Watch RNDM -- Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament's new project with Joseph Arthur & Richard Stuverud -- discuss its album "Acts" and tour.
Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament made a vow to himself three years ago that life is too short not to seize every chance to make music and the newest byproduct from the prolific bassist is his new side band RNDM, a rock trio that also features New York singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur and veteran Seattle drummer Richard Stuverud. With RNDM's inspired 12-track debut album, "Acts," due Oct. 30 on Pearl Jam's Monkeywrench Records, a U.S. tour kicking off the next day and lead single "Modern Times" out now, Ament, Arthur and Stuverud visited Billboard for a video Q&A about how they came together, the stories behind the songs, the tour, and more.
RNDM's "Modern Times"
Though RNDM's deepest roots were planted in 1999 when Arthur opened for Three Fish, Ament and Stuverud's previous side project, Ament cites a specific moment in 2009, after the recording of Pearl Jam's "Backspacer," that led to RNDM's "Acts." "Right after 'Backspacer,' my best friend got killed tragically. Something happened to me then where I got super motivated," says Ament, who has also released a solo album and another side project album since then. "I had a shelf of all this unfinished music. . . So I just went to work and made a conscious decision that I was going to finish a bunch of stuff. Life's short. I feel good now, I feel I worked through that whole thing and got three records out of it culminating with [RNDM], the easiest one. When you have the right chemistry it's amazing how fast things go."
That chemistry -- Arthur's introspective lyrics wedded to Ament and Stuverud's driving, groove-friendly rhythm section -- accelerated from a one-song jam ("When The Fire Comes") and some live collaboration at Pearl Jam's PJ20 festival last fall into enough material for a full-blown RNDM album earlier this year. "I knew there were at least two or three more songs that could come out of this, but that's all I hoped for," Ament explains. "So to have it turn it into an album and tour is amazing and hilarious."
Arthur, who brought a book of poems and unrecorded lyric ideas to RNDM's sessions at Ament's Montana home studio, says he focused on themes that "make you feel something." For Ament, who cites 'Low'-era David Bowie among some of the inspirations for RNDM's songs, adds that the chance to fit his uptempo RNDM compositions with Arthur's often melancholy lyrics was "part of what Joe does that attracts me to his music. I love sad. Sadness makes you feel more than anything."
Though Ament and Stuverud are longtime Seattle residents, it's the Big Apple -- the city that Arthur calls home -- that is infused throughout "Acts," particularly on the songs "Walking In New York" and "Williamsburg." The latter, which has a late '80s U2 vibe musically, was actually written in that Brooklyn neighborhood "about a break up," says Arthur. "I went to a bar to see a band and I keep thinking I was seeing my ex-girlfriend. And I still can't go to Williamsburg because she lives there."
The music for Ament's cresendo-ing "Darkness," began life during some leftover Pearl Jam session time in early 2012. "Pearl Jam was in [PJ guitarist] Stone [Gossard]'s studio and on the end of the last day, I said, "hey Matt [Cameron, PJ's drummer], I have this bass line; can you throw a loop down for me?' Within two minutes he came up with an amazing drum pattern," says Ament, who developed the music into a full RNDM song the next day alone and Joseph Arthur added lyrics quickly as the pair were "volleying things back and forth."
As RNDM heads out on the road, starting on Halloween in Missoula, MT and winding up on Nov. 27 in Seattle, Ament says fans can expect to hear all of "Acts" live plus "a couple of Joe's [other] songs and we'll throw in a new song or two, maybe a cover. There's another seven or eight songs that we've recorded, so we can work that in there too."
"I have a feeling we're going to ending up recording a few more songs, and finish our second record before the tour," Arthur says, only half-jokingly. "That's been the great thing about working with Jeff. He's got this way of pushing something through. We didn't have a chance to over produce it or over think it. It's good energy."
For Ament, RNDM has been part of maintaining his writing and recording momentum while Pearl Jam continues to work on the follow up to "Backspacer." "If I had my druthers, we'd go in the studio every three months," Ament says. "It's just what I love. There really is a certain magic that happens when you're in the studio. And it's important in life to feel that magic, to feel that there is something greater moving all this along."