BOSTON/NE BANDS, Interview, Music

Christian Pace’s Debut EP Skunk Is Beautiful, Somber, Sincerity


Photo Courtesy of Christian Pace


When recent Berklee graduate Christian Pace joined my zoom call to discuss the release of his first EP Skunk, it was from the backseat of a car jam-packed with guitar cases, bags, and the sleeping members of Allston-based, acoustic indie-rock band Tiberius, which Pace was joining for a tour throughout the Northeast. The conversation challenged some ideas I had about the creative process behind the making of Skunk, but it certainly didn’t challenge the awestruck impression I had after first listening to the EP.

Each track is polished and creatively varied, products of a musician who evidently worked hard to fully realize each song, but had the natural talent to do so all along. The vocals, instrumentals, and lyrics of Pace’s songs feel tender and heartfelt, and it is for this reason that the EP feels incredibly immersive. It’s as if Pace is taking you to the place where he’s experiencing each of the emotions across Skunk’s thirteen minute runtime.

Dreamy, distorted guitars feature prominently throughout the EP, accompanying themes of reflection, contemplation, and love that blend, crash, and separate like the surf on a beach. Pace’s ethereal guitar walks the line between melancholy and nostalgia, and it seems that this is lyrically where Pace is most comfortable. Somewhere in this space between sadness and reflection, Pace is able to turn the darker side of life into something beautiful, even if the answers he seeks remain out of reach.

Skunk may be small, but it packs quite the punch. While the track “Tea for Two” certainly deserves all of the Spotify-success it’s currently seeing, every track off of Skunk could occupy the same spot without seeming at all out of place. “True Love” in particular is such a powerful and fitting track to conclude the EP with, as it feels like the passing of time that is necessary to untangle, understand, and heal from the wounds life inflicts.


Boston Hassle: How did you initially get into making/writing music?


Christian Pace: I first started getting into music on my own in middle school. I had this English class, and we had to do a presentation- or an essay on famous people. We had to go to the library and pick out a book, a biography about, like, I don’t know, Albert Einstein, or some famous figure in history and write about it. But I am a notoriously late person, so when I got there, the only book that was left was one on The Beatles. And so I did that and then kind of just ended up becoming obsessed with The Beatles and went from there.

That was right when their whole catalog got put onto iTunes, so I just started going onto YouTube and listening to music from them. I think the first song that I became obsessed with was “Help!” Yeah I remember watching them perform it live somewhere on YouTube and just becoming obsessed with them.


Hassle: When did you actually start making music?


PACE: I started off by trying to learn guitar in 7th grade I think. Out of all The Beatles at the time, John Lennon was my guy. I learned the riff to “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath or something like that, but I just couldn’t get past that. There were too many strings. So I ended up going to this summer camp, and they had a chapel where you could go and learn music.

Once I had gotten back home, my dad taught me how to play “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors. After that, I joined School of Rock, and I was just doing shows and learning tons of songs. My first show there was the Queen show, and for some reason, I got put on a ton of songs even though I was a beginner, and so I had to learn all of these Queen songs that were really hard, and to this day, I feel like John Deacon, the bass player from Queen, is super underrated. He just has some really creative bass lines. I just have vivid memories from all of the School of Rock shows, but that one in particular, because that was my first show.

I got into writing music, I’d say probably in 9th grade. I was really into Blink 182, and I had started to pick up the guitar more than the bass. I was able to teach myself guitar ‘cause I had gotten all the foundation from the bass. I was really into Nirvana, Blink 182, and so I was writing really shitty, pop-punk songs. I don’t have any of them anymore. They were really bad.

I started really making music when I got my first Mac that had GarageBand on it. I convinced my parents to get it for me, literally just because it had GarageBand on it. I remember I got it for Christmas, and for all of that New Year’s, I was in my room with my friend Steve and was recording little things on GarageBand, and it became an obsession after that point.


Hassle: What does the completion and release of Skunk mean to you? In other words, how does it feel to have released your first EP?


PACE: It feels really good to have gotten it out. It’s scary though, too, in a sense– in the same way that graduation or something like that is, where’s it like, “Oh my god I did this, really excited,” but there’s also a little bit of terror to it, so it’s not completely satisfactory. You’re a little bit on edge.
When you’ve spent so long recording these songs and mixing them, mastering them, doing everything, your ears get a little bit tired, and so you’re not really sure if what you have at the end of it is good or not. That’s part of it that makes it kind of scary, but once you get some distance from it, like after Skunk came out I didn’t listen to it for a few weeks.

When I was recording it I was really sick. I’d been wanting to record music my entire time at Berklee, but my problem had been drums and not knowing how to record those. I put it off the entire time when I was at Berklee. Over the pandemic I started just recording my own stuff, just saying ‘fuck it’ and you know, it’s gonna sound how it’s gonna sound because I’m in my bedroom and I only have access to my laptop, some guitars, and Midi drums. There was a phrase I came up with, which definitely isn’t an original phrase, but “progress over perfection.” Just allowing myself to move forward, and, you know, in a few years I might look back on some of the songs I put out and be like “I could have done that a lot better,” but it is what it is.

Taking that break afterwards really helped me because I started recording that EP during my last semester in school, and I sort of used this one class I was taking to partially push myself to do it.

After it came out, I felt…it’s almost like barely reaching the finish line. Just by a hair you make it over. It was nuts, man. I wasn’t planning on getting sick or anything like that. It was really like a marathon. There was a point where I went home so my parents could help take care of me. I forgot my laptop charger in Boston, so I couldn’t even mix anything. And I was just so depressed and so anxious because of it, I was like, “I just need to get this done.” And so I got back to Boston, and I think in three days, I recorded all the bass and the guitars. I mixed most of it during that time too, and the vocals came last.


HASSLE: Skunk feels very emotional, reflective, and contemplative. How do these emotions, and any others, influence your choice of sounds on the EP (instrumentals, vocals, etc.)?


PACE: I don’t really know if I think that much about it. I’m just thinking sonically, like what sounds good, you know? Just little things, like on “Matador” there’s this guitar intro, and when I used to play it, it used to be on an electric guitar, but when I recorded it, I decided to do it on an acoustic guitar, maybe like a matador, Spanish influence.

It’s a very unconscious process: just kind of, like, going with the flow and seeing what direction I get into. I mean, there are definitely certain bands that I’ll think about, where I’ll be like, “Okay, I’m gonna play the guitar kind of like this guy.”

“Tea for Two,” I was literally trying to write a Trophy Wife song. It was a thing because I was also playing with Paper Lady, and the way that Alli and Mckenzie play guitar is really fascinating to me because they don’t get brainy about it. They’re not like, “I’m playing an E minor, slash dominant chord,” or something like that. They don’t think about it like that, it’s just like, “I’m putting my hands on this guitar, and I’m making sounds, and that’s what it’s going to sound like.” And so that’s what I tried to do with “Tea for Two” — “I’m gonna plop my fingers on this frontboard, and I’m gonna write a song,” and that’s just how it came out.

“Untitled” — that one was very unconscious, I was going through a really bad writer’s block. I had no idea what to write. I hadn’t written a song in months, and so my friend was like, “I need a song for my vocal production class, can you record something?” And so I guess that gave me new motivation to do something, and so I immediately wrote the song, line by line, in five minutes.


HASSLE: Themes of love and wonder are intertwined throughout Skunk. How are these ideas connected for you?

PACE: Those songs aren’t necessarily about anybody. I always start with the instrumentals first and then the lyrics after. I find myself a lot of the time writing the instrumental part, putting the words over it and then not really knowing what it’s about ‘til, like, later on, when something happens to me, and I can put meaning onto what I’ve just written.

That’s how “True Love” was, I had that guitar idea for a long time, and then I finally got an idea for the rest of the stuff. I recorded the vocals for it and the verses and the chorus and all that stuff, but it wasn’t about anything. It wasn’t until a few months later that it became actually relevant to the situation that I found myself in.

I was talking to my dad a little while ago—I guess it was a year ago at this point — and we’re very fascinated by that darker side of life, like, the stuff that The Cure writes about. The album that is entitled Pornography is very dark. That album is so tortured and romantic, and it sounds like somebody is just, like, they got broken up with, and they’re just sawing their heart out with a knife.

“True Love” and “Tea for Two” are romantically tortured. “Matador,” there’s still a sense of yearning to it. “Untitled” is more of an existential one, I’d say.


HASSLE: Are there stories about the recording/writing process that you think would be fitting to share? Or just something interesting, funny, or strange that happened during it?


PACE: I had one day where I felt okay enough to stand up, and, little did I know, I was still very sick, but I thought that my fever had broken. I went upstairs and just screamed my heart out. That’s the take that I used. And an hour after that, I was in bed again, like, hundred degree fever.


HASSLE: What’s the future of Christian Pace’s music looking like?


PACE: I think this past year has been very hectic for me. It’s been one of the best years of my life, definitely musically, but very stressful because, you know, I was in, one, two, three, at a time, like four bands, including my own, so it was just like hopping around constantly. There was a point where I was never home. I would go home to sleep, and I’d go out the next day and play a gig or rehearse.

I’ve been neglecting my own music lately. I’ve been working on some stuff that I think is really exciting. It’s a little bit different. I think the next EP is probably gonna be a little bit more electronic, not electronic like Skrillex electronic. Cause that’s the thing, I just wanna write stuff that sounds fun and cool, and can help document; I kind of use music as a diary, almost. I’ll look back on a song that I wrote a while ago and be like, “Oh that was a very specific time I was in. I can remember it very clearly because I have this song.”


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