A decade of informal sessions at Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament's recording studio has resulted in "Three Mountains," the first release by Tres Mts., a collective that features Ament, King's X frontman dUg Pinnick and ex-Fastbacks drummer Richard Stuverud, with Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready as an unofficial fourth member. And the new project isn't just a studio one-off, despite what's brewing to be a busy 2011 for Pearl Jam; Tres Mts. embarks on a mini-tour tomorrow (Mar. 16) in Seattle that will take it to SXSW this week and up the East Coast by the end of the month.
"I've known Richard since the '80s and we started playing together in 1990," Ament tells Billboard.com. He says that the idea of playing with Pinnick came into the picture "when King's X toured with [Pearl Jam] in '94. We used to have a practice setup backstage and a couple of times that we were jamming and I would say, 'We gotta make a super heavy, old school 60s R&B record together.' This record isn't necessarily that, but there are moments."
The trio gelled over the course of several sessions at Ament's home studio, and subsequent sessions were held in 2004 and last year before the group felt the 13-track album was ready to go.
"We were actually trying to put it out a couple of years ago," Ament says, "But dUg was so busy with King's X and I was so busy with Pearl Jam, there just wasn't any real time to do it. So we finally got it out."
As Ament notes, the 13-track "Three Mountains," out now, is not quite that 60s R&B record he once pitched, although he feels that "the theme was to keep it in a heavy blues, heavy R&B kind of mode, and I think half the record is that. And then just by nature all of us wanted it to be heavier rock, so it gets into that, too. I think mostly we try to create as much of a new sound as we can."
As another regular at Ament's Montana studio, Pearl Jam bandmate Mike McCready naturally became part of the Tres Mts. project. "It just so happened that it was me and Mike and Richard for three days [in my studio] and Mike stayed for a couple of the days when dUg came up. There are four songs on the record that [Mike] played on; he added such a cool touch to those songs."
McCready was immediately enlisted when Tres Mts. put together a mini-tour, which kicks off at Seattle's Showbox in the Market tomorrow (March 16) and includes a set at Austin, Texas' Stubbs on March 19 as part of South By Southwest before they head east to play Washington D.C. (March 21), Philadelphia (March 23), New York (March 26) and Boston (March 27). The group will also tape a performance on NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" on March 24.
"When we decided to do a few shows, I called [Mike] up and said, 'I know you're busy but if I have the ultimate guy to come out and play guitar with us on this thing, it's you...' He called back an hour later and said, 'I'm in.' "Then I got super cranked about it."
Ament says that in addition to the Tres Mts. material, fans who come to the shows can expect a handful of special surprise covers the quartet has worked up just for the outing. The run of March Tres Mts. dates may be short, but Ament says the band is looking to play other parts of the country, possibly California, when the various members' schedules allow. "Since we're only doing a handful of shows this time out, I would imagine that there will be sometime down the road," he says.