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November 28, 2004

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Pedro the Lion is not Christian rock. Get it straight. They occasionally dabble in spiritual lyrics and biblical allusions. They were featured in a documentary about Christian rock. On iTunes, instead of "rock" they're filed under "inspirational."

But leader David Bazan isn't having it.

"Christian music is retarded," he says. "The point of it is foolish and the implementation of the craft is cut-rate at every turn."

What sets the Washington indie rock band apart from Creed and other Jesus bands? Their music is actually worth remembering. Wavering between hushed tones of despair and the occasionally flip aside, Pedro the Lion (named after Bazan's yet to be realized children's book) has gained a loyal college rock following over the past nine years and produced five albums -- including the latest "Achilles Heel."

Ready to headline Sonoma State University's last concert before the winter break, Bazan took a studio break while recording with his new side-project, The Headphones:

Question: I guess congratulations are in order, you just had a new addition to the family.

Answer: Yeah, we had a baby daughter -- Ellanor Ann.

Q: And you're already back on tour? How does your wife let you get away with that?

A: Because she wants, like, money to pay the bills.

Q: That always seems to come in handy. Have you suffered much of a stigma as an indie Christian rock band?

A: Yeah, certainly, because what that makes a reference to is bull----. Doing art under any other pretense than "Let's see what happens, I'm feeling like making something" is wrong. It's unethical, particularly when it's this bait-and-switch model that evangelical Christians and car salemen have adopted throughout time.

Q: Have you ever felt lured down that road?

A: Definitely. But I never wanted our records to be sold in Christian bookstores. I didn't want to play Christian shows. It's just a bunch of kids so stoked they get to go out on a Friday night, they'll play hackey-sack while you're playing. And the promoters are schmucks. They don't pay you the way they're supposed to. They pull you aside after the show and say, 'Hey, bro, this is a ministry and we didn't really do as well as we thought we were tonight.' "

Q: One line from "Achilles Heel" that keeps coming back to me is "You were too busy steering the conversation toward the Lord to hear the voice of the spirit begging you to shut the (heck) up." Have you been more reluctant to talk about God and religion lately?

A: Only because it's so consistently misunderstood. The presence of religion on "Winners Never Quit" is often misunderstood as being pro-, but from my perspective it was an indictment of religion and Christianity and how it didn't work. It was a very mocking record.

Q: "Arizona" might be the first song to expose rampant geographical lovemaking between states. I never knew that Arizona had this thing for California and New Mexico is downright jealous.

A: Well, the whole thing came from the way California and Nevada are kind of spooning on the map. But I didn't really feel like writing a song about Nevada so much. I grew up in Arizona and there's always been a special place in my heart for that state.

Q: Now that you have a manager, how does he feel about your satirical take on "Bands with Managers"?

A: I wrote the song before we had a manager, then we got one and he was a little bit insecure when he first heard it: 'What does this mean? Are you guys just (messing) with me or what?' I explained to him where it came from and he said fine. It's basically about the bands who betray their loyal supporters and fans to make it.

Q: Do you think ('80s Christian hair-metal band) Stryper ever did that?

A: I don't know. There's so much that's unethical about that band, I wouldn't put it past them.

Q: What are the top three things you remember about Stryper?

A: I know that their Bible verse was Isaiah 53:4. Christian bands would put a bible verse after their names so people would understand the reference that their name means.

Q: Don't forget the black-and-yellow bumblebee motiff.

A: Exactly. And I've actually seen the singer perform a solo set at Paramount's Great America in San Jose.

Q: I bet that was awesome.

A: You have no idea.