Here is part two of our interview with David Bazan, formerly of Pedro the Lion. On his new EP Fewer Moving Parts, Bazan, historically preferring the narrative vehicle as his weapon of choice when attacking subjects like family, religion, politics and love, has crafted several songs with pointed and specific statements that tempt listeners to attempt back story interpretations on these slightly encrypted songs.
Bazan recently offered some context and insight for Fewer Moving Parts, the break up of Pedro the Lion, his song writing and his future pursuits.
You can click here to read part one of the interview.
I find “Cold Beer and Cigarettes” to be the most fascinating song on the EP. I liked it when I first heard it done acoustically, but the instrumentation and composition on the EP are by far some of the best I’ve heard you do. Tell me a little about it, and why this synth heavy song is not a Headphones track?
Um, well I didn’t really know that it was going to be so keyboard heavy. In actuality those things sound like synths, but it’s really like a super distorted Rhodes most of the time. The bass is a synth, and it is a buried synthesizer sort of mimicking of live, but the main two key board lines, their hard pan is a distorted Wurlitzer, which I was really psyched on. Because that’s actually what I wanted the Headphones stuff to sound like. Just a little dirty and more bombastic and a little bit more Lipsy … like Flaming Lips-y kind of sound.
I really didn’t know that it was going to be like that until I started flushing it out. I’d had the previous demos that I’d done of it the forms and interpretations of it were a little bit different but didn’t; you know how demos are. Where it’s pretty close but it doesn’t really jell, and then when you get down to it and you try to fix it, that 10 percent that doesn’t jell, and everything falls apart, and you have to go back to the drawing board. That’s kind of how it was with that one.
I was trying to write guitar parts, but for the life of me I couldn’t do it. So I put my Wurlitzer through a distortion pedal and through a tube amp and miked it up and just started going nuts. And that’s what came of it. And after that I sat down and replayed all the drum parts, because the drum fill changed from like a straight eight thing to a chord up pulse on the high-hats with all the big fills. So yeah, just to give an idea of just how it came about. And I’m pretty confused as to what Dave Bazan records should sound like. I want nothing more to sit down and make a Headphones record right now, but I can’t really do that. So it may actually be very synthesizer heavy, the David Bazan record. But well see how it goes. I don’t know exactly.
Yeah I read last night on one of your web-pages or MySpace that Headphones has an album out due in 2006. Is that true?
Um. No. It’s definitely not. Were coming up on the end of the year here, and I don’t have anything done. I don’t know why it actually says that. I’ll have to go online and check it out. There’s going to be a 7-inch; like a Christmas 7-inch, I think there’s going to be a Pedro 7-inch. But there’s no other releases coming out this year. The next thing that will come out will be in 2007.
And that’s going to be the David Bazan full length?
I’m pretty sure, yeah.
Back to Cold Beer and Cigarettes. Where did this song come from?
Well. I don’t exactly know. It wasn’t inspired by anything specifically. I was writing. I was in a mode where I was just writing songs every day. And I had been writing drums and bass and keyboards and guitars and stuff, and things just were getting a little bit out of control, so I decided to just take my laptop and acoustic guitar and go to a secluded place on the farm there where I used to live, you know the castle or whatever, and just start writing. And that was about four in the afternoon one day, and the first bit of that came out, the whole first verse, and actually the bridge (the little bridge that follows the first verse). The next day I sat down and finished the whole thing, and it came out real quick. When I’d get done with one section I would take a deep breath and launch into the next section, and it just kind of flowed real easy. It just kind of tumbled out. And the thing I got hung up on the most was the second verse or the verse after the first chorus. Because I didn’t know where to go so I messed around with that for 20 or 30 minutes. But it was, for me, a really fast song cause it kind of just came right out.
The themes in it [are] the ever-present themes of adultery, as well as a pretty heavy drinking theme in the song (which probably comes from the fact that I drink pretty heavily), but the most interesting part of it to me, the thing I was most excited about when I wrote it was the bridge toward the end of the song where there’s a car fire in the parking lot and all that stuff and the comment “what a cruel God we’ve got.” I didn’t know exactly what I was saying at the time, and I still don’t totally know, but there’s just a lot of tension in it to me. And it’s really interesting.
You know part, of it is the way people interpret events in their lives and things that they see as God’s hand working in history and in their lives and just what a total [mindbender] that whole idea is, cause two people will interpret the same event as God’s favor or God’s punishment. It’s just so subjective and bizarre, and I think on the surface that’s what was going on the most, but there’s just a lot under the surface there that I felt really compelling about it and I still like singing it a lot for that reason.
In “Backwoods Nation,” the songs’ intent is clearly stated. You released this on a compilation a few years ago. Tell me about this song and if you just now released it since you are no longer PTL?
Well we had planned to put it on Achilles’ Heel, and it was until three or four weeks until we finished the record it was still on the list. But Tim, when we broke for Christmas in 2003, I made a mix tape. I made a CD of all the rough demos and rough mixes and stuff that we had so far, which we had versions of every song on the record at that point, and Tim came back, and he just said ‘man I like everything but I just don’t think that “Backwoods Nation” fits. The tone of that song is so different from the rest of the record I just can’t imagine where were going to stick it. It just doesn’t seem to fit anywhere.’ And I agreed. So we decided just to cut it.
So yeah, it was always just hanging around. We were maybe going to do a 7-inch where that was the A-side and this Neil Young song called “Revolution Blues” would have been the B-side, but that never ended up happening. So when it came time to do this thing, my manager Bob just suggested that I put it on the EP. And as I thought about it I realized that it would fit on the EP, because there were a couple of other songs that were equally heavy-handed and sort of direct declarative statements. So it found a home there, and I’m glad I did it. I feel like it does fit.
You know fortunately for the song, for the release, there’s still a lot of problems with that which is unfortunate for the world … the country. But it still works for some reason, which is terrible, cause I wrote it in 2001 right after 9-11, and I would not have been so cynical to predict that it would still be topical today. But here we are.
Now that you are making music beyond the PTL moniker, do you feel more liberty in your creativity and song writing?
Theoretically, yeah I do. The EP, I definitely had a deadline that I was trying to meet, and all the songs were basically written, so I haven’t done a release, or I haven’t really written a bunch of stuff from scratch since Pedro broke up, or since I stopped using the name. So I’m interested to see what happens now. I’m probably going to start recoding here on Monday; the new record. So yeah, I’m pretty curious as to how it actually works out. But yeah, in general I feel pretty relaxed and like I can, more or less, do anything I want. Which is how you should feel I guess all the time. But I guess that it’s even more pronounced now with the end of Pedro the Lion.
I really like the symbolism in the artwork. Tell me a little about this.
Yeah well my friend Zak (Sally) was staying at my house. He was doing a book tour, and we were hanging out and talking about his graphic novels, and I had told him that I was interesting in maybe collaborating with him on something if he had any pages he didn’t know what to do with to send them over to me, and I would try to write some songs or something. And then he said, ‘Well hey, is anyone doing artwork for the EP?’ and I said no, and so he offered to do it. Once we talked about it a little bit he just took the bull by the horns and just started doing it and so all that stuff is pretty much his ideas about it. You know at first he sent me the cover and said, ‘What do you think?’ And I was initially a little freaked out to have such a clear representation of me on the cover like that, and he kind of thought for a second and said, ‘Well too bad man that’s what it is, and I’m going to kind of keep on going and do what I want to do.’ And that’s what he did. And see I didn’t make it so I have my perspectives on it, and it’s me cutting down a bunch of trees which I think represents (pause) band members; I really don’t know exactly what he was going for but it definitely seemed to fit the themes on the album a little bit.
Why did you decide to release the songs in two formats with the acoustic versions at the end?
I first thought of it when I was messing around with the song “Cold Beer and Cigarettes.”
I really liked the acoustic version a lot; it was actually the first demo of the song that I ever made; when I was writing the song that was the demo that I made. And no other performance of it ever felt as cool to me; on an acoustic guitar there was something kind of special about that the way that one came out. And so the thought crossed my mind to put it on the EP that way, and I kind of wrestled with that idea cause I wanted the version of the song on the EP to have drums and all that stuff. And so it dawned on me that maybe I should put both of them on there. And as I listened to the demos of the other songs I realized that I really kind of liked them as well, and then I just kind of thought that might be an interesting thing for people to have the option to listen to one or the other or both you know in succession or whatever.
What can be expected from the future full length?
Um. I’m really curious about that myself. I really have no idea. I’ve been in the throes of trying to set up the studio, and I imagine it will be pretty eclectic, but, like I said, I really don’t know if it’s going to be super keyboard heavy or guitar heavy or what. (pause) Yeah, like I’m thinking about it now. I don’t know about the songs, I just have no idea.