Nearly a decade after what singer Mark Eitzel terms a "pretty friendly breakup," the members of San Francisco's American Music Club have reunited and are in the midst of recording a new album.
"We're pretty different now," says Eitzel of bassist Dan Pearson, drummer Tim Mooney and guitarist Vudi, who split in 1995. "I think we've changed a lot. You'd have to in ten years, right?" Eitzel helped spark the reunion by visiting Vudi in Los Angeles recently, where the guitarist holds down a day job as a city bus driver and fronts the band Clovis de la Floret. Though he plied Vudi with drinks and persuaded him to give the band another shot, Eitzel says the elusive guitarist hasn't yet joined them in the studio due to his work schedule.
In the meantime, the core trio has recorded basic tracks for seven songs over the past two weeks at Mooney's San Francisco studio, Closer. The free studio time was one of the keys to the reunion, as the band has not yet signed a record deal, despite interest from several independent labels. "Interest, but no money," Eitzel says in his typical deadpan.
New Eitzel compositions such as "Team USA," "Job To Do," "Look For You in a Crowd," "Another Morning" and "Home" (Pearson penned the song "Brothers in Arms"), were quickly committed to tape for the album, tentatively titled You Better Watch What You Say. "These guys can read my mind musically," Eitzel says. "I play shit, and they know where I'm going. I never have to deal with, 'What were those notes again?'" Vudi is scheduled to join the rest of the group in the studio this Thursday and Friday.
Formed in San Francisco in 1983, AMC quickly gained a reputation for their eclectic mix of rock, punk, lounge and country, with songs that poked at the sometimes seedy underbelly of the city. Eitzel, rarely without his signature fedora and rumpled suit, also gained a reputation for his boozy, humorous monologues during live shows.
The band released seven albums between 1983 and 1995. Eitzel delved further into his modern lounge lizard persona on a series of solo albums, including a collaboration with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck on West (1997), the mostly acoustic Caught in a Trap and I Can't Back Out 'Cause I Love You Too Much, Baby (1998) and last year's eclectic covers collection, Music for Courage and Confidence. Though it might seem like perfect timing, Eitzel says his just-released solo album, The Ugly American -- a collection of nine AMC songs recorded two years ago with a group of Greek musicians -- was not a calculated set-up to the reunion.
"I'm just looking for ways to make make good records," Eitzel said, admitting he was so unsure the alliance would hold that he only planned on staying in San Francisco for three weeks, just in case things fell apart. "I just think these guys are great players. Maybe I'm a fool, but they're good for my songs."
AMC will give the new songs a trial run during an August 21st show at the Make-Out Room in San Francisco.