David Bazan, Pedro the Lion rose from underground Christian indie rock roots in the late '90s to more widespread crossover success thanks to albums like 2000's Winners Never Quit and 2002's Control. Bazan's songwriting covers a range of themes, from moody personal reflection and relationships to Christian imagery and political discourse, all set against a backdrop of melodic slowcore, emo, and indie rock. Following 2004's Achilles Heel, the group disbanded for 15 years, returning in 2019 with the comeback album Phoenix.
Bazan initially formed Pedro the Lion in 1995 while attending Northwest University, a small Pentecostal liberal arts school in Kirkland, Washington. Cycling through numerous different iterations in its first few years, Bazan eventually struck a deal with Christian-oriented indie Tooth & Nail to release the band's first EP, Whole, in 1997. A new label, Made in Mexico, was launched by a former Tooth & Nail publicist, which released the band's 1998 debut album, It's Hard to Find a Friend, on which Bazan played nearly every instrument. The album earned critical acclaim from mainstream outlets, exposing Pedro the Lion's deeply introspective mix of lo-fi slowcore and emo-tinged indie rock to a wider national audience beyond the Christian youth group crowd that had until then been their core fan base.
The Only Reason I Feel Secure EP, Bazan signed with the Jade Tree label and released Winners Never Quit in 2000, again writing, recording, and performing all of the band's parts himself. Another EP, Progress, appeared that same year via the Suicide Squeeze label as Bazan continued to tour with constantly rotating lineups and widen his fan base. Control, Pedro the Lion's third LP, was a concept album about a businessman having an extramarital affair. Arriving in 2002, it sold better than any of their previous releases, though Bazan's increasingly secular themes continued to frustrate many of his early followers. Around this time, a former touring bandmate, T.W. Walsh became more heavily involved in the writing and recording process and moved to Seattle to join Pedro the Lion as a full-time member. Bazan, Walsh, James McAlister, and another frequent tourmate, Casey Foubert, all pitched in to record 2004's Achilles Heel, marking a more collaborative effort that also made inroads on both the Heatseekers and Top Independent Albums charts. It would also prove to be the band's last album for 15 years.
Bazan and Walsh maintained their collaboration even as Pedro the Lion began to fracture as a project -- the two musicians recorded a 2005 side project as Headphones. At the end of that year, Pedro the Lion played their final show and Bazan announced the band's demise in early 2006. The following decade saw numerous solo releases from Bazan as well as his involvement in bands like the Undertow Orchestra, Crystal Skulls, Overseas, the Soft Drugs, and Lo Tom.
In the summer of 2018, Bazan felt inspired to revive Pedro the Lion and put together a new lineup featuring himself on bass and vocals along with guitarist Erik Walters and drummer Sean Lane. Working with producer Andy Park in Seattle, the trio recorded Phoenix, the first album to bear the Pedro the Lion moniker in 15 years. It was released in January 2019 by the Polyvinyl label.