David Bazan is a rare breed. As the songwriter behind Pedro the Lion, he pulled off something extraordinary, singing songs of devastating honesty from a distinctly Christian point of view. Bazan’s songs, to quote Dylan, don’t “turn a blind eye to the dark side of human nature”; they are deeply cynical and deeply hopeful. The band attracted more of a secular audience than a sacred one, though neither really knew what to make of them.
Bazan’s getting ready to release his first full-length solo record, and I couldn’t be more excited. I loved his debut EP, Fewer Moving Pieces, especially the song that took aim at Pitchfork. To coincide with the new record, he wrote an interesting little article about songwriting for the April issue of Paste:
“I grew up in church. For the first 15 years of my life or more, I was singing church tunes every Sunday and Wednesday. By the time I got to high school, I had learned all the songs and was playing along on the guitar. And it’s clear to me that this intimate knowledge of church songs influenced what kind of a songwriter I am.
When I first started realizing this fact I was paralyzed with horror and I wanted to hide all the stuff I was embarrassed by. But I just had to say to myself, ‘Dude, you are who you are, and you have to be cool with it and own it.’ I mean, until I was 14, I was only allowed to listen to Christian music. For me, the purpose of music back then was much different that it is now. What I understood about music, from the culture that I grew up in, was that its purpose was to tell people about religion, to ‘spread the good news.’ So it was pretty utilitarian. Officially, no music existed for its own sake. It existed for the sake of proselytizing. Part of the reason why my lyrics are so literal and concrete is because of this situation in my childhood.
As I was developing as a songwriter, I had a lot of conflict with this idea. Even in the early years of Pedro The Lion, I was struggling, trying to understand the purpose of music. But it’s also the reason why I gravitated towards bands like Fugazi or U2, who – for lack of a better term – had something to say. That appealed to me because that’s what I understood about music. Then, From there I slowly learned how to get excited about music for its own sake, and not as a tool for some other end.”