Name: Once A Pawn
From: Lincoln, NE
Label: Queer Control Records (San Francisco)
Members: Catherine Balta (drums/vocals), Eric Scrivens (guitar), Michael Flowers (bass)
RIYL: Sleater-Kinney, Tegan and Sara, Screaming Females, Luscious Jackson, The White Stripes, The Spinanes


[stream the entire new album “In This House”]



About a Girl
Mission Accomplished (2010)
Queer Control Records
Dir: Ladd Wendelin

Can’t Figure You Out
Do You Feel Like This? (2008)
A JXN Production

Once A Pawn is forging its own ‘happily ever after’. Born on the badminton courts of Lincoln High, they’ve climbed the beanstalk of Bad Religion, R&B, & Riot Grrrl, stolen the golden goose of Queercore, and chopped it all down in a flurry of biting swirling guitars, intricate pounding beats, and Marissa-Paternoster-chews-up-Justin-Bieber vocals. Follow the breadcrumbs – OAP is on a steady sunset ride through your neck of those deep dark woods…

Once a Pawn’s Catherine Balta & Eric Scrivens have been a formidable pair since their days as gym class badminton champions at Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Nebraska. Their success with the racquet and shuttlecock catapulted them into a fast friendship and toward propitiously forming a band, uniting around Eric’s affinity for political punk (a la Bad Religion and AFI), Catherine’s inclination toward 90’s R&B and hip-hop (including a particular fondness for Missy Elliot & Common) and appreciation for her parents’ extensive Country catalogue, and ultimately coalescing around a mutual love of all things riot grrrl. They soon began creating their own contributions to the canon, building their sound around Catherine’s intricate pounding beats and Marissa-Paternoster-chews-up-Justin-Bieber vocals, and Eric’s biting swirling guitar riffs. With a set of  pipes that have drawn comparisons to Gabby Glasser (Luscious Jackson) and Rebecca Gates (The Spinanes), and songs that bring to mind Sleater Kinney, Tegan & Sara, and The White Stripes, Balta echoes a common refrain when she describes the band as “energetic, raw, and genuine“. Others have offered that they “rock with a simple and engaging grace carried by a heavier edge and conscious lyrics,” and that they have an “innocent-yet-ballistic intensity” when performing their “soundly written pop structured tunes.”

In 2005, Once a Pawn released their first EP This Way, produced by Ian Aiello of Eagle*Seagull, and began making a name for themselves throughout their native Southeast Nebraska (see the scores of articles1/interviews2/podcasts3/in-studios4/best-of lists5/etc6 between various Nebraska-based publications and blogs – plus all of the showcases7/benefits8/events9/ & compilations10 in which they represented the 4-0-2). OAP has also been provided with ample reasons to blush by the critical cadre of Nebraska’s music community:

  • “Perhaps Lincoln’s hardest-working pop-rock band, Once a Pawn is consistently a great live show. Drummer and frontwoman Catherine Balta owns one of my favorite voices in the Star City.” – Star City Blog
  • One of my favorite-ever Lincoln bands” – The Reader, Omaha
  • my favorite Lincoln band” –
  • “Once A Pawn’s new disc, Mission Accomplished, is one of my favorites so far this year” –
  • a staple member of Lincoln’s music scene” – Lincoln Nights

Shortly after self-releasing their debut album Do You Feel Like This?(2008), they caught the attention of San Francisco’s Queer Control Records. The partnership with QCR has been a great fit for Once a Pawn, as they’d been active in facilitating a strong LGBT community in Lincoln for years – Catherine started and curates a bi-annual Open Drag Night and was crowned Mr. Q 2009 (the beau of the Lincoln drag king pageant) as her King persona C-Styles (C-Styles leans ‘sensitive indie heartthrob’, and by all accounts, Balta totally breaks hearts). She also recently celebrated 4 years of charming the ladies of Lincoln as a member of the boi band Crush. LGBT issues matter to Eric too. “I think that it is important for more straight people like myself to be involved in the queer community,” said Scrivens. “It is about human rights, dignity, and standing up for those who are being oppressed.” Balta helped organize Star City Pride, and Once a Pawn regularly performs at Lincoln and Omaha Pride events. Since connecting with QCR, they have been broadening their reach within the wider LGBT community as well, garnering critical acclaim for their most recent release from outlets like “Out of the newer wave of queercore bands -Once a Pawn is definitely at the top of my list.” Their video for “Can’t Figure You Out” from the album Do You Feel Like This? beat out a solid field of peers to win a Queer Control fan-supported video contest which awarded a grand prize of having the video featured on LGBT cable channel LOGO, and they have gained wide exposure and a rabid following through QCR showcases in New York and LA, as well as having been featured on Queer Control Records’ 2010 & 2011 compilation albums, the latter of which was most recently highlighted on

Once a Pawn added Michael Flowers on bass in August of last year, and he fills out their sound with simple and solid low end. The band is finishing up their 3rd full-length this summer and will be hitting the road with their new material in the fall. Scrivens is “excited about our evolution in songwriting. It is still OAP, but the songs are more dramatic in their composition. The highs are higher and the lows are lower.” In a recent KZUM podcast, interviewer Hilary Stohs-Krause suggests that the band has “moved into a more complex rock sound, experimenting with tempo and melody.”  No strangers to touring, OAP have been honing their road chops since 2006 and will be showcasing their new material on the road in October, eager to share their particular style of infectious indie pop with multifarious audiences, whether Lincoln or New York, Cornhuskers or Queers. They’re active and outspoken on behalf of the LGBT community and their music embraces those themes, yet they have an undeniable appeal to all types of music lovers, as evidenced by the fervent fandom that they inspire from their solidly heart-of-the-heartland Plains state.

1Articles/Briefs: one / two / three / four / five / six / seven / eight / nine / ten / eleven / twelvethirteenfourteenfifteen
2Interviews/Q&As: Lincoln Nights Interview / Star City Blog Lincoln Invasion Q&A / Star City Blog Christmas Wish-List
3Podcasts: KZUM podcast / Worlds of Wayne podcast
4In-Studios: KRNU In-Studio
5Best-of Lists: 2010 list of top local bands (Omaha Reader) / KRNU Top 100 Songs (#50)
6Etc: Lincoln Music Videos / Lincoln’s Non-Traditional Marketing
7Showcases: Lincoln Invasion / Lincoln Exposed / Lincoln Calling
8Benefits: Hosted for Haiti
9Events: Star City Pride / Heartland Pride / Scenefest 4
10:Compilations: A Situation: Like This

 In This House (Queer Control Records) (Oct. 1, 2011)[Album Art]
 Mission Accomplished (Queer Control Records) (2010)
 Do You Feel Like This? (2008)
 This Way EP (2005)

queer control records

18 thoughts on “Once A Pawn

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