About

About

Rose's Pawn Shop, Punch-Drunk Life

With their fusion of bluegrass instrumentation and folk-rock amplification, Rose’s Pawn Shop have spent the better part of two decades carving out an Americana sound that’s as diverse as the band’s native Los Angeles. Their past releases offer a melting pot of modern-day roots music, shot through with electric guitar, fiddle, raw percussive stomp, and stacked vocal harmonies. Anchored by the sharp songwriting of frontman Paul Givant, it’s a sound for campfires and car stereos, for front porches and dive bars, for the heart as well as the heartland.

With Punch-Drunk Life, Rose’s Pawn Shop makes a long-awaited return after an eight-year absence from the recording studio. Things have evolved since the group’s previous album, Gravity Well, earned high marks from Rolling Stone (who dubbed the record “a blast of 21st century pickin’-party music”) and GQ (who praised the group’s “knee-slapping bluegrass-y twang”). Bandmates have come and gone. Families have been built. Side projects have been launched. Meanwhile, Rose’s Pawn Shop have continued to expand both their artistry and their audience, thanks to a dedicated touring schedule that’s taken the band from the venues of Southern California to the fishing villages of Alaska to the mountain towns of the American Southwest.

“We’ve always resonated with people who live in remote communities and far-flung locations,” says Paul. “We spend a lot of our time playing mountain towns like Madrid, New Mexico, connecting to the people who, like us, are out there searching for something.”

That search continues with Punch-Drunk Life. Recorded amidst the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s a life-embracing album rooted in the lessons learned during times of struggle. “Old Time Pugilist,” the record’s dynamic opener, turns a boxing metaphor into a bold battle cry about fighting against life’s hurdles and hardships. “The Lonely One” finds Givant rededicating himself to the hardscrabble life of a road warrior. “Gratitude” celebrates the legacy of a departed loved one, while songs like “Ghost Town,” “High Lonesome,” and “Halfway Down the Road” coat themselves with the cinematic, sepia-filtered imagery of the band’s tours across North America’s forgotten places. Recorded by a band of genuine road warriors, Punch-Drunk Life swirls together its own geography: a place where endless highways, desert landscapes, and the long road toward home all converge.

Featuring contributions from guitarist/producer Zachary Ross, upright bassist Stephen Andrews, drummer Matt Lesser, and multi-instrumentalists Tim Weed and John Kraus, Punch-Drunk Life presents a new and improved Rose’s Pawn Shop. The songs are sharper, their melodies flanked by bursts of banjo and mandolin. The lyrics are storybook-ready. At the center of that evolution is Paul Givant, whose songs bear the signs of an articulate, well-read wordsmith who enjoys exploring not only his external world, but also his internal workings. “My writing has become more precise,” he says. “I’ve learned how to say more with less, and I’m embracing more pop sensibilities. Our earlier albums had a darker tint, but this one is more hopeful. It’s a reflection of the positive things in my life — my marriage, my relationships with friends and family — against a backdrop of the challenges we’re still up against.”

Rose’s Pawn Shop have a long history of rolling with the punches. Resilience is built into the band’s DNA, influencing everything from their name — a nod to Givant’s ex-girlfriend, Rose, who infamously reacted to the pair’s breakup by stealing the band’s equipment and pawning it across Los Angeles — to their commitment to finding a path forward in the face of of shifting lineups, growing responsibilities at home, and a global pandemic that brought their touring schedule to a standstill. Accordingly, the guys began recording Punch-Drunk Life during the thick of the pandemic, with each bandmate recording his parts remotely. As quarantine restrictions began to lift, they headed to Electro Sound Studios in the Hollywood Hills. The musicians took their time, capturing the fiery spirit of the band’s live performances without losing sight of their frontman’s measured melodies. The result is the band’s most vivid and vital work to date, with performances that match the poignant punch of Givant’s songwriting.

“Paul is always writing,” Andrews adds. “He never stops. Songs like ‘Ghost Town’ aren’t just songs to me; they’re a time and a place, too. He’s writing about the things we’ve done and the towns we’ve seen.”

An album about self-improvement, forward momentum, and hard-won optimism, Punch-Drunk Life might as well be the soundtrack to a world still regaining its footing after a series of crushing missteps. This is anthemic roots music, stocked with introspective songs that deliver universal messages of courage and conviction. Rose’s Pawn Shop may be punch drunk — it’s hard to avoid a few bruises while navigating the twists and turns of the ever-changing music industry, after all — but they’ve learned to hit back, too. They’ve toughened up, and with Punch-Drunk Life, they’ve delivered a knockout blow.

Paul Givant

Paul Givant

Lead Vocals, Guitar & Banjo

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Paul Givant started what has become Rose’s Pawn Shop back in 2004, singing and writing “drunk, sloppy alt-country” songs with the eponymous Rose. When the partnership and romance fell apart, Rose stole the band’s gear and pawned it across LA in a fit of rage – hence the name, and hence Givant’s penchant for finely detailed devil-may-care songwriting and punch-drunk sense of humor.

Givant turned this “founding event” into a collection of songs that became 2006’s The Arsonist, the debut album that landed them an opening slot for Jack White and The Raconteurs as well as their first national tour. 2010’s Dancing on The Gallows, and 2014’s Gravity Well came next, as did years of touring, including opening spots for Lucinda Williams, Big Head Todd, The White Buffalo, and Jamestown Revival, before a return to the studio with Punch-Drunk Life, an album that reflects Givant’s maturation as a songwriter and evolution into a family man – albeit one who still finds time for a few pints after the show.

Bandmates came and went, but Givant, an LA native and former Philosophy Major, remained – the band’s primary songwriter, heart, soul, and source of keen observations on a life of trials, tribulations, and rolling with the punches.

Stephen Andrews

Stephen Andrews

Upright Bass & Electric Bass

Bassist Stephen Andrews joined the band back in 2008, a North Florida native who’d made his way to LA. Andrews always considered electric bass his go to, having grown up playing fusion, but all that changed when Paul came calling for some upright. The two haven’t looked back since. Bringing some southern bona fides to the band, Stephen quickly became Paul’s second in command, a true road duo, and when Stephen recently tied the knot, it was Paul officiating the ceremony. Outside of RPS, you can find Stephen building out old cars, bikes, and vans, or spending time outside in the wilderness. When asked about a peak memory, Andrews gives an exact time and date: Strawberry Music Fest in Yosemite Thursday September 1, 2011 at 7pm. “Playing music into sunset at such a beautiful setting – that’s the dream.”

Tim Weed

Tim Weed

Fiddle & Vocals

Having just moved to LA from Boston, fiddle/multi-instrumentalist Tim Weed found the band on craigslist, just looking for a jam. After a good audition and a rowdy first gig – the guy he’d beaten out for the job showed up at the show ready to fight – Tim was hooked. “Over the years,” says Weed, “we’ve survived tornados, a stampede of miniature horses, and nights spent in haunted houses. We’ve lived like kings, camped like hobos, and along the way made more friends than we can remember and far fewer enemies than we deserve.” (Although that guy he almost fought on night one came back a few years later and bit Paul’s ear on stage…) A true musician through and through, Weed teaches music and plays in a Western swing band as well as his own Hot Club Jazz outfit, The Catalina Combo.

Matt Lesser

Matt Lesser

Drums & Vocals

Matt brings a deep feel and deceptively simple groove to the drum throne, holding down the foundation of Rose’s Pawn Shop. A self-taught player who ended up studying drums at UC Irvine, Matt brings a rock background to RPS’s Americana sound, drawn to the excellent songwriting and the band’s freewheeling nature. Since joining the band in 2017, Matt’s brought his unique personality to the kit as a bedrock member of the traveling squad. When not gigging, Matt enjoys the great outdoors, a good overlap with these intrepid road warriors. “One time in Anchorage, we were building a pretty intense jam,” he recalled, “and just as the tension built all the way up and released, a bald eagle landed right above us on a tree. It was pretty damn glorious.”

Zachary Ross

Zachary Ross

Electric Guitar & Vocals

Lead guitarist Zachary Ross joined the band in 2018, adding his distinct style of blues-driven Americana playing to the RPS sound. Immediately falling in love with the music, the brotherhood, and the way the band handles the road, Zach became a staple, even producing the band’s 2023 record Punch-Drunk Life. Among his favorite memories was tracking that record in the depths of pre-vaccine pandemic days, stationed safely outside the studio with cables running out to the patio, Zach cutting guitar live while dancing around in the sunlight. It’s a good reminder of the power of playing together and what an old fashioned band can do. A prolific player and producer, you can find Zach any given day gigging away on the road or cutting something in a studio in LA.