billboard.com. "I've been asked that, but I haven't given much more thought to it. These guys have really digested this music for awhile, so it could be we fall into that place where it does become [a band].

"I've got to see what they bring to the table. I haven't really gotten into where every guy is coming from. I don't know that we're coming from the same place or not. The focus right now is to get the live shows solidified, and I think it'll be down the road when I think about other things."

He'll have plenty of time to suss out his bandmates. After a couple of "practice shows" in Los Angeles, Howerdel and company kick off the first Ashes Divide tour Friday in Jacksonville, Fla. The group also has opening dates for Filter, 3 Doors Down and Stone Temple Pilots as well as an appearance at the Rock on the Range festival May 17 in Columbus, Ohio, and a main stage slot on this year's Projekt Revolution tour, which begins July 16 in Mansfield, Mass.

Howerdel says the group -- guitarist Andy Gerold, bassist Matt McJunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl -- was assembled after auditioning more than 100 musicians. And even though he has plenty of famous friends from not only A Perfect Circle but also his work as a tech for Tool and Guns 'N Roses, Howerdel says he wanted "musicians who were fresh and hungry and didn't have a lot of experience. It's like starting all over again; everybody's psyched to be on tour, psyched to be on the bus, psyched to be playing shows."

He adds that Ashes Divide's shows will focus on songs from the debut album, "Keep Telling Myself It's Alright," but the group is also working on some covers he hopes to weave into shows early in the tour.

As for A Perfect Circle, Howerdel says that the group is not dead but will have to wait until he's ready for a break from Ashes Divide and Keenan has time away from Tool and Pucifer.

"We've talked about doing some stuff in the future," Howerdel says. "I don't know that it will take the same form we had before; we might just do a song or two. Right now my full focus is on Ashes Divide."