David Bazan drops Pedro the Lion for his own name

As Pedro the Lion, David Bazan played melodic, atmospheric songs that earned him indie-rock acclaim. As the Headphones, he creates infectious electro-pop that has found him new fans.

Now Bazan has taken on two other roles: He’s a musician who performs under his own name and a new father.

Bazan performs at Modesto’s annual Xclamation Fest. Thousands of music fans are expected to crowd the city’s downtown for six hours of performances from the likes of Vanilla Ice, Marshall Tucker Band, Joe Diffie, Tone Loc and others.

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The Seattle-based Bazan, 30, has a 22-month-old daughter, Ellanor, with wife Ann-Krestene. Fatherhood, he said, "has been amazing."

"I didn’t know it was possible to feel this way. The capacity for joy and potential regret just kind of exploded. There’s a lot that can go wrong."

Musically, Bazan is venturing out under his own name for the first time. He recently released the CD "Fewer Moving Parts."

Bazan retired the Pedro the Lion name last year, because it strained his relationship with his musical collaborators. Even though Pedro the Lion albums and concerts featured a variety of performers, the act was formed by and belonged to Bazan.

"It’s hard for anybody else to have ownership over Pedro the Lion when they know I’m going to just keep doing it, whether they’re going to do it or not," he said. "That was a dynamic that undermined any long-term relationship with anyone involved in Pedro the Lion."

He emphasized that he remains friends with his Pedro collaborators, particularly Seattle multi-instrumentalist Tim Walsh, who assisted with recording "Fewer Moving Parts." Bazan described the new CD as the result of his past musical errors.

"As you record albums, you learn little lessons here and there," he said. " ‘I shouldn’t have done it that way; I may have made a mistake.’ It’s sort of the product of me making mistakes."

The new album includes five songs, each performed once with electric instruments and once acoustically. Tracks such as the electric "The Devil is Beating His Wife" feature Bazan at his best, using his strong, clear voice and detailed lyrics to paint a scene for the listener.

Bazan transforms his songs and gives them new titles when he picks up an acoustic guitar. "The Devil is Beating His Wife" becomes "Cold Beer and Cigarettes," an echoing home-recorded song with a rhythmic guitar and short plucking solo.

Bazan considers "Fewer Moving Parts" his best work of his career.

"It is a culmination of everything I’ve done up to this point, sonically, lyrically and songwritingwise," he said.

The Phoenix native said he was introduced to music at a young age by his father, a music pastor. Growing up, Bazan played piano, clarinet and drums. He was limited in his musical performances, however, as his father frowned on secular music.

Bazan said he didn’t find rock until his early teens, when he began listening to the Beatles. A few years later, he discovered indie-rock and punk icon Ian MacKaye and his band Fugazi.

"There was an urgency there that gave it a sense of cool," Bazan said.

Formed in 1994, Pedro the Lion released four full-length albums, including the well-received "Achilles Heel" in 2004. Bazan created the Headphones around 2000 after being inspired by such technology-influenced albums as the Flaming Lips’ "The Soft Bulletin" and Radiohead’s "Kid A." The Headphones’ self-titled debut was released last year.

"I had just heard ‘The Soft Bulletin,’ and it was this ecstatic mess of electronics," he said. "It just sounds so cool."

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