Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament on the Bill Simmons Podcast: 5 Things We Learned

Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament was a guest today (May 6) on The Bill Simmons Podcastwhere he discussed the band’s long-awaited return to touring, its enduring NBA fandom, how he hopes to experience recording the new FX’s score on Hulu show Under the banner of heaven rubbed off on Pearl Jam and more.

Here are five things we learned from the conversation, which was recorded the day after Pearl Jam’s tour opening performance in San Diego on Tuesday. The band are back on stage tonight and tomorrow at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles in support of their 2020 album, gigaton.

Ament wants Pearl Jam to make shorter records and release them more frequently

Responding to a question from Simmons about how to keep an audience’s attention in the era of short-lived TikTok memes, Ament said he and his castmates recently discussed how in the late 60s and 70s, it was not uncommon for albums to consist of seven or eight songs and be less than 30 minutes long. “I think when the CDs came out and the price jumped, I remember as an artist, you felt like you were charging people $12 for this stuff, you have to give them 14 songs,” did he declare. “You felt guilty. And then it just went haywire. Most records were 50, 60 minutes long. I feel like now is the time to go the other way. Let’s go back and do six and seven song records and then attention deficit can handle that part. And then maybe you make more records. I would love to do that. I would love to do one record a year or something like that.

Similarly, Ament confirmed that Pearl Jam flirted with releasing a double album at various times.

“There’s been a lot of talk over the years about doing a double disc, because sometimes we had enough material,” he said. “But I think we always come back to, like, I think we should pick the 10 or the 12 and leave the sixes for [a b-sides collection such as 2003’s] lost dogs or whatever.”

Ament is an NBA superfan who admires the heart and bustle of the much-maligned Russell Westbrook and says he also identifies with scrappy players such as the Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart. He hopes the NBA will finally give an expansion team to the Seattle market, 14 years after the team moved to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder.

“For 10 years I lived across from Key Arena and had season tickets on the floor next to the visitor’s bench where I could watch timeouts,” he recalled. “It was definitely the best 10 sporting years of my life. I hope they come back. I’ll be the first in line for tickets. When Simmons insisted that Pearl Jam should play the anthem national in Seattle’s hopeful franchise opener, Ament laughed, “They’ll probably get the guy from Train to do it. I think he lives in the area.”

Ament’s work on Under the banner of heavenin tandem with frequent collaborator John Wicks and Pearl Jam touring member Josh Klinghoffer made him excited to one day work on a similar project with Pearl Jam.

“I had this vision for about 20 years of how I wanted to do an ambient record in the space that I have in Montana,” he said. “We hit that vein where we were making really satisfying music. These are not songs. It’s like you’re creating these big soundscapes – creating these moods in different keys with all these different instruments. We would just go to these little stations and play either keyboards or double bass and acoustics or a full electric trio with this drum set and two amps. It was just fun being in the room with Josh Klinghoffer and John Wicks, who I did a lot of music with. I immediately wanted to do it with Pearl Jam. I was like, we have to do this, because we could write a ton of shitty music doing this.

Ament said the gigaton the material is still taking shape in its live form, as the band only played it during a brief series of gigs last fall

“I think this is the third time we’ve rehearsed the songs,” he said with a laugh. “We had to play the songs from those four shows last year, but you haven’t played them enough for them to be part of your muscle memory. So we kind of had to start all over again about two years ago. weeks and a half, relearning them.