American Music Club should have self-destructed long ago. Formed in 1982, the band released its first album in 1985 and has since seen more than its share of personality conflicts and personnel changes, to say nothing of the very public and much-publicized alcohol-induced tantrums of frontman and songwriter Mark Eitzel.
And yet more than a quarter-century later, the California quartet is celebrating its ninth full-length album and touring extensively — with a lineup that's barely a year old. The new record, The Golden Age, finds the core duo of Eitzel and multi-instrumentalist Vudi joined by bassist Sean Hoffman and drummer Steve Didelot for a remarkably straightforward collection of songs that continues in the direction Eitzel began to go in with 2004's Love Songs for Patriots.
"It's an attempt to write something that's a little closer to my own personality and who I am," Eitzel points out. "I decided a while ago not to be around negative people and not to be negative." Considering that he's long been known for his melancholy and self-pitying lyrics, leaving negativity behind is a major shift. "I'm trying to tell stories as opposed to just opening my chest and exposing my shriveled little dick of a heart," he continues in his inimitable way.
Though Eitzel's songwriting has evolved, he's also grudgingly aware that longtime fans still want to hear American Music Club's classic songs of heartache and pain. "We dig kind of deep," he says. "We definitely do the songs that the old-time fans usually want to hear. At this point, AMC is an oldies revue; I have to gird my loins. There are all these very round Michelin-style men with AMC T-shirts from twenty years ago — it's so disheartening. I have them shine the light in my eyes so I can't see."
Joking aside, Eitzel is eager to hit the road with Vudi, his longtime friend and collaborator, who works as a bus driver in L.A. and stayed behind when the band last toured. "Vudi had to quit his job for this tour," he explains. "He had the Glendale-to-Compton route, and it was his favorite route. He complains that he won't get it back. But Vudi's got to be center stage. It's so good to play with him and just hang out with him."
For his part, Eitzel may be noticably more positive and optimistic about things, but he also realizes that the ride is bound to end at some point — and when it does, he already has a plan for his next career.
"I want to work on a suicide hotline," he says with characteristic black humor. "You can make a lot of money that way. And I'm good at answering phones."