Interview with Pacer

Scrunchie jumped on Zoom for a remote interview with LA-based indie rock two piece Pacer! Pacer is composed of Eric Porestsky and Jakob Shaw, who record patient, soft, intimate songs that the two say require privacy and vulnerability to record. In this interview, Sarah and Pacer discussed the hands-on and authentic recording experience that using a Tascam Portastudio grants them, as opposed to recording with a laptop or other electronic equipment that gives music a more clinical feeling. Eric Poretsky of Pacer said, “[Recording with a] Tascam, because it’s hands on, it’s much more of a tactile relationship to recording, versus on a computer or a laptop, where it’s feels a bit more extremely functional.”

Additionally, they talked about their go-to gas station orders, ideal tour lineups, and first impressions of each other when Jakob and Eric first met in an English class during the first semester of their freshman year at Wesleyan in Connecticut. Also, they talked about about their deepest fears, coping with social anxiety, and their songwriting process. Finally, the trio touched on Pacer’s upcoming plans now that the pandemic is winding down and live music is starting to make a slow but steady comeback. Pacer released their debut EP, “The Terror of Other People” on June 18th! Stream it here.

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What’s your go-to gas station order?

Eric: Egg and cheese.

Jakob: Well, the real reason I was laughing is that we’ve never actually done like a true tour. And our plan, you know, pre COVID was to kind of do that in conjunction with the EP release. So I think we’ll probably have a better answer and a more real answer for that, in like, a couple of years. But anyway, I’m vegan, which might be eye rolling for some, but if I could get a banana and some water, I would consider myself lucky.

What’s was your first impression of each other when you met fall of your freshman years of college?

Jakob: So the first time we ever actually met was in an English class called Three Big Novels. And I don’t know that we ever actually had a real conversation in that class. And unless I’m wrong here, like we definitely spoke sort of like across the table and stuff. But we never just were like having a actual conversation. The real first impression, I remember having air was, there’s this day called Zonker Harris Day at Wesleyan, which is like a music festival. And both of us have our own music projects. And I just, you know, like, when you’re however old, you are in your freshman year of college, most people don’t have great gear. And while there’s people who don’t have good gear, who make great music, you know, some of the time it can kind of mean like, this person’s not really committed.

And I just knew there was this one dude who wore like, these crazy psychedelic short sleeve button down shirts, and had a Moog. And that was there. And he played at this place, Zonker Harris day. And I remember like thinking what the stuff he played was super cool. And then at the end, we were packing up. I walked over and or maybe he walked over to me, and then we started talking. So that was really the moment where I actually was like, “Wow, this dude is really cool. And we should be friends.”

Eric: I think Jakob mentioned the class that we both took. If you can’t already tell, based on our general vibe, Jakob is the more extroverted one, and I’m the more introverted reserved one. So I just thought that there was this very loud, friendly dude wandering around campus, who also happened to do music. And when we took that class, there were like, some icebreakers. And we had like, a lot of shared interest there. So I just thought he was like this loud dude, who seemed intriguing enough for me to make music with.

Your upcoming release is titled, “The Terror of Other People.” Besides people, what are some of your fears?

Jakob: You’re asking really good questions. I keep on thinking that the questions are going in one direction, which is kind of like the classic like, you know, every question you’ve answered a million times when you’re putting something out but then it has like a nice little turn at the end.

Anyway, I think this is this is more like a real fear. I wish I had like a fun fear. Like I’m really afraid of like, hummingbirds or something. But I think really my biggest fear is people, because I’m naturally just kind of like cheery and outgoing as Eric alluded to. And I think my one of my biggest fears is people thinking that I’m just this really disingenuous person who always wants people to like them and then is really nice to other people. So I think one of my biggest fears is being afraid that people think I’m fake.

Eric: I guess this is also more of a real fear, going down that deep hole. But probably like, being alone in life, like those movies. I think it’s the movie with Will Smith, where it’s like only him. I Am Legend, I think. I think that’s the one. But just him and his son, and everyone’s gone. And they just need to figure it out. That’s weird.

Jakob: I’m partially just saying this to embarrass Eric, but a fun fear there. He’s afraid of is like grapes and blueberries, and cherry tomatoes, any food that pops in your mouth when you bite into it.

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In the same vein of being afraid of people, how do you cope with social anxiety?

Jakob: I don’t really. I try to get a handle on it. Mostly my social anxiety comes from, like recognizing in the moment that I’m being really awkward, rather than like, an anticipation of something. And so yeah, I don’t cope with it when it happens. I just like to look like a complete idiot.

Eric: I just avoid the situations that will cause social anxiety as much as I can. So I’m not really big on like parties or big gatherings, for the most part, I don’t like packed spaces. And it allows you to avoid so much social anxiety.

How did your personal music journey start?

Eric: So my musical journey, this kind of long winded, but basically, I took piano lessons as a kid, when I was like a really young child. And then I was super into classical music. So I did a lot of stuff in that world, like composing and everything. And then in high school, I went to an art school. And I ended up taking a class that was on songwriting. So basically, after that, I kind of switched gears from the classical world to the more songwriting world. And basically, since then, I’ve been working on that.

Jakob: For me, it was it was kind of much less disciplined than that. I first started playing guitar when I was eight. And I was in like, a stupid little elementary school band. And then I essentially just played like Led Zeppelin covers, and, you know, all that kind of stuff. But I don’t think I really actually started seeing a path of doing it for real until Eric and I met, and we started doing it together. I was, you know, trying to write songs all along the way. But it really wasn’t until we found each other that it all started to click in.

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You use a Tascam Portastudio four-track recorder in your songwriting; what is it about this piece of equipment that appeals to you?

Jakob: I think that specifically, the Tascam is more of a stand in for the method we were interested in, rather than, “Oh, it’s this specific thing that we really want.” Because after we put out a couple of songs at the end 2017, beginning of 2018. And those songs were really sort of built while we were recording them in Ableton. And, you know, they ended up being these 40-50 track monsters a lot of the time. And we didn’t really have the ability to sort of…If the three of us were in a room together, and there was a guitar and a piano, we couldn’t really just play you through the song in a way that was really compelling. It would be okay. But it wouldn’t be what we wanted.

So going into making this, the EP, we knew we wanted to go into it with songs that you could sit around and play to one another. And we wanted to find a recording medium that would really encourage that kind of songwriting and lend itself to those kind of songs. And in the process of actually using it, you know, there are obviously a ton of hiccups. We probably spent weeks trying to get rid of buzzing noises and things like that.

Eric: To me, the biggest thing with the Tascam is basically like, a lot of the music that we hear today is very much on the computer, like on a grid. So there’s this kind of grid sound where like, you know, in pop music, they edit every drum now to be on the perfect spot. And both of us wanted to not do that. And the Tascam, because it’s hands on, it’s much more of a tactile relationship to recording, versus on a computer or a laptop, where it’s feels a bit more extremely functional.

A lot of your songs are very quiet, emotional, and intimate. How does songwriting help you through your emotions? Is it ever difficult to be so personal?

Jakob: I think for me, most of the time, I’m really thinking about in terms of lyrics, because most of the time, the musical components of a song aren’t really where the emotion lies. Those really help to communicate the emotion, like a melody can be sad or happy. And obviously, the emotion can come through that part of song. But you know, the real, like emotional intimacy and transparency and stability, comes from the lyrics. So for me, whenever I’m working on lyrics, and we’re working on lyrics together, I think one thing is it’s really difficult to be really emotionally and transparent while you’re writing lyrics in the moment with someone. Which I think is probably why we actually didn’t start to do this until the pandemic.

But we would each spend a lot of time writing stanza after stanza, and then we would get together and compare it. But we could never really do it in front of each other. Even though you’re presenting the words to the other person, one way or the other. It makes a big difference to have some degree of privacy. But I don’t really feel like most of the time I have an emotion that I know I want to express. And then you find the song. For me, it’s always more of like, you have a song, you’re working on the song. And then you just kind of realize that the song is a medium to express something you’ve been grappling with for a while. And it’s not really like…you’re searching for a way to let it out. At least that’s my experience.

If you could put together a tour with any artists, living or dead, who would be on the bill?

Jakob: This is a really hard question because it’s kind of two ways. Like, who we would probably fit in with the most. Versus like, what tour would just be like the most fun? Because I imagine like, you know, touring with Led Zeppelin in the 70s would probably be the most fun, or like The Who or something.

Eric: I would say Gillian Welsh.

Jakob: Yeah! You gotta listen to “The Revelator,” it’s amazing.

Eric: She’s kind of like a folk, country-ish writer from California, originally, and now I think like lives in Nashville. But they’re extremely metaphorical poetry songs. And I just think, in terms of songwriting, because there’s a lot of bands that I like musically, but they’re not necessarily great songwriters. But in her case, it’s stripped down, it’s like, just the song. And that is enough.

Jakob: I think what would really be the dream in a lot of ways would be like, Neil Young putting together a tour. And he’s like, you know, “I’m going to be the headliner, then after me, it’s going to be Gillian Welch. And then I want you guys to be like really getting the crowd in the mood.” That would just be like, if I think if we did that, we would be happy to walk away from music and just do anything else. Because that would just be like, the summit of Everest.

Now that the pandemic is winding down, what are some of your upcoming plans?

Jakob: I think we’re really excited to get…because something that’s kind of plagued us is how long we take in between processes. It’s not necessarily even that we’re perfectionists, we just have a very slow pace of doing everything. I mean, me even more so than him. Like it takes me two and a half hours to cook a simple dinner. I just, that’s just kind of how I am. So, I think we’re really excited to start working on some new songs and try to have a single or two coming out before the end of the year. And then I don’t know if it’ll be this coming spring or when it will be. But eventually, really try to hit the road and play some, not big festivals, like smaller festivals, local shows, and just go for it. Hopefully come to Iowa one day.

Eric: I’m just excited to go out and do stuff. Even if that just means going to an indoor restaurant.

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