Sound & Vision: David Bazan of Pedro The Lion Discusses His New Album Phoenix, Depression, and Healing

Sound and Vision
Emily Fox
photo by Eric Tra

After 15 years away from the moniker, David Bazan has revived the Pedro The Lion name for a new album called Phoenix, out now on Polyvinyl Records. The revival of the project also finds Bazan looking even further back, tracing back to his childhood growing up in Phoenix, Ariz. It was an effort to find the source of a lifelong loneliness he’s felt – one that sticks with him to this day.

In the inaugural episode of Sound & Vision, KEXP DJ John Richards chats with Bazan about the record but also digs deep into the emotional process it took to create it. They also open up about their own struggles with depression and finding healing. It’s a harrowing discussion, but one that sheds light on familiar feelings many of us feel every day and the journey toward inner peace.

Listen to the segment and read some of the highlights below.


On Retracing His Childhood Roots in Phoenix, Ariz.

“I went down to Phoenix, I think I was going to be down there for four days staying at my grandparents and my plan was to wake up before sunrise and get out on the road and drive the routes that were from the house that I grew up to the grocery store that we went to or from there to just wherever.

“I would think of little trips that we would take. Like, from our house where would we go to eat? And there's this Taco Bell – the first one I ever ate at. I would go drive that little route. But I did it at magic hour, before sunrise. It's just beautiful. And so I'm there having all these memories and they're specifically to remember and with the very clear directions for myself that I had to be kind. There had to be like this reservoir of kindness toward myself so that I could even go back and think about some of these memories which, some were painful.”

On Childhood Loneliness

“There's sort of like this weird way that you look at yourself where you think, ‘I'm not a loner. It just hasn't clicked yet where I have the kind of friendship I need or the kind of connection that I need.’ And then after you are in that sort of hopeful but still loner kind of state for 40 years and you recognize there is a pattern there that you didn't recognize. You always saw it with the hopeful spin on it. But over time, there were that I pushed down.

Basically, I was able to revisit some unprocessed feelings and experience them all with kindness and sit and feel those feelings and sometimes, with the feeling, a lyrical hook would arrive.”

On Leaving the Evangelical Christian Faith

”What I understood is I lost a connection with myself because the conversations that I was having with God all those years. Maybe I was talking to God. But all of the internal discussion and dialogue and back and forth was a way to know myself a bit more than I did. And I've since gone back to having those conversations again. But I'm thinking of them as interrogating myself and understanding my feelings. And that's one of the things that leaving evangelical Christianity helped me with is. My experience with that tradition is that your feelings are said to be dangerous.”

“It's really difficult to find a way of participating in that tradition without there being a pretty constant message of "your thoughts are corrupt, your body is corrupt, you're a sinful being and the only good that's possible in you is Christ in you." It's a very confusing system through which to understand your own feelings and navigate them and learn to trust yourself. I mean, everybody that I grew up with were very generous, loving people. I thrived and had a great time as a kid in so many ways. But if I was a lonely kid anyways, these were ways in which I was separated from myself even more which is the source of the loneliness I'm understanding now. It isn't really about other people.”

On Using Twitter to Be Open About His Struggles with Depression

Somehow Twitter is something that I had as a semi-regular relationship with and there was sort of a frequency. Each of us have the frequency with which we interact with social media and mine had changed and I felt like I had a desire to go be on social media and to be on Twitter. But I also was torn because I couldn't be myself. I was learning what seemed to be really going on with me.

Basically, I understood that the hurt that I had been carrying around... My therapist, we had this moment, because the constant question is why... What is it about me where I don't get what I need? And I for the life of me cannot get what I need out of the situations that I'm in. And in the end, she was like, "Well the tragedy is that the hurt that you were sort of carrying around and hiding was too big for any relationship outside of a clinical environment. And so the only way to get to the place of being yourself was to be in a therapeutic situation."

I didn't know until the likes went through the roof. I went back to take it down at a certain point and then saw people's responses because I felt like it feels like drawing attention to yourself. And it also feels like asking for encouragement. It's such a conflicted feeling. I just thought, "Why am I doing this?" And then the answer is when people responded and I realized it was mostly not people saying "Oh, I hope you're doing OK." It was mostly people saying, "Yeah man, here's how it feels for me." Part of it too is just saying something about it online. You know, it's embarrassing. But I don't want to die. I have friends who are dead and they were talking about it in their way. And some of us were hearing it. I Guess I would rather err on the side of feeling a bit foolish admitting something like that, realizing, taking seriously that I am at risk of premature death. If you've been lonely in your life, that's a that's a predictor of early death. That's a real thing. Loneliness will kill you faster.

Sound & Vision airs Saturday mornings at 7 AM PST. Hosted by Emily Fox and John Richards, the show "uses interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter."

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