Today I would like to talk about one of my favorites. This is a man unafraid to call himself goth and says he cries every day, so I think we all know why I in particular love him so much. Here he is in a much better introduction than I can give him (get ready because this is going to hit you like a brick wall emotionally):
And that’s not even the half of it. I actually got introduced to David Bazan through a book. Leave it to me to find music I should have been listening to years ago through print. Sometimes I live my life backwards, but thankfully I can catch up…eventually.
I picked up a book called Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock by Andrew Beaujon during a very trying period of my life. As someone who loves writing about music, I never hesitate to get my hands on music journalism books. Sometimes the books are well-researched, and the author’s passion for the genre or artist shines through every word. Then we get a book like Body Piercing Saved My Life, which is almost a satire. Beaujon was the awkward agnostic trying to understand the early 2000’s Christian music genre, a genre that few Christians, let alone outsiders to the faith, can hardly define.
I grew up listening to many of the artists that Beaujon thought were kind of decent, and, like Beaujon, I had avoided the Christian artists who seemed like they were in it for the money, or at the least just sounded like a poor imitation of garbage. For me personally, it was fascinating hearing about what the Christian music world at that time looked like to someone unfamiliar with church culture, the Bible, and the blurry definitions of “worship” and “performance” and “secular.” So Beaujon piqued my interest when he mentioned Pedro the Lion.
Somehow I had missed out on the Pedro train when it was at its peak. Apparently Pedro’s leading force, frontman David Bazan, was something of a rebel, a guy on the edge of the Christian music scene. He played at Christian music festivals like Cornerstone (last run in 2012), but he definitely did not fit the mold of a Christian music artist. Yet Bazan appealed to the younger Christian audience. He was a very popular rebel, Beaujon’s book explained, who cussed at concerts and questioned God and seemed kind of down about a lot of things. Beaujon liked him probably better than anyone else he wrote about. Throughout the book, it became clear to me that Bazan wasn’t CCM or K-Love material whatsoever.
Bazan was exactly the musician I was looking for.
Curious from the written description, I set out to hear what Bazan sounded like. The first song I listened to was “Options.” There’s a description about poetry that Emily Dickinson wrote:
If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.
When I heard “Options,” I felt physically as if the top of my head were taken off. And I don’t even like Emily Dickinson.
From there it was diving into everything Bazan has ever made. I’m still sifting through his discography, and he’s still adding to it (thank God). He’s got Pedro, his solo work under his own name, and a project called Headphones (the last of which I wouldn’t have even known about if it weren’t for Bo Kitzman, so thanks). It’s not hard to say why Bazan is an artist worth listening to. Musically, he’s perfected most of the easily accessible forms: acoustic, electric, and electronic. There’s undoubtedly a Bazan album out there for you in that regard. His voice is deep, rich, and sad. He sounds like a full grown man who’s seen it all and knows why you’re confused because he is, too. Then there’s the brutal honesty about his lyrics, a raw poetry that can be relatable and offensive at the same time. Take the song “People” for example.
It may very well be the most Bazan-esque David Bazan song ever, including elements of personal guilt, doubt, biblical references, humanism, carefully enunciated vocals, and forgiveness. My favorite line is “When you love the truth enough you start to tell it all the time,” but the stanza that defines “People” as a true Bazan song sounds more like this:
I want to know who are these people blaming their sins on the fall / And who are these people? / If I’m honest with myself at all, these are my people / Man, what else can I say? / You are my people. We’re the same in many ways.
Bazan can call you out for being a hypocrite because he recognizes the same flaws in himself. Maybe that’s part of his personal charm, or maybe it’s just self-deprecation. Either way, it makes for some gripping lyrics. Bazan is a man struggling with life and faith and what that means, and he’s been struggling for years. I think somehow there’s a comfort in knowing that someone older than me (and far more talented than I am) doesn’t have it figured out yet either. It’s also terrifying, in the most intriguing way possible, and maybe that’s why I come back to Bazan time and again.
Bazan’s new album Blanco dropped last week, and he’s touring this summer. I’m going to finally see him live this August. I think it’s going to be a pilgrimage of sorts, as Bazan’s music has helped carry me through several dark periods. There’s some music that you use to escape, but there’s also the music that hits hard because it can pinpoint the worst of you, or maybe it asks questions you’ve been too afraid to say aloud, or maybe it’s describing something so beautiful you can hardly wait to experience it yourself. That’s David Bazan.