Matson on Music
David Bazan Band plays Pedro the Lion's 'Control'
Photo by JUCO
As local singer-songwriter David Bazan drinks his first of two Manny's pale ales at the Hi-Life in Ballard — the self-imposed limit for the former teetotaler — he talks about how he treats his art like a job. Rather than write at home, he rents a nearby studio, because he gets more done when he feels like he's in an office. He doesn't drink like he used to. And he tours hard, averaging over 200 concerts a year, sacrificing some of his home life in the process.
"We lived over in Poulsbo when our daughter was young, so my wife had friends in Silverdale, at Bangor Naval Base," he said. "And they had that connection, you know: 'My husband's gone.'"
Bazan was part of a wave of inward-looking Pacific Northwest indie rock back in the late '90s/early '00s, with his band Pedro the Lion — still the main reason people know his soft singing voice, which sounds like it's coming through a Pendleton blanket. The era included Death Cab for Cutie, Damien Jurado, Decemberists, Harvey Danger, Modest Mouse, Postal Service, Elliott Smith and Built to Spill. Several of those acts ended up with songs/albums on the pop charts. But Bazan stayed simmering underground, feeding his audience solid solo albums and nonstop concerts.
Now Pedro the Lion's four albums have been remixed, remastered and rereleased on vinyl, and there is a tour specifically devoted to "Control," the popular, especially rocking installment from 2002. The David Bazan Band performs it Saturday at the Neptune Theatre.
Musically, "Control" has stood up well. Bazan's loud guitars and slow songs are what "emo rock" was when people first started using the term, and looking back, emo rock was a good idea: sad guitar ballads doused in distortion. Thematically, the album is a conceptual piece about a man who cheats on his wife, who eventually kills him.
"It's fun to play," says Bazan says of "Control." "I think it's pretty digestible. It's really dark, but sadly it's a darkness that's not out of date."
Recently at the Showbox at the Market, Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie fondly remembered his and Bazan's past together, saying a Pedro the Lion concert in the '90s was the first time he felt he was really part of something.
"Gibbard was in my band for half a year [in 2001]," Bazan says, "He played with us at Bumbershoot with a broken arm."
Does that era seem dead and gone?
"I don't think about it that way," Bazan replied. "Everything comes and goes and morphs. I would never hang my hat on a particular moment. Time tells if someone is really serious about what they're doing."