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David Bazan of Pedro the Lion on the 10th anniversary of his band's landmark LP, Control

DavidBazanMagnum.jpgIn the decade since Seattle's Pedro the Lion made their album Control, core member David Bazan has battled alcoholism, broken up the band, left the Christian faith he was born into, and started a family that now includes two children. All the while, untold numbers of kids, Christian and atheist alike, have held Control as a life-changing album -- a stark, booming song-cycle full of crumbling families, soul-sucking careers and good old American emptiness.

To celebrate the album's 10th anniversary, Bazan, now 36, is out playing Control front-to-back. (He and his band will be at Mercury Lounge tomorrow and Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday.) PAPERMAG caught up with him last week as he sped along the I-90 toward Chicago. A soft-spoken man who'd rather stop talking than dish up a sound bite, Bazan still told us a few things about his turbulent decade, receiving text messages while he's onstage, and wrestling with his three-year-old.

I heard you were playing your set in Minneapolis when Obama won the election.
I got a lot of texts all at once while I was standing there, doing stage banter, and people were starting to murmur at the same moment. You could just tell that something was going on, and I looked at my phone and saw that Obama had won. So it was a lot of relief for me and my guys.

You leave your phone on during shows?
Yeah, I have it on vibrate in my pocket.

Is this part of your Q&A format?
No. I don't totally know why. Sometimes Caleb, our tour manager, will text me and will say like, "MERCH MERCH MERCH MERCH MERCH." But that's the extent of it.

How does this tour feel different from ten years ago, when you were first promoting Control?
The facts of my life are different and a lot more settled than they were ten years ago. For one thing, I was still Christian in 2002. Maybe a year away from really starting to feel the shift begin, but that year I was probably still grappling with the deep sense I had that there was nothing wrong with being a homosexual, and yet I was still trying to make sense of what I perceived the Bible would say about that. So there were just a lot of points of tension within me.

Do you still play Christian festivals?
I played Cornerstone in 2009. Before that, 2004 was the last time. We had played Purple Door in 2001 maybe, and that one felt gross so we didn't go back.

When Control came out, did it feel like an exponential lift for Pedro the Lion?
It wasn't exponential; definitely there was some growth, though. It was growing a little bit every time. Up through Control it felt like I was on track and things were growing both externally and internally, and it was maybe after Control, during Achilles Heel when the wheels started to come off. I was becoming a drunk then. But after Control, everything was firing on all cylinders.

Is there a song that seems more poignant to you than others now?
That's a tough question to answer in a way that I think is accurate. The song "Options," at times I've thought was a little cartoony or kind of absurd. But the longer that I'm a grownup, the more it rings true. The chorus of the song ["I could never divorce you without a good reason / And though I may never have to, it's good to have options"] serves the function of what a lot of people are actually saying in their wedding vows, rather than what they're giving lip-service to. All these songs mean a lot more and are more poignant to me in the context of the entire album than any of them working on their own. So it's kind of nice to play them in context.

I love the Deerhoof collaboration you did. Any plans to do more with them?
They solicited my involvement on that and I was overjoyed. If they ask again, I'll say yeah for sure. After [making the 7-inch], Greg [Saunier] emailed me and said, "Thank you, we really appreciated the black humor of the song," which made me feel really god. Actually, when you called, I was about five songs into their album The Runners Four.

What else are you listening to?
We all like the new Chris Cohen record a lot. We were all listening to Gang of Four's Entertainment! the other day. This American Life is a huge favorite of everybody in the band, and also On the Media. Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Are there TV shows that you guys all watch together?
What did we watch the other night? We watched Winnebago Man, that documentary. On the last house show tour that was a two-piece with Andy Fitts, we watched all of Breaking Bad together -- neither of us had seen it and our wives weren't particularly interested. So that was great.

I just finished Season 4.
Keep going, man! Did it end with some kind of explosion?

It sure did.
Oh God.

What's your life like off the road these days?
I go down to my rehearsal space usually 9 to 5 every weekday, just to write and record or clean up or get ready for rehearsal or experiment with a synthesizer plug-in or whatever it is. [My family and I] have breakfast together every morning and have dinner together every night at home, and once in a while we'll have a movie night. My son is three and so he always just wants to wrestle. "Let's wrestle, Dad!" I'll be like, okay. We started wrestling so much that he'll be out of breath, like, "I'm tired, I need to sit down." We just like each other's company.

Does your eight-year-old come to shows when you play in town?
She has been to one or so, but it's not like a big thrust or anything to make sure that they're at the shows. My wife, you know, when we played a show at this big venue, the Showbox in Seattle, it didn't even cross her mind to come to the show until I was like, "Babe, it seems weird, I know, but I'd really like you to be there. I think it's kind of a big deal." So then she came and was really happy she did.

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