Matt Crowley/The AS Review
Anyone who has listened to Pedro the Lion knows that David Bazan has an interesting relationship with God. For better or worse, his religious upbringing certainly shows through in his music. Although his beliefs may have changed, it’s hard to find anyone who can weave stories about faith, family and fear as well as Bazan can. At 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 10, Bazan will perform at the VU MPR ($7 for Western students w/ ID, $10 general admission). The AS Review sat down with him to discuss his past as well as his current solo project.
The AS Review: How did you first get into music production?
David Bazan: I guess I’m a part of—maybe a little bit later into—the generation who used 4-tracks, so that’s how I started recording. I would record band practices of a post-hardcore band that I was in who had a 4-track and I borrowed that 4-track at some point and tried to record my own tunes and that’s basically how that started. And then in ’94 I made several 4-track recordings and I liked it enough to distribute it to my buddies, and that was the first Pedro the Lion tape.
ASR: What caused you to make the decision to end Pedro the Lion?
DB: Me and my longtime good friend and collaborator at the time, Tim Walsh, broke up basically and that was the immediate cause. That was the most difficult to swallow symptom of what I perceived to be a deeper problem that I didn’t understand at the time, and I wanted to wrap my head around it.
ASR: Some of your earlier work with Pedro the Lion contains a lot of religious themes. How does religion influence your music now?
DB: Religion is probably one of the more sinful concerns of my life and it has been since I’ve had any memories at all. The way that I look at it is, who you are and what you do and all that influences your music or your creative outlet, but, it f---in’ ought to.
The universal concern in my music is ethics. If you boil down any issues, at the core there’s some ethical concern. My interest or preoccupation with ethics directly comes from my interaction with the religion, Christianity, I had growing up.
ASR: Was your upbringing very strictly religious?
DB: My dad was the music pastor and kind of a workaholic. We lived a quarter mile from the church that we went to and the school that I went to was affiliated with the church. So, yeah, that was my whole world, nothing else.
ASR: Do you feel that had a negative or positive impact on you when you first started making and recording music?
DB: Well, to me it’s a double-edged sword because I think the Christian culture in general has a pretty low opinion of music on its own for its own purpose. They have a pretty high opinion of it as a delivery system for slogans and propaganda, so when I first started making music my opinion about music was pretty divided. I had all the influences sort of coming at once and I definitely valued music for itself and I felt guilty about that. I was brought up to believe it was a delivery medium for information. But I wouldn’t really change anything about my upbringing, I was really happy about it all.
ASR: What was the motivation behind your idea to start playing small house shows?
DB: Barsuk Records wanted me not to tour until the record came out, which would be an eight month period without any touring, which means basically no real income. So we were just trying to figure out a way to tour without pissing them off.
ASR: When you’re playing these small house shows, where the atmosphere is going to be different than a large club, does it put more or less pressure on you when you’re in a smaller room and a lot closer to your audience?
DB: Oh, there’s more. I mean, you have to play good, you know? (Laughs) But yeah, it’s very intense and it’s very visceral in that way and it’s sort of satisfying.
ASR: As far as your fan base is concerned, do you feel that since Pedro the Lion disbanded you’ve gained more support from your solo project or is it mostly comprised of longtime fans?
DB: It’s hard to say. I’ve had people say they didn’t really dig Pedro but they liked the solo stuff and then there are people that liked Pedro but aren’t really into the solo stuff. It’s a mix.
ASR: What does the rest of 2010 have in store for you?
DB: I’m going to work on a record and play a bunch of shows and hopefully get some time to hang out with my family. That’s pretty much what hopefully the rest of my life is.
ASR: Doesn’t sound like a bad life to me.
DB: No, man, wake up early every day and work hard to try to earn the privilege.