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David Bazan Combats Writer's Block And Comes To Town With The Passenger String Quartet

Ryan Russell / Courtesy Of The Artist

David Bazan and the Passenger String Quartet play Friday night at Harlows.

Ryan Russell / Courtesy Of The Artist

Drifting from his signature house-show model, David Bazan's fall tour takes place in clubs and features The Passenger String Quartet. They'll be drawing material from Bazan’s entire career, including songs by Pedro the Lion and his solo albums.

As a front-man for Seattle indie-band, Pedro The Lion, Bazan established himself as a poetic storyteller, drawing from faith and parables to express deep emotions with his woeful voice.

In 2006, he struck out on his own, but didn't release his first full-length solo album, Curse Your Branches, until 2009. It was a critically acclaimed, emotionally charged record about his deteriorating faith in God. In 2011, he released Strange Negotiations to high praises from the folks at All Songs Considered, Paste Magazine and American Songwriter - and then promptly acquired a touch of writer’s block.

“Between May of 2011 and this May, I wrote one song.” Bazan explained in a recent phone interview. “And I was really trying to write songs. I needed a way to light a fire under my own ass and start writing tunes. I had heard to make good art you need a little bit of talent, a lot of hunger and not enough time.”

He decided that little talent and hunger were there, so all he needed was a time constraint. This is what led him to create Bazan Monthly V.1.

Starting back in July, Bazan decided to release two songs a month digitally and on 7-inch vinyl. He’s four months into the project, with one month to go. By the end of it he’ll have a 10-song album titled Bazan Monthly V.1.

 

This musical experiment didn’t go easy for Bazan. After releasing the first two songs, “Impermanent Record” and “Deny Myself,” he said he was working on the next two, fixing melodies here and there, and finessing lyrics.

“I zoomed out and listened to them and I just thought they were horseshit,” he said. “I was just defeated.”

Feeling discouraged, Bazan decided he just needed to hear something beautiful. So he sat down at his computer and started searching the Internet for that something beautiful. He came across a live performance by musician Chad VanGaalen on KEXP.

“From the first notes he started singing – he was connected with it, with the real stuff. He was fully connected in a soft spoken way,” said Bazan. “I was moved to tears and I just started writing ‘Little Landslides.’”

 

“Little Landslides” became one of Bazan’s favorite songs on his new album. 

You can listen tp Bazan + Passenger String Quartet / Vol 1., the album Bazan recorded with the Passenger String Quartet on his website. You'll see "Little Landslides" isn't on the playlist, but it will get the full quartet treatment when they play at Harlows on Friday. He also plans to play “Hard to Be,” the first track off Curse Your Branches.

Bazan works hard to make the changing music marketplace work for him and his music. After leaving Pedro the Lion, Bazan started doing house-show tours, playing small rooms for just a handful of people. He does play club shows when a new album comes out, but for the most part his heavy touring schedule is filled with these more-intimate appearances.

“You make music and there is a marketplace where you are allowed to bring your music to market,” Bazan said. “Part of the feeling you were trying to get early on was to gain legitimacy by getting your music into the most mainstream aspects of the marketplace [radio, big concert venues]. Whatever is the most popular paradigm for releasing music and getting music to fans, people just want to do it automatically.

“Over the years I realized to gain legitimacy I’m getting into bed with these huge corporations who don’t give two-shits about my music, and I have this sneaking feeling they don’t give two-shits about music period. If I’m going to take this seriously… I need a way to bring my music to market without having to partner up with these people who don’t care about me or about my livelihood.”

So releasing an album two songs at a time and playing house shows is how Bazan does it. After being in the music business for nearly two decades Bazan has seen the landscape change drastically and he has a story to illustrate his feeling about keeping up with those changes.

“I got a D on a report card in seventh grade in history. I think it was the first sub-B
I ever got,” Bazan explained. “[My dad] was really bummed and he asked me why I
got a D, and I said ‘Well the teacher was really bad.’”

His dad asked him if anyone else got an A, and Bazan said that a few people had. His dad replied, “that should’ve been you.”

“If you want it bad enough you have to figure out how to make it happen,” said Bazan.

 
UDPATE: Photos from the concert. David Bazan Bazan2

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Melody Stone

Interactive Producer

After working in newspapers and doing print journalism for years, Melody transitioned into digital marketing and design. With a healthy blend of journalistic and digital media skills she builds out interactive web stories for Capradio.org.  Read Full Bio