Q&A with David Bazan

David Bazan has a complicated relationship with the past. As the primary force behind the now-defunct band Pedro the Lion, Bazan spent a decade documenting personal struggles with his Western culture and his Christian faith through dynamic indie rock songs. Those struggles have yet to end, but they’ve progressed. Bazan previously refused requests for certain past songs from his devout fans, so it was a surprise when he announced he’d be playing 2002’s Control—one of Pedro’s most beloved and sardonic works—in full during his fall tour. We called Bazan in the middle of his six-week tour to find out how it’s going.

Does Control hold up a decade later?
I was a little concerned about that. The reason we chose that album is that it is the only one where there aren’t two or three songs that I just refuse to play, songs that I don’t dig for whatever reason. That made me hopeful, and, it turns out it continues to resonate, I think because cynics are usually correct about the future.

What about “Rapture”? You’ve refused to play that song in the past.
That’s the only song I was really worried about. I probably couldn’t stand playing that song isolated from the rest of the record, but in the context of the record, I actually really enjoy it. I’m not having to quiet down a bunch of voices saying, “You moron. This is drivel.” You know, that happens.

What’s been the highlight of the tour for you?
We didn’t play “Rejoice,” the last track on the record, very often even on the original Control tour. But that one has been really good. It sounds a lot like Pedro the Lion trying to be Codeine, with big, slow, dramatic stabs. To live in the skin of that song every night has really been fun.

What’s the plan after this tour? Are you sitting down to write the next record?
Yeah. I’ve been working on the next record for some time. I’ve made some headway, but it’s been slow going. I still don’t know exactly what kind of a record I want to make. I’ve been taking my time, investigating my own tastes, and prioritizing my own taste in a way.

How do you go about doing that?
For years I was a prick about limiting what I listened to. I would listen to, like, Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and a Fugazi record, and that was it. Now when the new Grizzly Bear record comes out, I’ll listen to it two or three times. So, I’m much more open, but sometimes because of that I lose focus of what I really like. So I’ve been taking some time to search for records that have those moments that turn me on and make me feel like a kid again.

Care to share a couple?
I was surprised to find how much I love the record Come on Feel the Lemonheads. Been listening to a lot of Gang of Four’s Entertainment, a lot of Fugazi. A Seattle band, I think they’re defunct now, called the Lights. Just listening to a lot of noisy stuff and figuring out how I would like to use noise as an element in my songwriting.

What about thematically, lyrically? After witnessing the timelessness of Control’s cynicism, are you tempted to embrace that outlook for the next record?
I don’t think I am. The only new song that has finished lyrics is really open and kind of hopeful in a way that is dark, as always, but it seems to be a further and more mature distillation of all the things I’ve been writing about over the last ten years. I’m a one-trick pony and I’m just working on perfecting my trick.

David Bazan will perform Control in its entirety on Saturday, December 15 at the Neptune Theatre.