What do you know? 30 finally got an interview with Pedro the Lion. It was a long, treacherous battle, but, hey we somehow did it. Was it worth the wait? Oh, hell yes. From finding out that David Bazan’s wife sometimes can’t deal with his lyrics to realizing he may never write a “happy” song, we pick apart this prolific songwriters brain. And it’s all for you, the faithful reader.
From Detroit to Buffalo, one socially/economically depressed city to the next, Pedro the Lion embarks on their Fall tour in support of Achilles Heel. After the sun sets and business hours are spent, downtown Buffalo becomes a ghost town; the men and women in suits leave the city to the wind strewn trash and the hollow corridors of the vacant cityscape. In many ways, David Bazan’s stark allegories of the downtrodden and dilapidated human condition are at home here. And as the kids line up in the cold waiting for the doors to open, 30 sits down with Mr. Bazan.
30: It’s been about five months since Achilles Heel came out. How do you feel about the record now?
David Bazan: Pretty good. I feel less and less like I need each album to be definitive. So, there’s not as much writing on each one?°¦ Well, I guess just that. Needing it to be some definitive statement about who the band is and all that other stuff. That being said, I like it. It’s pleasant, I think. Definitively not everything I would want it to be, but a good snapshot of the time and the songs.
30: Is it hard being on the road, playing these songs and thinking about what different directions they could have gone in?
Bazan: Yeah, but more you just reference the songs. When you think of an album you just think of the songs that you play, and that you like it. Just, “I like this song and that album had this song that I like.”
30: Lyrically, your songs always tend to lean towards the sinister side of life. Where do all these topics come from? As you have said, the songs are mostly fictional, but what is the source, where does it come from?
Bazan: I don’t know. I guess it’s whatever is going on in my subconscious. The kinds of things I like to think of: crime, movies–
30: Presidential politics?
Bazan: Yeah, that’s?°¦there’s just a lot of room to be deviant when thinking of American life. So, it probably stems from all of that. I like a lot of different stuff. I like Tarantino’s movies?°¦
(Bazan’s cell phone rings, and the interview is momentarily on hold.)
Bazan: That was my wife.
30: It’s just, you’re songs are depressing. They have all these hurtful feelings coming out, have you ever thought of, or have you ever written, a straight up happy song.
Bazan: That critique has been around for a really long time. People have encouraged me to write a happy song and I would think, “Why can’t I write a happy song?” I mean, I don’t know. I sat down and tried to do it, but it just feels fake or something. It’s nothing I could really sing and get behind because in most cases I just don’t buy it. I’m not sure in a general sense. Yet, I enjoy my life and am relatively happy and at peace.
30: But has your wife ever bothered you about it? “Write me a happy song.”
Bazan: Nah. She doesn’t like some songs occasionally. There was a line in “I do” that I changed for her. It used to say, “and when his tiny head emerged from hair and folds of skin” which she thought to be pornographic or whatever. She suggested “blood” and I changed it to that. That’s fine. Probably left to my own I would have kept “hair”. It is more graphic, but no, she isn’t pissed about the general direction of the music.
30: Achilles’ Heel seems to be more poppier than the other Pedro discs. Is this a direction you’re going to continue in?
Bazan: I really don’t know. You just trying to figure out where your own tastes are and write songs that you like. As things go, I like pop songs a lot. I don’t know what is going to happen now, though – if I aim to write more songs like that. The songs I am writing now are definitely pop songs in similar ways.
30: In an interview with Jade Tee co-owner, Tim Owen, he said that Pedro the Lion was one of the bands he had always dreamed of signing. How did the whole deal go down?
Bazan: With them, the guy who was running Made in Mexico, who was a longtime friend when he started the label, asked me if I wanted to be on his label and I said ?°»Yeah.” He had been a longtime friend with Tim from Jade Tree. At one point, there was a couple of major labels that were interested and were courting Pedro the Lion but usually just junior A & R guys, nothing really legitimate. We were entertaining the idea, and the guy running Made in Mexico said, “That’s stupid. If you are going to go some place else you should go to the next logical step. You shouldn’t jump ahead. Tim likes your band and would be interested in signing you. You should do that if you are going someplace else.” Then eventually in late ?°»99, on tour, we played in DC and Tim Owen took us out to dinner and asked to sign us.
30: You’ve gone quite far with Pedro the Lion. What keeps you going? The music itself or the fans, the response you get?
Bazan: I wouldn’t say it’s the response and the fans. I love doing it. I love getting up every day and working on music, writing music, and I love going on tour. It’s a decent way to make a modest living for now. I am obsessed with music and making up songs and figuring how they are going to go and what the instrumentations are going to be.
30: Have you been on tour with Starflyer 59 before?
Bazan: Yeah, we’ve been buddies with them for a long time. We’ve played mostly in Southern California, well on the West Coast we’ve played with them a lot because they live in Southern California. Last summer we did some shows where I played solo, opening up for them. So, we must have played 40 or 50 shows with them.
30: Is there some sort of West Coast community, especially among what are considered Christian bands? From a far off perspective, it seems like there is this community atmosphere.
Bazan: I don’t know. There’s the SoCal thing that these guys [Starflyer] know about and run in that would’ve included like Gene Eugene, Mike Knott, and the 77’s. I think they knew of each other through Gene’s studio, the Green Room. Gene worked on Starflyer’s records and he was in bands with Mike Rowe and Terry Taylor. And we’re just buddies with these guys, and I don’t know any other bands from down there. I know Martin. So, It doesn’t feel like that with me but they’re my buddies and I like them a lot, and when I go down for Christmas to see my folks my wife and I go out to dinner with Martin and his wife. In Seattle, obviously, where you live you have buddies that you would consider community.
30: I read that you were digging I am the Portuguese Blues. It must be really fun going tour with a band like this.
Bazan: Oh yeah. I think I got the Silver record in ’94 and have been a big fan ever since. Around ’96 I met Jason and starting hanging out and playing shows together.
30: What type of music were you listening to when you were 17?
Bazan: When I was 17, I was listening to Fugazi, the Cure, U2, Nirvana, the Violent Femmes, the Breeders. I listened to the radio and other stuff too, but the records I remember putting in and listening to. That’s pretty much it.