Local band Pawn Pawn’s first album, a strong dose of ambient nostalgia
Three-piece band Pawn Pawn began when David Daniel Smith (drums, guitar, keys) and Brandon William Boltz (guitar, synth) first started working on what is the band’s first album— Bedtime. The two Toledo natives had already known each other for years, having jammed together in other bands since high school. They got together about four years ago to do something far removed from their punk roots. With no lyrics— only instrumentals— the two musicians realized that they had something cohesive that would be a solid grouping for an album. As David puts it, they “accidentally became a band,” once they asked Liz Owens Boltz, Brandon’s wife, to write the lyrics and sing lead vocals. She and Brandon, who began dating in high school, had also played in bands together in the past.
Pawn Pawn’s sound is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors (Liz’s voice definitely channels that of Stevie Nicks) and what Brandon describes as “melodic intertwinings,” breaking the rules Brandon and David learned from past experiences in punk bands. “We basically decided not to strum chords or do standard rock stuff,” he says.
As David and Brandon worked on the instrumentals for a solid two years before Liz joined the group, there was pressure for her to complete the songs with lyrics that complemented the original intent. “These songs were their babies that they’d been listening to for a couple of years, and I’m putting lyrics and vocal melodies over them that they are not used to,” Liz explained.
Ultimately, it worked. Bedtime came together as a synth-pop lineup of 80s nostalgia replete with ambient single-note melodies. If you aren’t paying attention to the lyrics, you’ll miss the dark elements in Bedtime, which balances its upbeat rhythm with a hard look at the reality of an uncertain future.
As Liz points out, the band “tries to skirt that line. A lot of our music has that moody feel to it. ‘Sometimes it hurts to be alive,’ is one of my lines. That’s probably the dark part of it, too— this is what it’s like to be a human being right now. We’re trying to make [the album] something universal that everyone can relate to.”
With the Goblin King
David and Brandon feel that “Bedtime” and “Be Cool” best encompass the overall theme of the album, making them the most likely to become singles, but fans of David Bowie should listen to “Look Up.” While the guys were channeling Nine Inch Nails for the instrumentals, Liz was thinking about Ziggy Stardust.
“I really wanted to do a tribute, to honor his (Bowie’s) creative spirit,” she says. “I heard that song and I thought, ‘This is a Bowie song.’” With Labyrinth-inspired lyrics like, “You made it a thing/ to rock and roll with the Goblin King,” it stands out as pure and hopeful while bookmarked by the other peppy songs with dark undertones.
“Nostalgia is another theme that runs through the album,” says Liz. “On the one hand, we are all thinking about our childhood and the things we loved but, on the other hand, we’re looking toward the future. Bedtime is the time of night when you’re thinking about those things.”
You can find Bedtime on most streaming services. Pawn Pawn also recently released the album on vinyl, which can be purchased at their shows and at local record stores.
Come to the Heights Guitars (1724 S. Reynolds Rd.) in-store release of the album at 6pm on Friday, April 19.