As we mentioned with both Ultraísta and Smoke & Jackal, for whatever reason, supergroups are in. Combining forces this time around are Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur and drummer Richard Stuverud to form the new band RNDM. The group may be pronounced as “random,” but their origins shouldn’t be as surprising as the configuration of their name.
For starters, the friendship between the trio dates back to 1999, when Ament and Stuverud were in Three Fish, and Arthur so happened to be opening for them at the now-defunct Wetlands in New York City. They stayed in touch over years, with Arthur playing at PJ20 and after the singer’s appearance on Seattle’s KEXP, Ament invited him to his Montana home to jam, and from that session, a song emerged and the origins for a new band. In April they reconvened and wrote the songs that made up their first album.
The sound on Acts isn’t random at all. In fact, the group doesn’t resemble a collective of that are just starting out as a singular unit. That can be credited to their status as rock veterans but that discredits the ambitiousness of the projects. RNDM can be hard rockin’ like on album opener “Modern Times,” to introspective on “Darkness“ to the anthemic “What You Can’t Control.” Even the funky licks and heavy reverb of “Hollow Girl” don’t sound out of place here, in fact it manages to fit perfectly within in the context of the album even if the song changes direction midway.
Naturally you’ll be able to hear traces of the influences and sounds from their original projects, but that doesn’t deviate from the musical direction of the project. On “Darkness,” Ament’s bass sounds like something would have been at home on Pearl Jam’s No Code, while Arthur’s lyrics evoke imagery and depth that many songwriters aren’t able to do.
RNDM is at their best when they rock, which is for most of the album. Although the album was recorded in Montana, there’s a certain big city feel to it. Yes, that could be due to song titles like “Walking Through New York” and “Williamsburg,” but also there’s an edge that doesn’t exactly make you think big sky either.
It would be tough to expect with their busy schedules that the RNDM would be able to record and tour on a consistent basis, but hearing dudes come together, jam and record an album without pressure and to do it for fun is refreshing.
Photo by Danny Clinch