From 1983 to 1995 one of the brightest musical legacies, critically if not commercially, from San Francisco was that wrought by American Music Club. After seven records and much frustration at the mechanics of the record industry and music biz, the band quit (on good terms, fortunately). Ten years on, drummer Tim Mooney called around to his former bandmates wondering if the time was right to work together again. Luckily they agreed. Vocalist/guitarist Mark Eitzel had a batch of new songs that became the core of the new album, Love Songs For Patriots, and his longtime musical foil Vudi (guitar) took time out from his bus-driving job. Bassist Dan Pearson had just released his solo CD, The Oblivion Seeker, which he recorded with Tim as well. Love Songs For Patriots is a darker, more desperate AMC than the band of the past — as if dreams of any mainstream acceptance went out the window during their hiatus and now they could just cut to the troubled core of their songs when recording. -LC
So let's talk about your new record.
Mark Eitzel: When we were first mixing "Patriot's Heart" with Monte [Vallier] he did a brilliant job. We edited it so that the bass was loose with the drums because it was played kind of weird. The piano was loose as well. This guy mixed it for us. We paid him. He took the bass and piano parts and put them exactly with the kick and snare. The kick and snare were not in time either but the track didn't work at all.
Tim Mooney: No, it didn't. It felt wrong and it took a while to figure out why.
M: I did a lot of the editing and I thought I had just done it wrong because he is so much better at that kind of stuff, but no.
I have seen that kind of thing a lot. That is the worst thing you can do is start using your eyes to mix songs.
T: For that song we were listening to old soul records. We were trying to find a groove.
M: Was that "Me and Mrs. Jones"?
T: It was "The Bitter Line Between Love and Hate".
M: Yeah, that was what it was. So when we mixed it again later with Matt Pence [at Echo Lab in Denton, Texas], we used an earlier version that didn't have the edits. It was no dis on Monte. I mean, he didn't know what to do. It was like a six-minute song with no variation. It has got the same groove. It has got out of time guitar playing. I thought it all worked really great — put the faders up and it's done. That is what Matt did.
I noticed how important it is to let the bass and kick just be out, the way they look, especially with a soul feel. The bass is just going to look late.
M: Yeah. Like with "Love Is". When I did the editing on the bass, I wouldn't use my eyes. It felt good. I would just take a piece. If it was ahead, I would just leave it ahead.
Do you guys end up doing a lot of editing on the record?
M: Well, we both did it. I mean, we would do a lot of stuff here, and then I would do stuff at home because I've got an MBox. We did all the editing before we took it to mix, and we printed everything, because he uses Nuendo and he didn't have Pro Tools.
Right. So you just printed the whole track out.
M: We just printed out all the tracks. And he didn't do much editing. Yeah, but we recorded the first ideas onto 24-track...
T: I think half the record was that.
M: Two-thirds of the record. And then we transferred it onto Pro Tools, mostly because I just knew with vocals, you got to comp them, and it took forever to comp them on analog. It's just a lot of fucking work. I thought we could save time and money. What a fool.
No, it's true. Pro Tools can be great for vocal comping.
M: And also with Vudi we didn't have very much time. We had Vudi only like five days total in the whole recording process. So, basically, we just have him do like, 'Okay, do another take,' and then we'd have to piece it together because he didn't have time. You know, he drives a bus.
Right. You got to be on schedule in that business.
M: He does. Yeah, so he gave us like two days every fifth or sixth week. It was really hard.
So did you do a lot of home recording since the last AMC record?
M: Yeah, I did my last record, Invisible Man, on Pro Tools.
Just by yourself?
M: Uh-huh. That's why it sounds like shit.
T: We beg to differ.
M: And I had Alex Oropeza mix it. And he was great. He taught me some stuff.
So did you just dive into it yourself?
M: Yeah, because I worked with Jason Carmer [Third Eye Blind], and for various reasons he could no longer work on...