David Bazan puts church, then state under microscope
Holidays with the family can be stressful. But they’re even worse when your parents think you’re a heretic. Such is life for David Bazan, former frontman of Pedro the Lion, a fringe Christian indie band active from 1995 to 2005, who was on his way to the airport in Nashville before flying home to Seattle for Thanksgiving when GT caught up with him.
“The lines get drawn when you think of it as a battle,” says Bazan. “But these are all the people that I’m going to be spending Thanksgiving with. I love them. I’m connected to them, and so just trying to figure out a way forward. There are things that we have in common.”
Pedro the Lion’s split was in large part due to Bazan’s evolving spirituality, which now hovers somewhere between agnosticism and atheism—a controversial decision for the son of a preacher. It’s nowhere more evident than in his work as a solo artist, first with an EP in 2006, then 2009’s Curse Your Branches, a full-length album that critiques the Christian culture he left behind. “It makes me happy and proud,” Bazan says of his journey. “The issues that I have written about are issues from the Evangelical Christian world that it’s hard to have dialogue about, and perspective about.”
In May, Bazan released Strange Negotiations, and it follows in the same vein as his previous solo work: incisive and indicting—social criticism at its best. But this time it expands beyond Christianity, and points the finger at America as a whole.
Strange Negotiations opens with “Wolves at the Door,” a song that condemns the United States’ mess of wars and lobbyist abuses, and the populace that invited them. “Surprise, they took your money/ And they ate your kids, and they had their way,” Bazan sings, later adding with irony, “[You’re] cursing taxes and the government,” in reference to the Tea Party movement.
Despite being a teller of tough-to-stomach truths, Bazan shows he’s open to a dialogue with the opposition by not completely alienating them—no small feat for someone who, in criticism of rampant materialism, sang, “All of the experts say you ought to start them young/ That way they’ll naturally love the taste of corporate come.”
“I am on one side of that divide—pretty squarely—but the lack of ability of people to engage with one another is really sad to me,” says Bazan. “I hope to engage in that discussion in a way that doesn’t shut down communication. I think that honest expression is going to yield good things. That’s what my motivation is.”
Lately, Bazan has followed the Occupy movement, both nationwide and in Seattle, where police recently pepper-sprayed an 84-year-old woman. He believes the movement shares many of his passions. He also sees it as an opportunity for unification with the other side.
“There’s an odd intersection between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement,” Bazan explains. “There are similarities there, and highlighting those is not going to solve the problem, but could get us a little more harmony, or a little more understanding.”
In the prescient title track off Strange Negotiations, he sings, “You got the market its own bodyguard/ And all the people are getting hurt.” It’s a song that many in the Occupy movement have gravitated toward, which pleases Bazan as he negotiates his relationships with his family and a country in need of change.
David Bazan plays at 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12. For more information, call 429-6994.