Mark Eitzel is a gay man who can't stop writing songs about a woman. The woman he can't let go is a nymph from his past, a muse for the man who insists sex isn't essential for survival and love is much more vital to a musician than foreplay. Eitzel references her in most of his material for American Music Club, his two-decade-old countrified rock-folk outfit out of San Francisco.
"I know, it's weird. Call me a freak," he shrugs.
Eitzel is a freak, especially now. He's apparently the only gay man who doesn't critique the fashion of passersby and squeal bitchy, flamboyant one-liners that include the word "Mary." And for that, he's a bit suspect.
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy... doesn't scare people, but a man who makes a living and has a family and is still gay-man, that scares people," he says. "Gay people are supposed to pretend all the time."
Eitzel's not prone to discuss politics with strangers, and would much rather share a hearty laugh. Yet AMC's new album, Love Songs for Patriots, turned political in spite of this, scratching and picking at the fresh scabs adorning American patriotism.
"I think there's going to be civil war in this country," he says. "I'm terrified about my neighbors having assault weapons, and that makes me a traitor. I wanted to change the band's name to the Anti-American Music Club, but the band wouldn't let me do it. Unless you can afford a very good lawyer and a bodyguard, you cannot speak your mind in America anymore."
Eitzel's older than when he, guitarist Vudi (born Mark Pankler), bassist Dan Pearson, keyboardist Brad Johnson and drummer Matt Norelli came together to record their 1985 debut, The Restless Stranger (since, Tim Mooney has replaced Norelli, and pianist Marc Capelle has joined). Their newest isn't the heavy-drinking depression that Stranger was, and Eitzel is writing more lucidly and from the heart.
And it seems his heart and his liver have been collaborating.
"This is not a fucking AA meeting," Eitzel blurts. "I don't drink every day. [But] a lot of my songwriting comes from real experience and a lot of that experience-both in the band and out-comes from being in a bar.
"I used to write songs like I was putting a cigarette out on my arm, and now I write songs about a better future. That can't be so bad, right?"
American Music Club plays with The Court & Spark at the Casbah, 9 p.m. on Oct. 22. $12. 619-232-HELL.