Lion on the lam: Bazan leaves church while still speaking to flock
David Bazan was the brains behind Pedro the Lion, that rare breed of devotedly Christian rockers who win mainstream raves while thrilling the faithful with music far edgier than singalongs. A few years ago, however, Bazan announced that he no longer considered himself a believer and fell into a bit of an alcoholic stupor. When he crawled out agnostic, he got back to work, in 2009 releasing his first solo record: Curse Your Branches. A testimonial of sorts to the doubts this former evangelical has wrestled with for years, the album shows that while Bazan may have left the church, he still has something to say to the congregation.
The Hook: Growing up in a devout Christian household, were there restrictions on what you could listen to?
David Bazan: Until I was about 14 I was only allowed to listen to Christian music. For a while when I was in 8th grade, there was an exception made for the Beatles. But then–- after catching me walking around singing the song "Yer Blues"–- my dad kind of changed his mind.
The Hook: "Yer Blues?"
David Bazan: Yeah, his twelve year-old kid singing "I'm so lonely I wanna die." That's the age where trouble can start.
The Hook: So when you started Pedro the Lion, did you see it as a vehicle for a Christian message?
David Bazan: Well, at the time I was really trying to think outside of the box about how to be a Christian playing music. It was still a really heavy part of my upbringing that music didn't necessarily have value in and of itself–- its value comes from its usefulness as a tool to tell people about your faith.
The Hook: You've moved away from Christianity even as the evangelical mega-church movement has exploded. Was there a specific breaking point?
David Bazan: It evolved pretty naturally. I definitely from the beginning felt like sort of an outsider. While there were Christians who responded positively to the work, with each record there was a contingent of backlash–- people sort of leaving or writing and saying, "I got the new record, and I read the lyrics and I put it back in the envelope; and I'm sending it back, and how dare you communicate this way" kind of thing.
The Hook: This record has an almost more overt Christian tone, as if you've left the pasture but you're still speaking to the flock. Do you think Christians should hear you now more than ever?
David Bazan: I don't really have an opinion about whether they should or shouldn't, but in a certain sense I agree that it may be the most Christian record that I've made in that it's obsessed with those themes, and it's obsessed with the character and the so-called "person" of God, more so than most self-ascribed Christian records. For a lot of Christian people who still continue to believe, listening to Curse Your Branches is a really positive experience because it speaks thoroughly about their own faith. I've found that to be very interesting, because I thought that Curse Your Branches wouldn't be anything but a threat to believing Christians. But I've heard tons of reports to the contrary. People are able to really dig into the record and have their faith still be intact.
David Bazan performs at The Southern on September 26th. $12, 8pm.