Rose’s Pawn Shop: A treasure trove of Folk Americana
by Lindsay Hilton
While bad luck with women isn’t truly the case with lead singer Paul Givant, the story behind how Rose’s Pawn Shop (RPS) got its name is apropos for an Americana folk and country group. A lover spurned (actually a former member of the group itself) sold all of the band’s equipment to a pawnshop as her parting act, and thus a name was born. But Rose’s little act of vengeance didn’t, thankfully, have long-lasting effects. The group was able to salvage its equipment and RPS quickly began working its way to become country’s newest little darlin’.
The band has enjoyed steadied success in recent years, and the September release of its highly-acclaimed album, Gravity Well, has only served to throw whiskey on the fire.
The band is currently based out of L.A., where Givant (lead vocals, guitar, and banjo) is from and where John Kraus (banjo, electric guitar, and vocals) was also raised. Other members are include Port Angeles, WA, native Tim Weed (fiddle, mandolin, and vocals); Florida native Stephen Andrews (upright and electric bass); and Christian Hogan (drum and vocals), of Nova Scotia, Canada.
With success comes a never-ending schedule. Amidst a heavy touring schedule, RPS recently opened for Lucinda Williams. Previously, they toured with Railroad Earth as well as Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Their music video for “What Were You Waiting For” off of the new album was featured by Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone Country, and the group is up for Grammy nominations in three categories—American Roots Performance and American Root Song (both categories for “What Were You Waiting For” from Gravity Well), and American Album (Gravity Well).
RPS’ earlier albums were both self-released. The Arsonist, debuted in 2006 and Dancing on the Gallows followed in 2010. Gravity Well marks a departure from their older material in several aspects. For one thing, Givant said the latest album is more focused and mature. The group also worked with Ted Hutt, who produced and mixed the album and who Givant credits with steering the record in a new direction, musically.
“It was an interesting process,” Givant said of the group’s collaboration with Hutt, who is best known for his work with Gaslight Anthem, Flogging Molly, and Dropkick Murphys. “He helped us to focus the album in a way we haven’t done before and I am really proud of it.”
The songs on the new album fit together in a more cohesive way– they don’t meander like RPS’ previous albums. In this way, Givant feels that Gravity Well truly represents an Americana folk rock album. “We wanted to make a record that kind of defined our sound and who we are, and we feel we did that,” he said.
Gravity Well is thematically divided into two parts; the first half of the songs have darker notes and deal with difficult themes whereas the second half of the songs grow more hopeful. Givant said there is much personal revelation in it.
RPS’ earlier music was more closely aligned to stalwart country themes like heartbreak and drinking. And while there is some of that in the new record, Givant is quick to emphasize the issues they tackle in their new songs are more about the human condition. They focus on what it’s like going through all the tough times and the inspiring ones.
“We didn’t set out to honor any old traditions,” he said. “We just wrote about personal experiences and what they meant to us.”
LOCAL SHOWTIME: Rose’s Pawn Shop comes to Bellingham Dec. 6 at the Green Frog, and you can also catch a show in Seattle Dec. 4 at the Tractor Tavern, and Dec. 5 at Sirens in Port Townsend.For more about the band, see rosespawnshop.com.
Published in the December 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine