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Altered State

Matt Cameron’s New Project Aims to Make Up for a Lost Year

Matt Cameron 2018
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 10: Drummer Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam perform live on stage at Safeco Field on August 10, 2018 in Seattle, Washington.

Matt Cameron expected to be on the road with Pearl Jam for most of 2020.

In March, the band released Gigaton, their first new album in seven years, and they planned several U.S. legs and a European run that would have kept them busy for the rest of the year.

Those plans, obviously, changed. But instead of retreating after Pearl Jam’s short-circuited year, Cameron went back to work on his own material. First, he got cracking on his second solo album; then he dusted off another project that had been in the works for a few years.

While recording Gigaton, Cameron had bounced a few loose ideas off of his pals, including Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins and the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne and Steven McDonald. When Hawkins threw some vocals on a few cuts and made some other suggestions, the project took on a new weight.

“At the beginning of that pandemic, I was ready to finish this stuff I was working on. Then I had to take a step back and take care of the family and wasn’t able to focus as much on it,” he tells SPIN. “Talking to Taylor in September, we both decided to put something out: two of the songs we thought were really strong.”

Thus, Cameron’s latest side project, Nighttime Boogie Association, was formally born. Together, they arrived at a sound steeped in their mutual love of gritty ’70s hard rock.

“Taylor came up with the name,” Cameron says. “We wanted to try to do something fun and light and colorful and positive in this dark moment of the country’s history. It wasn’t a reaction to that, but the timing of something big and bright felt right.”

Through the power of Dropbox (“a musician’s best friend at the moment,” he jokes), the band was able to zip files back and forth to each other as they began to piece together material and finish what they started.

“Long in the Tooth” and “The Path We’re On” were released on Dec. 11 — but those two songs are just the beginning. Between the two drummers, the band has an additional four to six tracks ready to go. They were inspired to release new music before year’s end — and before returning to their day jobs.

“We wanted to put it up just to see if it would create any kind of buzz,” he says. “Taylor sends me demos all the time, and his songwriting is fucking great. Great singer, great guitar player. I mean, he’s a mega-talent.”

With the Foo Fighters set to release a new album in February (and with a vaccine on the way), it could be a while before Nighttime Boogie Association gets rolling again. As for Pearl Jam, Cameron says that they have no regrets about decisively postponing their tour ahead of the pandemic — they were concerned about a doomsday scenario where the shows became superspreader events.

“We were one week away from starting our tour and were going to do some production rehearsals in Canada,” he says of those pivotal days. “We were rehearsing in January and February but were watching what was going on in China at the time. Everything started to cascade at such a fast pace that we had to make that decision. We definitely had big plans for that, and hopefully we can get back to it soon. It ended being the right decision and good to not have to juggle so much and worry about being on tour in the middle of a friggin’ pandemic.”

Despite the obstacles brought by COVID-19, being at home helped Cameron branch out personally and artistically.

“One thing that this pandemic has revealed to me is that it’s really good for me to redirect my energies into different things in my life,” he says. “I was forced to do that, but overall it’s been a positive experience creatively. I’m going to continue to work on my solo album, so that’s probably the next thing I can focus my energy on.”