Feel the roar
Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan unloads skeletons
Sacramento, CA 95816
David Bazan, former frontman of folk-rock act Pedro the Lion, has seen struggles since the last time I saw him perform, to a way-beyond-capacity crowd at the old Capitol Garage back in ’02. Starting off as a Christian rocker playing mostly to youth groups, his life and art took a drastic turn as he questioned his faith, while dealing with drinking and apathy, which led to a long period of self-discovery.
Since 2007, Bazan has played under his own name and just released Curse Your Branches on Barsuk Records, trying to move forward and once again claim a place in the hearts of music lovers. On his way to practice in Seattle, he sat down to chat on the phone about what he’s been through.
What are some of the difficulties of being successful as both a Christian and mainstream musician?
It was pretty clear to me, even in the mid-’90s, that the Christian-music industry wasn’t a valid cultural sphere. I had no interest in being a part of that. For me, it was pretty clear from the beginning that you don’t do things based on popularity or what people are going to like or dislike about it, you do things or write songs because they are meaningful to you. You don’t write songs with slogans in them because you are trying to communicate some religious doctrine, you write songs that truly express what is going on in your mind and in your body. So, the “what to do and how to respond to things” didn’t seem to me to be all that confusing.
You have been through a lot of personal struggles. How have you been able to deal with everyone knowing about all your intimate details?
I feel that I have a value for transparency in people’s expression, that is just something that I gravitate toward personally, so I don’t feel like I have anything to hide necessarily—or hiding certain bits of my life and experience doesn’t get me any more comfort than not hiding it, so in that sense I am pretty comfortable, which is kind of being who I am and anybody can know about it if they want. …
People are pretty gracious and pretty generous, so if you have done something kind of embarrassing or wrong or whatever, people are pretty forgiving, I have found. But occasionally, some people are really critical or really ungenerous or ungracious about things, and that can be kind of irritating, but people can be irritating and ungenerous in their expressions even when it has nothing to do with me. As far as me being transparent and having all my skeletons out of the closet, that’s a choice I have made just in general about how to live. I like that. I feel good about carrying myself in that way.
Do you ever listen to your old albums?
Yeah, sometimes. I hadn’t listened to Control in a few years, and when I was getting ready to put together the Bazan band, I put it on just to see what songs I may or may not want to play from the record. So last summer, I listened to it for the first time in many years. That was interesting. I have listened to the Bazan EP, Fewer Moving Parts, more than any other one in the last couple years, just because I really like that record.
I [make] records so that I will want to listen to them, and I have been successful in doing that, so I do enjoy listening to them. But for some reason, I hadn’t listen to Control until last summer.