Offbeat - April 1989
American Music Club
Publication: OffBeat (#8)
Author: Duncan Crook
Date: April 1989
Out at the end of last year, California, the third album by American Music Club was released to frothing critical acclaim.It echoed the melancholy mood of the previous LP Engine (both LPs are, incidentally, available on Demon), being based on country rooted music at its most haunting. Acoustic guitar, minimal bass and drums and rare shivers of steel guitar create a smoky blue atmosphere for the vocals to twist around in.
The songs and themes lend towards depression and sadness - in fact, some have been heard to mutter 'miserable bastards' in the presence of their music. The pure sounding yet sad tinged vocal that expresses this melancholy belongs to vocalist, songwriter and guitar picker Mark Eitzel, currently on the phone to OffBeat from his home in San Francisco, and putting the finishing touches to his DIY scaffold, no doubt...
"Yeah ,I got a gun, I got a noose, got pills. Actually, it's 10 in the morning here and I'm drinking coffee."
But your music is about sadness.
"Yeah I guess so, kinda like miserable like a kid. Maybe it's a holdout from my adolescence. I've always liked sad songs. I was raised on The Beatles, Crosby, Stills And Nash - they're not exactly upbeat."
Do you find writing about your sadness and depression is a form of exorcism?
"Yeah,I'm getting rid of a lot of crap - sort of good living through sad songs.I despise all the 'happy' songs that people do. I think that our songs give you a way out. If you're hungry for music, ours is good enough to eat!"
What makes you happy though?
"I dunno. I liked Wings of Desire, love... I like riding my bicycle," he laughs, "Drinking. The look of a child, the trees in spring, the cable cars..."
"It was supposed to be the most generic name going, a national organisation. Not on a patriotic way."
What's a typical day like?
"Get up, read, play guitar, go to work - I'm a data entry clerk - and in the evening I usually go out. Pretty interesting, huh? But I live a useful and vivacious existence."
What about living on the edge?
"I don't live on the edge. I know a lot of people who shoot up just to 'live on the edge' ,but that's just stupid. I spent a very depressing four years, but now I've got some money, a nice apartment to myself. I'm a bourgeoisie entertainer for the bourgeoisie. No, I don't live on the edge. If you are on the edge, then you don't want to be there. There are hundreds of people that sleep on the streets here - it's a scary prospect."
Do you think there'll come a time when your lyrics will maybe take in politics? Ecology?
"I'm not that clever. All I can sing about is my own putrid existence, love...I can't get political. I have a real hard time writing political songs. I wanna write songs that wake people up to their feelings. Maybe I am political,I don't know how people react. If I feel any responsibility at all it's that I present a compassionate image. As for saving the planet - jeez!"