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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

David Bazan, More Conflicted Than Ever

The fallen evangelical goes solo post-Pedro the Lion

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David Bazan's creative life appears to be marked by contradiction, either by design or outside perception.

Congratulate Bazan on his full-length solo debut, Curse Your Branches, which cracked Billboard's Top 200 album chart, and he shrugs it off.

"To me, honestly, it says more about the dismal state of the music industry. I sold more records with Pedro the Lion," Bazan says in reference to the band that gave him standing in the indie community and among adventurous Christian listeners drawn to Bazan's narrative songwriting, which provided a respite from the glossy world of much faith-based pop.

For some, the artistic expression of Bazan's Christianity has been a point of consternation throughout his tenure with Pedro and its thus-far short-lived, synthesizer-based successor, Headphones. Curse exacerbates those fans' feelings with songs marking his abandonment of evangelicalism.And though he admits that "it's getting mixed reactions from the Christian world,"the album was named among the best of 2009 by Christianity Today.Go figure.

Bazan's decision to publicly address his detachment from the church is a move away from his usual lyrical viewpoint, too. "I kind of resisted making an autobiographical record, but I couldn't deny that these songs were so satisfying and intense," he says of his latest work.

The relative lushness of Curse likewise contrasts with the more spartan approach often heard from Bazan's previous two groups.His April 4 show at the Pabst Theater will find him assaying his Pedro, Headphone and solo catalog as a four piece, with two guitars, drum and bass, Bazan says.This tour follows a 2007 series of house concerts that included a date in Milwaukee. And though he says "people liked it” and “there were a lot of faithful fans" at those minimally publicized gigs,this trek fulfills another longing for Bazan's followers: "People just wanted to hear me play with a band again,” he says. “That's really fun for us."

What also might be fun for Bazan’s fans to hear is his music licensed foruses other than stereos, iPods and noncommercial radio. "I just worked out a deal with [major publisher] Bug Music shopping a deal for that purpose,"Bazan says, adding that it's more acceptable for indie/alt rock artiststo commercially license their work than it was a few years ago.Anyone wishing to see any of Bazan's Pedro songs—with their frequent literary air—transformed into film adaptations will, alas, have to wait until he is approached to approve of any such adaptations. As for trying his own hand at writing a screenplay, he notes, "I'm not really quick to do the work myself, but if I wanted, I could make that happen."

He is more inclined to make a follow-up to Curse, and it could well be a Christmas album—another intriguing possible contradiction.

David Bazan plays the Pabst Theater on Sunday, April 4, at 8 p.m. with opener Headlights.