After spending much of the past two years celebrating their 20th anniversary, Pearl Jam return on October 15 with Lightning Bolt, their first studio album since 2009's Backspacer. The hard-driving first single "Mind Your Manners" shows there is definitely still a lot of life in the band, and lead guitarist Mike McCready tells Exclaim! that the song is indicative of the sonic extremes that came out of sessions spread over two years with longtime producer Brendan O'Brien.
"I feel Brendan put us through the grinder and really made us try things in different ways whenever we got together," McCready says. "We accomplished a lot going through that process. It wasn't always enjoyable, but that's okay. Out of that came some cool art. It's silly for me to even complain about it, but I guess what I'm saying is we had to work hard to get to it, and I get a great sense of pride out of that."
McCready further explains that he wrote the music for "Mind Your Manners" with the Dead Kennedys in mind, but other parts of Lightning Bolt pay tribute to their sometimes-collaborator Neil Young, particularly "Yellow Moon," which directly quotes Young's "Helpless."
"There's certainly a tip of the hat to Neil," McCready says. "That was a song that was initially taken off the first mixes, but I really, really wanted it on there. I just enjoyed the darkness of it, and I thought I did a pretty good lead on it. I worked hard on that; it's kind of a simple lead but I wanted it to give the song some brightness, kind of like what David Gilmour always did with Pink Floyd."
As previously reported, Pearl Jam's Lightning Bolt tour kicks off in Pittsburgh on October 11, with only two Canadian dates scheduled so far: December 2 in Calgary at the Saddledome and December 4 in Vancouver at Rogers Arena. Fans in Ontario did get a chance to see the band this past July in London, where they debuted some of Lightning Bolt and showed off a new sound and lighting system. It was Pearl Jam's first show after a relatively quiet 2012, and McCready admits he's a little surprised the band are still at the level they're at after 20 years.
"I'm just amazed that people in London, ON, will come out to see us as we're working out the kinks of our new sound and lighting system," he says. "That's basically what we wanted to do in London, and we were really happy with how that worked out. The new lighting system isn't anything too crazy, but we wanted to do something that kept things interesting for both us and the fans."
While McCready is thrilled to be getting back on the road with Pearl Jam, as revealed earlier this year, he's also been working on new music for a project not dissimilar from Mad Season, the short-lived group he formed in 1994 with the late Layne Staley of Alice In Chains.
"Duff McKagan, Barrett Martin and I recorded some songs together after we did the Mad Season reissue in , and we've had a couple singers put some ideas over them, one being Jaz Coleman from Killing Joke and another being Jeff Angell from the Walking Papers," McCready says.
"I'm talking to a few other singers as well. We're trying to do another thing that's sort of been spawned from the Mad Season thing, although it probably won't be called that. You'll hear some music from that hopefully next year."
Lightning Bolt is due out on October 15 through Monkeywrench Records/Republic, at which point they'll be a few dates into their scheduled North American tour. See those dates below.
10/11 Pittsburgh, PA - Consol Energy Center
10/12 Buffalo, NY - First Niagara Center
10/15 Worcester, MA - DCU Center
10/18 Brooklyn, NY - Barclays Center
10/19 Brooklyn, NY - Barclays Center
10/21 Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center
10/22 Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center
10/25 Hartford, CT - XL Center
10/27 Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena
10/29 Charlottesville, VA - John Paul Jones Arena
10/30 Charlotte, NC - Time Warner Cable Arena
11/1-3 New Orleans, LA - Voodoo Music + Arts Experience
11/15 Dallas, TX - American Airlines Arena
11/16 Oklahoma City, OK - Chesapeake Energy Arena
11/19 Phoenix, AZ - Jobing.com Arena
11/21 San Diego, CA - Viejas Arena
11/23 Los Angeles, CA - Sports Arena
11/24 Los Angeles, CA - Sports Arena
11/26 Oakland, CA - Oracle Arena
11/29 Portland, OR - Rose Garden Arena
11/30 Spokane, WA - Spokane Arena
12/02 Calgary, AB - Scotiabank Saddledome
12/04 Vancouver, BC - Rogers Arena
12/06 Seattle, WA - Key Arena