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American Music Club

A Reunion a Decade in the Making

If not for a little band called The Pixies, the biggest reunion story of the musical year just might be that of American Music Club. One of the most influential and critically acclaimed local bands of the mid-'80s and '90s, AMC hit the comeback trail with a tour earlier this year that included the closing spot at NoisePop and a trip to the SXSW Festival. The group will release its first album in 10 years, the magnificently brooding and musically superb Love Songs for Patriots, October 19th on Merge Records.

The obvious question then: why was it the right time to reunite? The answer is simple and succinct if you ask frontman and lead vocalist Mark Eitzel. "This is the best band I have had in 10 years," he states plainly.

Indeed, the band sounds even better than it did in 1994 when it surpassed its critical peak while failing to make much of a commercial breakthrough. The hype hounds barked viciously early in AMC's career after a string of terrifically received records, including Everclear and Mercury, in the early-'90s. The band's music struck an emotional chord while Eitzel and Co. developed a nationwide cult following, and an even larger European fanbase, through near-constant touring. Their melancholic and introspective blueprint, blending rock, folk, a bit of punk and strands of country, paved the way for similar influential artists like Red House Painters.

As AMC's principal singer/songwriter Eitzel was and is the heart and soul of the band. His darkly poetic lyrics are those of a troubled romantic, and are culled from somewhere deep inside his soul. The raw spirit and tortured honesty of his songs are a distinctive trademark of AMC's music.

Despite his role as the central figure, Eitzel may have discovered he needed his band as much as they needed him during their 10-year hiatus. AMC's tenure had been rocky throughout as it teetered on the brink of success, and Eitzel fought his well-publicized battle with alcoholism -- sometimes right on stage. The band broke up in 1995, on friendly terms, but with thoughts of trying out different directions both musically and personally. Eitzel embarked on a solo career and released some intriguing recordings, maintaining a loyal fan base. Bass player Dan Pearson joined a new band called Clodhopper, while drummer Tim Mooney became a producer at Closer Recording Studios in SF and guitarist Vudi moved to LA to front a band called Clovis de Foret.

After a decade apart, Mooney called up his former AMC colleagues in 2003 to explore the possibility of playing together again. Eitzel happened to be working on a new set of songs and he jumped at the chance to reunite with his older and more mature bandmates. Many of those songs appear on the finished Love Songs for Patriots. According to the songwriter, it's been a seamless re-connection.

"We are the same," says Eitzel. "The only difference is that Danny and Tim have kids, which is much more important than the band." If middle age has changed some of the band's priorities, it hasn't toiled much with AMC's musical ability. Eitzel's passionate, sardonic lyrics still serve as a perfect launching point for the intimate compositions created by the other extremely talented musicians, and the group now includes a pianist/trumpeter named Marc Capelle. His addition provides additional texture and another layer of sonic emotion to the band's sound.

Eitzel hasn't abandoned his solo career, but it appears American Music Club is once again a thing of the present, not just a novelty act. The band already plans to tour together more and perhaps record another album. Why mess with the best thing you've done in a whole decade?