by Jason Estopinal
Country Music Goodness had the privilege of talking on the phone with Pedro The Lion’s front man David Bazan while him and his band was driving through Canada on tour. Discussing politics, the Christian faith and carbohydrates, this conversation lasted 3 hours in length and unfortunately had to be downsized to what we have in front of us.
Country Music Goodness: Where are you guys at right now?
David Bazan: We’re in Canada, we played in Toronto last night. Were headed back to the states in the next half an hour and were going to play in Buffalo.
CMG: Are you still touring with John Vanderslice?
DB: Yeah. He didn’t play in Toronto last night cause he’s gotten pretty screwed over going into Canada before, so he opted out of the show. Other than that were playing pretty much every show with him.
CMG: He’s got beef with Canada?
DB: No, immigrations has just really screwed him over every time he’s come in, so it’s just not worth it to come over…
CMG: You guys have been playing a lot of in-stores.
DB: We’re doing those in conjunction with normal venues. We will play in-stores in the town that were not playing a show. It’s a free promotional kind of show, its good for the relationship between the distributor, the label, and the record stores.
CMG: Are you dragging your knuckles in to those?
DB: Oh there really good. They’ve all been fun, but some have been really transcendent; not really for the audience, but we have had a really great time. They are acoustic; I’ll play acoustic guitar, Ken will play electric bass through a little tiny amp, and Tim will play a snare drum and a big symbol. It’s all stripped down but we’ve had a really good time doing them.
CMG: How are folks receiving the new record?
DB: It seems like it’s going pretty well. I think it’s probably somewhat of a relief that it’s not the same as Control, although some people wanted the same record again apparently. I don’t know I think people like it, it’s really hard to tell. It’s selling well, we enjoy the songs, the shows are going well.
CMG: Did you feel pressure to do another theme album?
DB: No. If there was pressure, I didn’t feel it. I tend to… ever since I was a little kid growing up in church, any place where there is a pressure to do something to conform or to do something like that I usually rebel against it to the point where I just disregard it. It doesn’t even come on the radar. So I’m not aware of any pressure. But I know after the fact Jade Tree was a little bummed cause they certainly were hoping for something a little more rocking. But it’s selling well so their not bummed any more.
CMG: Do you ever write great songs that don’t really fit the feel of the album and so they don’t make it on the records?
DB: There was a bunch of songs that I had written that were completely done and some that were just started that didn’t go on. There was a song I really like called, “Backwards Nation” that didn’t go on cause, like you said, it didn’t really fit the feel of the album at all so we didn’t put it on. That’s a newer thing though, usually I’m really scraping every little ounce of song together to put on the albums. I’ve become a little more easy going about the process, as it turns out, through that, I become a little more prolific.
CMG: I understand you were pretty high strung during Control, and I think you said you were pretty anal about it. Were you able to relax and have a little more fun during Achilles Heel?
DB: Yes. Certainly. That’s basically what the record was. Through the course of the first couple weeks messing around, demoing, stuff like that, Tim Walsh and I both sort of came to that conclusion. That it’s just time to let go and enjoy playing music and enjoy recording the record. In the end that’s what we did and it was great.
CMG: So who all is in Pedro right now?
DB: Tim Walsh, or TW Walsh, on drums. Myself on guitar and singing. And my buddy Ken Maiuri on bass.
CMG: Do you enjoy the fact that you always have different people in the band touring with you, or does it make it stressful?
DB: For a while I was into it until a little more than a year ago, I was fine with it. But I got to a point that I thought; I really need a band, this isn’t working out. I felt like I was doing karaoke. So now TW is full on in the band and to a ceratin degree Ken is to. I think we have really deliberately been using terminology of commitment. With Ken it’s a pretty set period just so that if he doesn’t want to do it after awhile or we just don’t think it’s working out we can access that in a real natural way. But were definitely a band.
CMG: TW got a song he wrote on the new record right?
DB: He did, “Start Without Me.” We were actually going to put a whole lot more of his songs on there but in the end I left it up to him. The criteria was we could put as many songs on here that is reasonable, but if you would rather use them for your own record that’s a consideration you need to keep in mind. And so we ended up not putting anymore of his songs on there cause he wanted to use them later on for his own albums.
CMG: You guys have a side project together right?
DB: Yeah this thing that’s called The Headphones… I’m playing drums, Tim’s playing bass, and Kens playing guitar. As it stands now we are going to be playing a lot of Tim’s songs. We have been tossing around the idea of potentially doing a TW Walsh record in which case The Headphones would morph into something different, but we haven’t nailed anything down yet.
CMG: Any plans of doing a Headphones record or anything?
DB: We are just recording all the time now. The stuff is set up, when we’re not touring we’re recording.
CMG: Would you be doing that on Jade Tree?
DB: No. There’s another label in Seattle called Suicide Squeeze that we’re working it out with.
CMG: You guys put out some great pieces of vinyl on that label.
DB: Yeah I really like it. It’s always the most beautiful version of the album. You’ve got this big awesome petroleum disc and the artwork looks so great all blown up.
CMG: The last time I saw you play you presented a bit of your political agenda, usually you’re a pretty reserved guy, what caused this to rise up?
DB: Well its been this way kinda for awhile but I just haven’t felt the urgency to bring it to the folks. Until this year on this trip, because it’s a really pivotal year for United States politics, so my initial thought was man, you know whatever I can do to get George W. Bush out of office, but you know the sense of urgency is appropriate, but that’s a little short sided. Even if we get that guy out I still think we have a major problem. So then I tried to broaden the scope of my comments to include just what it means to be in democracy and why were really failing at that and what factors affect it. …Music for America has been showing up to some of the shows recently, they were supposed to be at all the shows. It was hard to coordinate all the volunteers. There basic push is to get people to vote and get them registered and be engaged in the democracy.
CMG: Have you even been interviewed and not been asked about your faith?
DB: Maybe like 3 or 5% of the time.
CMG: I am just going to go ahead and go for it because I have been a fan of Pedro for a long time and to be honest I find it confusing as to where your at with the Lord and your faith. I don’t know if its even my business but at the same time you write about it. So I guess the straight up question is are you a Christian?
DB: I have begun in the last year to answer that question in the negative and say no. But to clarify I believe in the apostles creed, rather I believe what the apostles creed said. Which is an easy way to go down the list. I believe in the deity of Christ, I believe in the crucifixion, the atonement of sin, the resurrection. And I say no the question am I a Christian, first of all the word Christian …what it brings to mind and the category it represents, is a category I do not consider myself to be a part of. Now a days I really believe that the church in general is practicing something that is, in most ways, the antithesis of Christ and His teachings. I think that as long as that’s the case I have no allegiance to the term Christian. Jesus didn’t make up that term, that’s just something some person called another group of people. Similarly to; there was a time in history when to be called catholic was to identify yourself with the church at large and now that’s not the case anymore. A lot of people say my belief system is different from what it meant at that time to be catholic. I choose to disassociate myself from the movement which became known as Christianity. I think that in general that is the antithesis of Christ, which is really unfortunate but history is just cyclical. And also the big fear of saying that is that people might misunderstand, and that’s a big part of what it means to be a evangelical Christian is to try to be as clear with as many strangers as possible about everything about you. Particularly with issues of faith and I think that’s ludicrous, because inevitably people do misunderstand. What’s the difference? At one point I thought, why does it have to matter what strangers think about me? Because there all misconceptions anyway. Let me just answer in the negative and the people who are reactionary say, well then I am not going to listen. That’s kind of a good move anyway. I think that cutting all those people off is less of a stresser for me, and so that’s great. So the people that are still hanging on, that are still learning and open, will see Gods love. It wont be dependent upon a category, or some expectation it will be because its genuine. So the answer is no with all of that massive disclaimer.
CMG: So when you are doing things that Jesus teaches us not to do like, for example let us say, getting drunk, do you admit that you are stumbling there or are you thinking this is ok?
DB: Paul and others discussed that one of the purposes of the law was to point out our falleness and show our need for God. And the effect of our disobedience of the law that is negative is separation with God. So with Christ and what he did in his life and death and resurrection that is erased completely. There is no basis on which we approach God except for Christ’s sacrifice and what he did. The second negative effect of the law is it causes us pain in our lives. On an eternal level, because of what Christ did and if we humbly accept that reaping and sowing is erased on an eternal level. Its still intact, he didn’t do away with the law, he just fulfilled it in a way that we don’t have to, its clear we can not. And so that’s what I think Paul’s comment that “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.” Because nothing we can do can separate us from Gods love, and that’s not, as he says, just go and sin deliberately. Even when you are not deliberately sinning… you are either worshiping God or you are sinning. But then there is all rest of it. So what I would say about those things is that the law is there as guidelines for us to try to understand his wisdom. To understand a way how to live now where we don’t pile on these super painful consequences for making poor decisions.
CMG: I was wondering what your feelings on carbs are?
DB: Well my relationship with Carbohydrates has certainly changed this last year. I went on that diet and lost a bunch of weight, and now by contrast just realizing how much sugar I’ve consumed in my life and how absurd that amount is. TW and I both adkinsized our bodies and now they’ve kind of slipped back into some version of the pre-adkins glory.