Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron and Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins have revealed their new band Nighttime Boogie Association, with the drummers unveiling the side project’s first two tracks, “Long in the Tooth” and “The Path We’re On.”
As drummers in three of the biggest rock bands of the past few decades, Cameron and Hawkins became friends over the years, with the two eventually collaborating shortly after participating in the Chris Cornell tribute concert in January 2019.
“Taylor and I are both songwriters in these pretty big, popular bands,” Cameron tells Rolling Stone. “I think we bonded over the fact that we both write music and record demos.”
The first sessions for what would become Nighttime Boogie Association took place at Hawkins’ Los Angeles home studio soon after the Cornell tribute, but obligations to their other bands — as well as the coronavirus pandemic — forced the project to go on the back burner; when Cameron and Hawkins did reconvene, it was done virtually, with the two sending demos back and forth.
Both drummers had previously played central roles in their own side projects — Cameron had Wellwater Conspiracy and his solo career, while Hawkins front his Coattail Riders — but for Hawkins, a longtime Soundgarden fan, working with Cameron provided an opportunity to play alongside one of his favorite drummers.
“He’s in my top 10 all-time drummers. He’s a fucking legend,” Hawkins tells Rolling Stone. “[Dave] Grohl and me will both sit there and go, ‘He is the Neil Peart of our generation.’ He is that guy who does shit where you’re like, ‘There’s no way I could ever do that.’ He’s so precise, yet still such a rock drummer. It’s hard to do that. I just wanna gush on Matt for awhile.”
“Taylor has a better voice than I do,” Cameron admits.
The first track the pair worked on, “Long in the Tooth,” was borne out of a drum machine-and-guitars sketch concocted by Cameron, with Hawkins fleshing out the sound and adding lyrics.
“He sent me some fun little funky drum machine with some Foghat guitars and I just cut it up in the computer, as we do nowadays, and we just fashioned a song out of it,” Hawkins says of “Long in the Tooth.” “I sent it to Matt and he was like, ‘This is really cool.’ And I’m like, ‘You’re gonna put real drums on it, right?’ We’re two drummers in arguably two of the bigger rock bands on the planet right now, and we’re not gonna have real drums on it. That’s kinda rad.”
Hawkins adds, “I think it could totally be the theme song for Cobra Kai. I’m telling you now, Cobra Kai, we will give you this song cut rate. Karate Kid rock.”
On the grunge-prog “The Path We’re On,” Cameron, in addition to writing the lyrics and music, also drums and plays guitar on the track with help from the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne and Steven McDonald. (The duo were also assisting on a Cameron solo album before the drummer refocused on Nighttime Boogie Association.)
“Matt is a fucking great guitar player too. As a musician, I fucking hate him. He’s so good,” Hawkins adds. “When he laid down the drum track for ‘The Path We’re On,’ he’s like ‘Well, I don’t know, I’m not sure what I’m gonna do,’ and the second take is like fucking amazing. Duh. ‘And you didn’t even know what you were gonna do.’”
Hawkins dreamed up the moniker Nighttime Boogie Association, one of several stored-away band names the drummer had been mentally harboring over the decades; Hawkins says they were originally going to call themselves Casanova and the Sunshine Machine “and then we realized there was a rapper named Casanova, and we didn’t want to get sued.”
(Hawkins spoke to Rolling Stone the day after the rapper Casanova’s arrest on federal racketeering charges, so the name change spared the band a Google results nightmare had the name stuck. When informed of Casanova’s arrest, Hawkins quipped, “Then he’d really sue us to help pay the legal fees.”)
For Hawkins, working with Cameron continues a trend where he eagerly seeks out other drummers for collaboration, from joining Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters to his one-off gig with Queen’s Roger Taylor and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith to Nighttime Boogie Association.
“I remember hearing the [first] Foo Fighters album and I really connected with the fact that Dave wasn’t just a drummer,” Hawkins says.
“One of my first favorite records when I was a kid was [Queen drummer] Roger Taylor’s Fun in Space, because it said ‘All the instruments played by Roger Taylor,’ and I liked that. I think it makes you a better drummer to pick up a guitar and write a song. Stewart Copeland, fucking Klark Kent. He always had cool songs on Police records; some of my favorite Police songs are Stewart Copeland songs. So I like that. It connects with me as wanting to be more than just a drummer. I wouldn’t be satisfied with that.”
Hawkins adds, “The drummer’s seat is the hot seat. It’s the first guy to get fired. It’s the first [guy] when everyone goes, ‘We sucked tonight because he sucked.’ The drummer is really the toilet of the band, but also the most important part on a certain level. Your job is to be the pulse of the band.”
As for the future of Nighttime Boogie Association, the drummers’ upcoming obligations —a postponed Pearl Jam tour, a new Foo Fighters album, the usual — have put a temporary pause on working together. “We’re passing demos back and forth and we’re hoping to put out more music in the next six to eight months,” Cameron says. “We definitely have plans to do more in the future, but they’re not definite plans.”
“We’re doing this for fun,” Hawkins adds of the collaboration, which doubles as a celebration of the music they grew up loving. “Me and Matt aren’t planning on buying any mansions off of this.”