Pedro the Lion may be the hardest band you ever try to get your head around. The band has released seven EP and LP albums in the past seven years, each album exposing its own charm of desperation, but always leaving a sweet feeling of hope through its explorations of human tragedy. David Bazan, the lead singer and creative force behind the band, has recently teamed up with friend and fellow musician T.W. Walsh to release yet another despairing and disturbing album that through all of its disquieting elements delivers its own feeling of hope.
Bazan has been no stranger to controversy; his lyrics and personal views on faith and politics have put him at odds with the Christian music industry that birthed him. Like any band worth listening to, PTL has changed throughout the years, and behind this change is Bazan, who himself has changed. The first EP, Whole, which released on Tooth & Nail Records during the late ’90s, put Bazan on the radar of Christian youth all over America, but the band has grown beyond the borders of just another progressive Christian band to one that has openly challenged the morays and sensibilities of the prevailing Christian world.
RELEVANT caught up with Bazan during his spring tour to promote his latest release, Achilles Heel, in Nashville and asked him how he felt about the criticisms directed at his music. “I wasn’t allowed to listen to music that wasn’t Christian until I was 15,” he said. “I’ve been to see Carmen probably eight times, I was into Petra, my mom had the Sandy Patty record that I liked a lot and I still think the songs on that record are killer, so I feel a deep sense of compassion for people that I feel are honestly being mislead, because if somebody that is being misled or doing the misleading is commenting into my life hoping it will stick no offense to them, but it just doesn’t, I don’t value there prospective.”
Bazan, the son of an Assemblies of God music minister, has taken his faith and his music very seriously from a young age. His early forays into music included collaborations with Coolidge and The Guilty, both hardcore Christian rock bands with fellow singer/songwriter Damien Jurado. Bazan went to Northwest College and Assemblies of God College in Washington State, where he studied philosophy and religion for two years. “The point of my going was that I wanted to be a songwriter for a living, and I thought that it would make me a better songwriter to have a solid liberal arts and humanities basis,” he said. “I think that is true, but I was just so bad at school that at one point, my dad was just like, “Bro, I think it’s working, but you should just quit and do your thing.”
From that point, Bazan has done just that, releasing albums that have challenged his listeners with stories of deception, murder, infidelity, suicide and chauvinism, all the while presenting an undercurrent of faith in God that can’t be denied. “The deity of Christ, His death, the atonement of sin, the resurrection, my standing with God the Father because of what Christ has done—it’s just not a question,” he said. “It’s a subjective thing. It’s not about proof. It’s just been so reiterated to me—that He pursues us; none of that at all is a question in my mind.”