If you moped around in the late ’90s or early aughts, chances are you turned to Pedro the Lion to justify your feelings. The indie rock, sometimes slowcore-styled band is known for their slow-burning, downtrodden tint on the genre. Frontman David Bazan led the band through a decade-long career before they stopped in 2006. Unable to pause the musician in him, he carried on making similar music as a solo artist, and the band’s fanbase continues to follow him loyally.
Bazan’s general demeanor changes with Care, or at least it changes a little bit. Bazan’s newest and fifth album as a solo artist continues the thread of affecting, deep vocals and sparse instrumentation, but there’s an unexpected upward tilt. This time, things don’t seem quite as hopeless. There’s no defeated sigh. It’s hard to hear Bazan’s voice and not feel a return to form, namely curled up, heartbeat slowing down, trying to nurse bad memories before they grow up too fast. But once the record reaches its halfway point, you begin to feel a bit better. There’s hope to be had after all, and for the first time, it’s Bazan who’s the one to tell you so.
“Care has a kind of vulnerability and, dare I say, positivity that I haven’t been able to express before,” he says. “I realize that it doesn’t read as positivity to some listeners, but still, to me, when I finished the record I thought, ‘Wow, I finally made a happy one.’ There are songs about resolution and there’s a positive turn. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. It feels good.”
To dig deeper into David Bazan’s life behind the projected sad vibes he’s known for, we interviewed him for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask bands questions inspired by their song titles. Don’t be surprised if his answers make you laugh.
DIGBOSTON: What piece of pop culture do most people love that you can’t bring yourself to care about?
BAZAN: I don’t really care about zombie or vampire stuff. Serious things in that vein I have not come around to yet. I started watching Walking Dead, but by the second episode I just didn’t care. 28 Days Later was freaky as hell and I thought that was amazing. But in general, that genre is one I don’t care about. There’s no disdain, though.
It took me forever to understand the National, too, but now some of those songs touch me. Even though I’m sure people think it’s kind of the same as my music, I don’t see it. Their music is dense and rich in a way that mine isn’t. But in general, I don’t get it. I didn’t get the hype. It can be so massive that it makes it hard to understand it the same way other people do. Sometimes big, big indie music that people shit themselves over leaves me scratching my head. Maybe that’s just how old men’s brains work with music where everyone seems like a poser for liking it.
2) “Up All Night”
DIGBOSTON: Where were you the first time you pulled an all-nighter?
BAZAN: Never in college, because I didn’t care about [work] enough to turn it in on time. Did I do one for [It’s Hard to Find a] Friend? No, I think I did for Winners Never Quit. Making and recording that, there were a bunch of all-nighters in there. But the first time I stayed up all night was at a youth group New Year’s Eve ordeal. They had activities for us, we went out to a 24-hour restaurant at 4 am, and other things. I must have been 16 or 17 years old.
3) “Disappearing Ink”
DIGBOSTON: Have you ever planned on getting a tattoo but backed out last minute?
BAZAN: I always thought I would get a tattoo, but I don’t have any. The first one that I thought of was, coincidentally, one my friend has. It’s of a cross made out of spikes that would’ve been driven into Jesus’ hands and feet, like three spikes arranged into a cross. In the background around the cross was a crown of thorns. It was from a Christian hardcore band called Crucified. When I was 16, I thought that’s what I would do when I turned 18. When I turned 18, I thought I would come up with something different, but I never did.
Now I think I’m getting to the point in my life where I think I’m learning lessons and axioms that I may want to have on my body somewhere, or a representation of those things. My philosophy innately was that I wanted to put something on that would transcend. Also, I don’t like the way I look. There wasn’t a strong aesthetic like, “I’ll look so badass when I do this.” Instead, it felt like my songs worked. The style was about trying to get meaning across, and I found out how to do it that way instead. But my wife wants to get rings around our arms. If she pulls the trigger, I’ll do that with her.
4) “Sparkling Water”
DIGBOSTON: What do you think the next beverage trend should be once sparkling water dies down?
BAZAN: I love the sparkling water trend so much. I don’t want to think of something else after it [laughs]. Maybe just regular water. That should become a hot trend whenever it becomes super scarce. I started drinking sparkling water after hating it my whole life because I was trying to slow my drinking down. Instead of having a beer, I would slam a Perrier. Now I find myself wanting hydration and refreshments with no sugar or very, very little sugar. Hopefully [the next trend] would be a bunch of soft drinks that are based on the La Croix end of things of lightly sweet flavor and all of these hipstery, douchey flavors we all like. I don’t think people want to be drinking sugar the way we grew up doing. It’d be great to be able to go to any gas station and get something like that. Maybe it would be tea-based?
5) “Permanent Record”
DIGBOSTON: Name an album that you own that you would never sell.
BAZAN: I bought Wildflowers on vinyl in 1998 at a record store in Ann Arbour, Michigan. I think it’s worth two grand now, but there’s no way. It’s my favorite record by [Tom Petty]. His style is unbelievable. I wish more records were put out that way, four sided at 45rpm. That’s the only one that I definitely couldn’t part with. I’ll have $2,000 in my life, but I won’t have another copy of this in my life.
6) “Make Music”
DIGBOSTON: What advice would you give to someone who wants to make music but has never picked up an instrument?
BAZAN: Well, I would guess, and we will find this out through a conversation, that they have an instrument they’ve always wanted to mess with. I would say pick the one that feels right. Pick the one that seems to suit you as an instrument. Then get around people who play. Book time with them to show you stuff. Listen to records. On your computer, you can slow records down. If there’s a passage you want to learn, slow it down and try to mimic it. Records are everything you need to learn music, I think. There’s a bunch of different ways to go about it, but I think that helps. Listen to records, play along, play anything, and if they’re too hard then learn the simpler ones. There will be something that happens in your listening that draws a response from you where you have to do something after hearing it. And also, you will love it. Making music is the best hobby.
DIGBOSTON: If you could use a laser beam to demolish one thing, what would it be?
BAZAN: Fox News. I think that they’re responsible for and helped keep the stashes on track. They have a lot of people in a weird trance. They’re evil. Nothing good comes from them. We would have a much better time getting cast under this authoritarianism, right-wing bullshit if Fox News was not in the picture anymore. As it is, I think it’s almost impossible now to get rid of them. I was thinking this morning that I could see there being some way of coding a ban on presenting information the way they do, or a lack thereof? I’m not sure. Right now, we’re in critical condition.
8) “Inner Lives”
DIGBOSTON: What’s a secret hobby or interest of yours that none of your friends know about?
BAZAN: I don’t have many beyond music. I do some woodworking, but I think they all know about that. I drive as a hobby, but everyone knows about that. I love smoking weed, but everybody knows that. My friend and I love playing card games. Also, Settlers of Catan. I like playing games with my family. We don’t get to do that as much as we would like, but it’s definitely a pastime we return to again and again. I’m looking forward to having hobbies apart from running away from my life [laughs].
9) “Keep Trying”
DIGBOSTON: What’s something you keep trying to accomplish but have yet to succeed at?
BAZAN: There’s a few, but the main one that comes to mind is trying to find equilibrium in making music and balancing the factors of work and home life. That’s a trick.
DIGBOSTON: How will you know when you find it?
BAZAN: Part of it is not scrambling for money, and the other part is, for me, being able to budget my time effectively. Some of that has to do with me being bad at that, but other parts come down to figuring out how. You need perspective. Being on the road robs you of that, because it’s hard to have perspective on your life when you’re not able to stay in one place. I’m learning a lot [more] about myself and boundaries than I ever understood before. My intuition is important and I should listen to it.
10) “The Ballad of Pedro y Blanco”
DIGBOSTON: Are there any stories that were passed down from one generation to the next in your family? If so, which story has always stuck with you?
BAZAN: When my grandparents were teenagers, my grandma and another couple—my great-aunt and -uncle, I think?—had just pulled up in front of my teenage grandpa’s work to pick him up for their first, or nearly first, date. As he approached the car to get into it, a guy from inside his work, a pool hall in Prescott, AZ, that his dad owned, came up to him and basically challenged him to a fight. Apparently, my teenage grandpa had humiliated the man by beating him in arm wrestling sometime earlier. My grandpa tried to get the guy to take off, but the guy had his buddies watching from across the way and wouldn’t give in. So my grandpa told the guy he could hit him—just not in the face, he had a date—and that my grandpa would lay down on the ground afterward if the guy would just leave him be. The guy socked my teenage grandpa, he lied down, and the guy acted all tough in front of his buddies. Then grandpa got up, dusted himself off, and went on a date with my teenage grandma.
DAVID BAZAN, MICHAEL NAU. WED 11.8. BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL, 158 BRIGHTON AVE., ALLSTON. 7PM/28+/$15. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM