Question Everything

For a certain segment of the indie-rock population, David Bazan is legitimate royalty. From 1995 to 2006, the Seattle native’s main band, Pedro the Lion, rewrote the book on knotty instrumentation, confessional lyrics and an equally loud and insightful auditory approach. Bazan’s biggest claim to fame is the light he shone on his own Christianity, along with the subsequent loss of that faith so closely examined on each of Pedro the Lion’s albums. Since disbanding that band and going solo, Bazan has kept up his marathon touring regimen, even devoting whole stretches on the road to intimate house shows.

Folio Weekly: On this upcoming tour, you’re performing the 2002 Pedro the Lion album “Control” in its entirety. How fun or challenging has it been to revisit those songs?

David Bazan: Surprisingly, it’s been not difficult and really rewarding — a pleasure, really. Andy Fitts and Alex Westcott have been playing with me for the last three years, and we have a chemistry that makes everything fun and not too tricky. There are some pretty complicated rhythmic interactions in these tunes, but those guys know their shit. And as it turns out, I like something about all of that old material. I was expecting to get irritated by at least one or two of the songs. [Laughs.]

F.W.: With a tour like that coming up, are you still able to write new material?

D.B.: I am working on another record, but I’m quite busy touring and rehearsing — I was out probably 200 days in 2011, and it’ll be 175 this year. So being in the headspace to write has been tough. I think I just wrote my first complete tune since [2011 album] “Strange Negotiations” last Thursday.

F.W.: So much of the critical reception to your career centers on your Christian faith and struggle with that faith. Is that still a creative inspiration for you?

D.B.: I wouldn’t characterize it as a struggle, but interaction with faith is a topic that’s at the forefront of American culture, so it’s something that I think about a lot. In fact, the song I wrote last week is about that. There’s a real shift happening in America with regards to evangelical Christianity and the way it informs politics, so I’m continuing to process that with the rest of the country. The fact that I can explore it earnestly and honestly is a source of deep peace for me. But I’m still not a believer.

F.W.: Do you think having children of your own has altered that dynamic for you?

D.B.: Ethics are a pretty big deal to me, along with choosing to delay gratification and have independence of mind in a culture as mad and twisted as the one we live in. People read [the words of] Jesus and are haunted by the ethical questions that he poses for the rest of their lives, so maybe my kids will get that from the same place. Although the thing I think about the most is what they’re picking up from my wife and I in terms of how we behave.

F.W.: Are you passing on your love of music to your kids? Or letting them discover it on their own?

D.B.: I’m so obsessed with music that I don’t want to lay that heavy trip on my kids. I just hope they end up with the ability to sing songs that they like around a campfire or when they’re driving in a car with their friends. I would be sad if they didn’t have that as a part of their lives.

F.W.: Over the last few years, you’ve done several Living Room Tours that have put you in direct contact with both diehard fans and some still upset about your loss of faith. What did that experience teach you?

D.B.: My perception is constantly reshaped by the interactions I have with my fans. It sounds funny, but I go into every show with a blank slate. I assume the people are motivated to be there, but that’s it. Sometimes it’s a roomful of people who never were Christian and aren’t in the middle of some burning crisis. And sometimes the room is full of people who still have pretty open wounds from their battles with evangelical Christianity. But I’m happy to perform that role because it’s all happened to me. It’s like when you’re in school, and no one would raise their hand and ask the teacher an important question. But if one person will cop to it, then everybody else is like, “Right — I feel that way, too.”

Nick McGregor