Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
It feels petty and simple - a cheap shortcut - to bring down from the mountaintop another Brian Wilson reference to describe something that's being heard, but when you start talking about the act of God, or the many acts of God, the worse for wear Beach Boy is a helluva starting place. He wrote the word "God" into a pop song for the first time in 1966 with "God Only Knows," which celebrates its 41st birthday on July 11. He also wrote a landmark album, SMiLE, finally released in 2004 after 38 years in the making, that he claimed to be a "teenage symphony to God."
What that record revealed, in no uncertain terms, is Wilson figured God - whatever that means - would be down with some freaky shit. Wilson considered the deity some being that deserved symphonies written on its behalf and the same could be counted on for that omnipotence, omniscience and categorical benevolence that we've heard tell of so resolutely since the tablets were written and the seas parted like so. He, she and the rest were good. And he, she and the rest were listening. That's what happens with symphonies, we've always been taught. They're just like those hypothetical trees in those hypothetical forests when no one's around if - intended for God - they aren't heard.
A question for other time can be answered now: If a tree fell in the woods and no one was around, would...of course God would always hear it. What kind of a stupid question is that? Wilson always considered God listening, or at least that's how I imagine what he considers. The truth or the closest we can get to the truth of the matter is likely more closely resembling the attention capacity of the Lord as seen through the eyes of David Bazan, the Washington state singer and writer who used to go by the cuddly and ferocious name, Pedro the Lion. God, most of the time is not, he repeats, NOT listening. It really explains a so much. I think we're all willing to believe that - the deaf ear of God or the hard of hearing God.
Bazan, a man who's been known historically to throw the Big G into his lyrics regularly since Pedro the Lion began in 1997, has a relationship with faith that is frank and realistic. The way that faith is supposed to work is that we aren't allowed to say, "Prove it." Why should we believe everything we read? Thought that was a cardinal sin for the enlightened, those with the good heads upon their shoulders. In an installment of the The Henry Rollins Show's "Disinquisition," starring the bad-ass Janeane Garofalo, who in a rant against an administration that she claims hates evidence, the actress calls out an ignorant American public that believes miracles actually happen. She makes a good point in questioning the miracle in relation to childbirth, pointing out that it happens quite often for it to really count as a miracle.
Bazan would walk the same line and has in nearly everything he's written. There's not a lot of God is great, God is good malarkey, but instead a realistic take on what could be more like it. God fucks up, we're all pretty sure, just like the air traffic controller who crosses signals and turns the air deadly in a brief slip, like the zookeeper who gets lazy at feeding time. God would drive intoxicated occasionally, we're almost sure of it and he probably plays with fire more than he ever lets on.
Bazan sings on "Cold Beer and Cigarettes," "What a cruel God we've got," and he meant it when he said it, has meant it sometimes since and likely feels no connection to the words or the sentiment just as regularly. It's how it goes. There's no unanimous nature to the idea - of the person and their power. The control of faith is to be determined and is properly felt when it's seen with the elasticity that it came with, the elasticity that Bazan feels in the subject matter. His ponderings and the real life that he grafts into the songs that he now records and releases under his own name and Headphones, share the same space with more than enough doubtful pretense and post-tense to make the questions last for all of eternity - clutching Bazan's husky coolness like the string to a balloon. Like we'd have them any other way than on-going and never mirthful.
The Daytrotter interview:
*Why couldn't you see carrying the Pedro the Lion name with you any longer? Had you been thinking about making the change long?*
DB: When Walsh left the band in 2005, I realized that there was something fundamentally wrong with the way I was doing things. Even though I didn't exactly know what it was, I didn't feel comfortable forging ahead as though nothing had changed. It was an internal crisis that I needed to take time to sort out. So I dropped the name and started playing solo dates and working on the EP.
*One comment that has stuck with me from an interview I did with you years ago was that your wife understood that the sadness in your lyrics wasn't completely literal, but your parents worried about you. Do you still have to explain to your parents that things are okay?*
DB: No. They know that I'm fine. We have a pretty good rapport. Though, all my loved ones (including them) were worried about my drinking awhile back, but that's sorted out now so everybody's cool.
*When you first started writing songs, were they worried more?*
DB: Yeah, I think the more data they've collected over the years, the less worried they've become.
*Is it impossibly difficult being on the road and away from your daughter and wife? I can't imagine. Just a day away from a child is torture.*
DB: My wife makes it very easy on me/us. She's very supportive. While I do miss them both a lot when I'm gone, there isn't ever any unnecessary drama.
*Do you personally know anyone excited to see the Transformers movie?*
*What's your picture of heaven?*
DB: Bills paid, house clean, lazy summer evenings with my wife and daughter, drinking beer & eating dinner on our back porch picnic table, followed by a long walk/talk around our neighborhood. (Went there last night).
*What can't you do without?*
DB: Wife, daughter, singing songs.
*Is Pitchfork still rubbing you the wrong way?*
DB: I don't know. Haven't been there in awhile. A year maybe.
*Has Will Johnson gotten you into baseball any more? I thought he mentioned that you might have been filling out a scorecard at a game on the spring tour. Where all has he drug you?*
DB: We went to the Negro Leagues museum in K.C. That was beautiful.
*I saw a picture the other week of you playing with Jenny Lewis and Ben Gibbard, I believe. What as that for? Lovely people, no?*
DB: I did a U.S. tour opening for Gibbard solo in May. Jonothan Rice was first of three and Jenny and him are tight so she hopped on the bus for a few days and sang with Gibbard on some Postal Service tunes. Rice and I joined in on "Such Great Heights" as well.
*How did the Barsuk situation come about? You must be pleased about your new home.*
DB: I've known Rosenfeld and the label for sometime (Been tight with DCFC since '98) and was looking for a new label for the post-Pedro records. Barsuk seemed like a good fit. They dig my songs and I dig their label. A match made in, um, heaven.