Pedro The Lion

Pedro The Lion

Pedro the Lion has always been David Bazan, but it took a long time to get back there.

In August 2016, during what he now recognizes as his lowest point, Bazan was touring the country alone in an aging minivan and found himself in his hometown of Phoenix, AZ. In need of a break from the road, he spent a night off at his grandparents' house instead of driving on to San Diego. Before leaving town the next morning, after realizing that even the most familiar places can become unrecognizable, Bazan gave himself the gift of a quick detour past the house he grew up in, and on the way, experienced a breakthrough -- one that would lead him both forward and back to another home he had built many years before.

From the beginning, Pedro the Lion didn't work like the bands Bazan had played drums in, where each player came up with their own parts. Instead, like scripting scenes of dialogue for actors to play with, Bazan recorded and arranged all of the skeletal accompaniments for his obsessively introspective lyrics and spare melodies. Each player would then learn their parts and, together as a band, they brought the skeleton to life. While bandmates played on a few recordings, Bazan often played all or most of the instruments himself.

"I found so much joy working this way," Bazan remembers. "It came naturally and yielded a feeling and a sound that couldn't have existed by any other process. At the same time, I was also aware that not everyone wanted to play in a band where the singer wrote all the parts and might perform them on the record. Someone even suggested it might not be a valid approach to having a band in the first place. Being insecure and wanting to find camaraderie, I became conflicted about my natural process."

By 2002, after recording Control, the high rate of turnover in the band finally caused Bazan to ditch his "natural process" in favor of a collaborative writing process. When, after a couple more years, this move did nothing to stabilize turnover, Bazan was perplexed. In November 2005, Bazan decided to stop doing Pedro the Lion altogether.

Ironically, Bazan didn't see "going solo" as a chance to revert back to his original process of writing and playing all the parts. For the next decade Pedro the Lion felt off limits, even forgotten, like a childhood home Bazan had moved out of. He pushed forward with releasing solo albums & relentless touring in living rooms and clubs, through every part of the US and beyond, sometimes with a band, but mostly on his own. It took a toll on his family and more acutely on himself. By the summer of 2016, he still hadn't found the personal clarity or the steady collaboration he'd been seeking and was at the end of his rope.

"I had abandoned my natural way of working in the hopes of creating space for a consistent band to write with...and it hadn't worked. So I got a rehearsal space, mic'd up drums, bass, and guitar, and really leaned into my original process again. It immediately felt like like home. Before long I realized it also felt like Pedro the Lion."

In June 2018, with Bazan on bass, vocals, and arrangement writing, Erik Walters on guitar and backing vocals, and Sean Lane on drums, Pedro the Lion went into Studio X and Hall of Justice with producer Andy Park to create Phoenix , the first new Pedro album in 15 years.

The songs themselves are the result of mining your past for who you are now. On opening track "Yellow Bike," Bazan encapsulates a core ache he's been exploring since 1998's It's Hard to Find a Friend with the line:

My kingdom
For someone to ride with

Phoenix also deals with having to be better to yourself in order to be better to others on "Quietest Friend," and harkens back to Control' s "Priests and Paramedics" with a story about EMTs facing a gruesome scene, and storytelling as coping mechanism, on "Black Canyon." It bears witness to both what was around and what was inside, with the signature kindness and forgiveness that lightens Pedro the Lion's darkest notes.

The result is a twisting, darkly hopeful introspection into home and what it means to go back, if you ever can. It is rock and roll wrapped in tissue paper, its hard edges made barely soft. Every melody is careful, a delicate upswing buoyed by guitar lines that hold each tender feeling together like string before ripping them apart to see what's inside. It is an ode to the place he still loves despite how alien it can appear to him now. It is the story of a life from the beginning, but not a linear one. This life is a circle, and Phoenix goes back to that first point, to show that when we are looking for home we'll eventually run into it again, whether it's in the desert, in a rehearsal space, or on a stage.

John Vanderslice

John Vanderslice (born in Gainesville, Florida) is an American musician, songwriter, record producer, and recording engineer. He is the owner and founder of Tiny Telephone, an analog recording studio with locations in San Francisco Mission District and North Oakland. He released 10 full-length albums and 5 remix records and EPs on Dead Oceans and Barsuk Records and has collaborated with musicians such as The Mountain Goats, St. Vincent, and Spoon.

Since 2014, Vanderslice has been a full-time record producer at Tiny Telephone and has worked with Frog Eyes, Samantha Crain, the Mountain Goats, and Grandaddy. He has previously worked with Sophie Hunger, Bombadil, Strand Of Oaks, and Spoon.

Vanderslice is a proponent of using analog instruments and recording equipment to produce a richer, more raw sound which he has sometimes called "sloppy hi-fi".[30] He has collaborated closely with engineer/producers in the production of his albums, including John Congleton, Scott Solter, and John Croslin.[31]

Vanderslice was a contributing producer on the Spoon album, Gimme Fiction, and also produced The Mountain Goats albums Heretic Pride, The Sunset Tree, and We Shall All Be Healed. In March and April 2009, John Vanderslice toured alongside The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle in the "Gone Primitive Tour". These shows featured Vanderslice and Darnielle each playing acoustic sets and then performing material together.[32]

Vanderslice has often chosen bands to tour with him who have gone on to widespread recognition and critical respect, including Sufjan Stevens, Okkervil River, The Tallest Man On Earth and St. Vincent.

His introduction from the Tiny Telephone website says: "Hello, my name is John Vanderslice. I've made records with tons of people, including The Mountain Goats, Cherry Glazerr, Grandaddy, Brothers Comatose, Spoon, and Sophie Hunger. I like to produce and engineer records. I usually record using analog tape machines and I play a few instruments as well. I own (and usually work out of) Tiny Telephone. Adam Katz of Next Wave manages me. I actually answer emails. Super fast and very easy to work with, I prefer intuition over agonized deliberation and performance to precision. Blame the Surrealists."

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