These days, bassist Jeff Ament is doing double duty: He's performing and touring with longtime friends and collaborators dUg Pinnick (of King's X) and Fastback Richard Stuverud in their new Motown-meets-garage outfit Tre Mts. (pronounced, by Ament at least, "Tres Mountains"), and preparing to start a prolonged period of activity with his day job band, Pearl Jam.

In part one of a two-part interview, Ament talked to Click Track about Tres Mts.' new debut disc, "Three Mountains," the role of sometime member (and Pearl Jam guitarist) Mike McCready and the anxiety of life in a new band: Tres Mts. just played their first-ever show last week. "It's sort of almost like a two week all-intensive college course where you have two weeks before the final," Ament says. "You just hope you studied enough." The band performs at the Black Cat tonight.

In Part Two, tomorrow: Life in Pearl Jam at the twenty year mark.

Do you get a sense about whether the fans at your shows are fans of your separate bands, or of your new stuff, or if it's a mix?

I think it's mostly fans of each of the bands. The [Tres Mts.] record has only really been available the last couple of days. I would say that half the people at the show last night weren't familiar with the record.

So you're in a position of having to win the room over.

A little bit, yeah. I think we brought 'em in. I think after three or four songs people were into it. Mike McCready was being a showman last night and he was out winning people over.

It's good right? To have to win people over again at this stage of your life?

Oh yeah. Totally, totally. The way we made this record-we never played these songs as [complete] songs. We wrote them in the studio, so five days ago was the first time we tried to play these songs as completed songs and it took us every bit of these five days to figure it out.

(One reason Tre Mts. will never be hip, after the jump)

Some of these songs date back to 2004. Did the material hold up, or did you go back and tweak it?

There was a little bit of tweaking. DUg says it was crazy to hear what he was writing about six or seven years ago, [he's] so not in that space now. I know that live, he's actually changed some of the lyrics a little bit.

You recorded a solo album [2008's "Tone"] over a long period as well. Is that what you're like-you have to let things percolate?

Richard comes to Montana twice a year and we have writing sessions and that's what this album came out of…typically it's just about being around creative people and trying to write songs. Sometimes you don’t have a group that makes sense together for five years, ten years or whatever...Once you have a group of three or four songs, you kind of have a flagpole to rally the troops around.

Is Mike an official member, or does he come and go?

He's a busy guy. He's got a young family….When I called him up, I just said, "Hey I know you're busy, but you're my first choice" [and he said yes].

What do you bring back to Pearl Jam from this?

Well the good thing about this-I think we're going to try to get together and record sometime in April-and the good thing is, Mike and I will have our chops up to snuff. And we do bring back those things that you learn. I think that's why this band has always been so open about side projects and getting outside of the band. I think when you get outside the band, you figure out the good things and the bad things, and you appreciate everybody that you work with in your day job and you appreciate all the other things that go along with being in a big band.

Like the nice [limos] and the first class travel.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Flying first class is great. This tour, it's trains and coach.

Do you feel like you're going into [your SXSW show] with a certain amount of goodwill, or is it skeptical hipsters you have to win over?

Yeah, we're not going to pander to what we think they're gonna think is hip. We're gonna do what we do and it's probably not gonna seem-there's not a lot of laptops onstage that we'll be playing. We're actually playing our instruments. If anything, I think this band is influenced by even older rock-Motown and Stax.

You have another solo album in [the works].

There's a second group of songs-it was just something I worked on over the winter. After this I'll get back into Pearl Jam land. I think it's kind of where everybody in the band is at. Everybody's kinda working on stuff all the time. And for me over the past few years, it's become really important to me to finish things.