More than a decade into the Americana and folk revival movement, bands such as The Lumineers have grown to headline festivals and sell out amphitheaters with a now all-too-common mix of fiddle, foot-stomping drums, banjo, guitar and crowd-friendly chant-alongs. But before that group, and Of Monsters and Men, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford and Sons—before all those and among the first to pick up the new movement—was Rose’s Pawn Shop.
The Los Angeles quintet was inspired by alt-country and in 2005 added Appalachian bluegrass, rock, Americana, folk, Celtic and even punk to the mix. Since then, the Paul Givant-fronted band has played upwards of 100 shows a year and released three albums, their most recent being 2014’s Gravity Well. Besides Givant, the band includes John Kraus (banjo and guitar), Stephen Andrews (bass), Tim Weed (fiddle) and Christian Hogan (drums). Their mission remains the same as it was from the outset—to be to American folk what The Pogues and Flogging Molly did to Celtic folk.
Rose’s Pawn Shop, named for an ex-girlfriend who pawned Givant’s belongings after a break-up, are in the early stages of writing a fourth record. In the interim, RIFF caught up with Givant at BottleRock Napa Valley.
Has Rose’s Pawn Shop kept up 100-shows-a-year pace or have you slowed down a bit?
Paul Givant: It’s slowed down in just the very last year. We toured a bunch on our last record, Gravity Well, and the first year with that, we slowed down and started work on a new album. This year has been a little slower but it’s been made up for in songwriting and trying to get a new record together. So that’s kind of our main focus right now. Meanwhile, we still have some shows and small tours and festivals this year.
How’s the record coming along; where are you in the process?
Givant: Most of the songs are written and it’s just a matter of getting the arrangements together. We’re talking with a few producers right now, nailing down who we’re going to work with for the new record. It’s getting close, actually. I hope to be in the studio by mid-summer at the earliest, late fall at the latest.
Are you going to be releasing it independently?
Givant: That’s to be determined. We’ll see what happens with it. It could go a lot of different ways.
For the past few years everybody’s been talking about the “Americana movement.” Mumford and Sons is seen as one of the earlier purveyors, but your band preceded them. How was it at the outset?
Givant: We did. It was definitely still a scene. What preceded Americana, before that, was alt-country. That’s been going on since the late ‘90s with bands like Uncle Tupelo, which transitioned into Wilco; and Whiskeytown, which transitioned into Ryan Adams’ solo career. That’s the scene we came into. We were actually late on that scene, but that branched into broader Americana. We came into it in-between the alt-country boom and then the Americana boom that followed maybe 15 years later. We were right in the center between those two things. Basically, it’s young guys pulling from the rock and pop influences, but then pulling in country and roots and bluegrass and stuff like that, and kind of making it their own. It was cool. There’s always been places for us to play, and other bands that are trying to work at it just like we are.
Tell me about your current songwriting process. Do you always write from the guitar? Or do you work with your bandmates, who can start a song from a fiddle or the drums?
Givant: Ninety percent of the time it starts with me and a guitar, me and a banjo, me and a piano. Sometimes they’re more collaborative, and we’ve written songs like that, but most of the time I’ll usually bring a song to the guys and they’ll help me flesh it out and arrange it and it kind of goes from there.