615 Spotlight: PawnShop Kings Talk EP

PawnShop kings

PawnShop kings

For brothers Joel and Scott Owen, who comprise The PawnShop kings, the term "home" is entirely relative to the situation at the moment. That's how Scott describes their growing-up experience.

"We spent most of our youth growing up in California," he told Billboard. "We actually migrated there from Dallas. My dad's whole side of the family was Oklahoma and Texas, and my mom's was Tennessee and Arkansas. Whenever there was family activity, we got on an airplane and headed east. Mom called it ‘Going home,' and then we'd come back to California, which was home too."

That diverse upbringing definitely can be heard in their music, as their influences are across the map – ranging from the soul of Mahalia Jackson to the southern rock of the Black Crowes. Of the sounds that inspired the brothers, Joel said "We grew up listening to Led Zeppelin. That was a huge shift for us when we heard them. We listened to the Beatles, and dad was a big Elvis fan, so he brought that in. As we got older, there were things like Toad The Wet Sprocket, but I would say the Beatles were the most influential, then Bob Marley and Johnny Cash and voices like that."

All of those sounds come to the forefront of the duo's new self-titled EP, which has been garnering great critical acclaim. Joel says that while the music style is definitely modern, fans of a brother duo from the past just might recognize their tight harmonies. "We loved the Everly Brothers. We listened to them a ton over the years. We loved the way they sang and harmonized together. Part of what we were going for was to take a lot of that color and a lot of what they were doing, and bring it in the 21st century." Scott added that unique stylistic mix has put them in some different promotional avenues for the album. "We've been going through a lot of different channels, which is fun, We've been doing some country stuff, as well as some Americana stuff. It's been fun to see it find its' own way."

The duo worked with renowned producers Phil Madeira and Lynn Nichols on the EP, which Scott said made for a great experience. "Their instincts are so great. They've been playing together for a long time. When we talked about going into the studio, the main thing we wanted to come away with was to get the energy and the magic that happens live to translate onto tape. In talking with different producers, we felt we had the best chance of getting that to happen by going with them. We did the majority of the record live. We would set up, we were all close in the control room – an engineer and seven players. I think you hear that in the interplay and also in the energy."

The brothers both agree that cutting the project live definitely was a plus – especially on the riveting "Make Me Whole," which Scott says was a very personal song.

"That came from a time when we were disagreeing on the phone, and losing our cool. When you argue with somebody you've known for a long time, you stop arguing about the issue, and start getting into all the stuff that frustrates you about the other. I got off the phone, and had an epiphany that I didn't want to be that. I didn't want to be irrational and emotionally charged that way. You lose your credibility. As I sat on the couch reflecting, I realized I wanted to be a better person. That song kind of spilled out as I thought about how I must have sounded, and what that reflected about me. That was a cry to be a better person."

Joel added that there were other factors at play on the song that made it a little more meaningful. "One thing we noticed is that you can hear tension. You can hear the things that were actually happening around us. We were supposed to start Monday morning, and our flight got canceled in Denver, so we got there late, and there was trouble wiring stuff on the first day, so we didn't get started until late. The drummer that was scheduled to be there had to leave to go to another session, and so on ‘Make Me Whole,' you can hear that tension of all those things. But, in a great way – as that song is all about tension. I don't think we've been able to capture those emotions behind the songs when we tracked them. Being able to hear what is actually happening in that moment is as close to what we're doing when we play live."