If you want things done right, sometimes it’s easier to do them yourself. For David Bazan, that meant dropping the Pedro the Lion moniker—under which he and a rotating cast of players had made music for more than a decade—and becoming a virtual one-man band: writing, recording and playing every instrument on his 10-song EP, Fewer Moving Parts.
And though Bazan says he felt at ease in the studio—the singer and multi-instrumentalist often wrote and recorded entire albums by himself as Pedro the Lion—hitting the road for an intimate acoustic tour was something entirely new.
“I did have a little anxiety about it,” Bazan admits. “But it just so happened that at the time when I did start playing solo, I also had a pretty solid drinking problem, so I was able to medicate appropriately before I played.”
Bazan took a break from the booze near the end of his first touring cycle “at the behest of my wife,” he says. At that point, he no longer needed a crutch. “Luckily, I had enough recent touring history playing solo that I knew how it went. It was like training wheels or something, and I took the training wheels off.”
But even before hitting the road, Bazan gave fans a taste of the back-to-basics arrangements that define his recent sound, including acoustic-demo versions of five new songs alongside their full-band counterparts.
“It came from the acoustic-demo version of ‘Cold Beer and Cigarettes,’” Bazan says. “I had the hardest time with that song, fleshing that out for the full drums, bass and whatever rock and roll treatment. I just liked the acoustic demo so much better. It started getting me thinking, and I realized there was something I liked about each of the acoustic-demo versions. And I was going to be presenting the material in just that way live.”
On tour, Bazan dissects material from his Pedro the Lion days alongside new and old solo tracks, and songs from his work with electronic three-piece Headphones. Stark and personal, the presentation mirrors the songwriter’s literary knack for storytelling.
Backed only by an acoustic guitar, the detailed narratives of betrayal, loss, modern discontentment and spirituality come to life through Bazan’s rich, mournful vocals. Bazan’s solo material also reflects his willingness to open up personally. Although he often presented his work as Pedro the Lion in first-person accounts, it was overwhelmingly fictional. Fewer Moving Parts, on the other hand, finds the singer rather bluntly addressing the disintegration of his relationship with longtime collaborator T.W. Walsh and his decision to go solo. But don’t be fooled; Bazan says he has no second thoughts about the decision.
“I just finally thought, ‘The way I do things is kind of broken,’ and I didn’t know how to proceed exactly,” he concedes. “So I figured the best way to de-escalate was to just kind of switch up the brand, as it were. And hopefully, in that move, I would be able to find some clarity or something.”
And he did. “I’m really happy I did that. I still do have plenty of regrets, but not that one. It was done. There was no way we could move forward.”
With a handful of national tours under his belt, Bazan is preparing to forge ahead with the release of his debut full-length early next year. Here, the singer comes full circle, laying down tracks in a house where he lived during the early days of Pedro the Lion.
“I’m recording in the bedroom of a house where I recorded It’s Hard to Find a Friend and the EP The Only Reason I Feel Secure. It kind of randomly ended up back at this house that I used to live in. Now nobody lives there, and me and a buddy are splitting it to make music in. It doesn’t seem lame to me. There’s a lot of good vibes around there.”
[Dane Smith is an Asheville freelance writer.]
who: David Bazan and Eric Bachmann with All Smiles
what: Inspired, genre-spanning songwriters
where: Grey Eagle
when: Sunday, Nov. 4 (8 p.m. $12. www.thegreyeagle.com or 232-5800)