"There's so much going on between this Tres Mts. project and Pearl Jam stuff for the rest of the year that I'm going to be plenty busy," bassist Jeff Ament says. That, Pearl Jam fans, is a huge understatement.
Ament's first trip to SXSW later this week with his new side band, Tres Mts., is just the tip of the iceberg of a hectic 2011 for Pearl Jam and its members -- one which Ament tells Billboard.com will hopefully include a brand new Pearl Jam album and a solo tour by frontman Eddie Vedder, in addition to the already announced the Cameron Crowe-directed Pearl Jam documentary, official book and weekend festival, all celebrating the band's 20th anniversary. Throw in a new Eddie Vedder solo album, a Soundgarden record in the works (which includes drummer Matt Cameron, who plays in both bands), and Ament putting the finishing touches on his own second solo album, and you've got a very full docket for the veteran Seattle quintet.
All of the new action starts in April, Ament explains, when Pearl Jam convenes not only to begin recording the follow up to 2009's "Backspacer," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but also to announce the location and other details for the Pearl Jam Twenty festival, which Ament says will likely take place on or around Labor Day weekend.
"We did a whole bunch of demos and everybody's got a disc of 25 [songs] right now," Ament says of Pearl Jam's plans to hit the studio next month. "April will be the time where we get together and learn to play all these demos and figure out which 12-15 of them float to the top. Hopefully we can get something done this year."
"There's been so much focus on the past that I think all of us are really excited to make a new record and have something to look forward to because we've been digging in the boxes in our basement a lot the last year or so," Ament says.
That digging, of course, has been in the service of creating the Pearl Jam Twenty documentary, which tells the story of the band's career, and an accompanying book, both due in late summer/early fall around the exact 20th anniversary of the band's blockbuster debut album, August 1991's "Ten."
The group also unearthed a raft of archival goodies for the special edition box set of reissues due on March 29 -- which includes expanded versions of 1993's Vs. and 1994's Vitalogy.
As far as the Pearl Jam festival goes, Ament says that the band is looking to finalize the location and the other bands on the bill by the end of March and announce everything in April. "We've reached out to a few [other bands]. It's mostly people that we're friends with. I don't think that anybody's fully signed on yet. We're not 100% where we're going to have it yet, so it's a little bit tricky... If it's Labor Day, that's three or four months; that should be plenty of time for people to make reservations."
Frontman Eddie Vedder, who is currently on tour on his own in Australia, will probably be hitting the road solo again this year, according to Ament. Vedder, meanwhile, has also made a new solo album likely due in the coming months. He recently told Austin, Texas radio station AM 1300 that the songs were written on the ukulele, which has been a staple of his non-Pearl Jam work for a decade. It hasn't yet been confirmed whether any of the many ukulele songs Vedder debuted at solo shows in early 2002 -- but never released -- will be on the new album, but a version of one of them, "Longing To Belong," was posted by the website Antiquiet yesterday.
Ament, for his part, also has a his own new solo album "pretty much in the can." Recorded "a few months ago," Ament says he's "just waiting for a little bit of airspace to finish it up" and that it probably won't see release until 2012.
As previously reported, Soundgarden -- drummer Cameron's other band -- has also been in the studio making its first studio album in 15 years. No release date has yet been set.