There are few artists in this world that will stick their necks out for their craft in the sense of staying true to themselves. One of those unique few is Singer/Songwriter Josie Pace, along with her band’s Producer and member Ken Roberts.
The story of Josie and Ken is a funny one – and one we can all probably relate to: someone sliding into someone’s DMs. Ken saw a video of Josie playing guitar and covering a song and he was like “I need to work with her.” So he messaged her. No reply. Messages again. No reply. But Ken was diligent. Come to find out, Josie had been contacted by many people claiming to be producers and songwriters, including one that wanted to help her with her songwriting by “hypnotizing her in his basement,” so Social Media DMs did not seem to have any quality connections, and Josie decided not to answer. Luckily, through a mutual friend/photographer, Ken was able to get his message to Josie, along with the affirmation that Ken was not a predator. Flash forward to now (years later), and the two, along with their drummer Mark Damian, have created a sound that is not found commonly in the Detroit area, much less the world.
Drawing inspiration from bands like IAMX and Nine Inch Nails, to David Bowie or Depeche Mode, a big intricacy to their songs are the fact that they do not perform with guitars AT ALL when doing a full set. Everything is provided by Ken’s synths, who was jokingly called a “Synth Master” in the interview. But when reviewing the high fashion music videos of Josie Pace, that joke actually isn’t a joke at all. The sound, let alone the look, is full of meshed ideas and different inspirations from all over including music, fashion, and movies to create something new.
“Josie crawls into a closet somewhere in her house – I’m not joking either, you think we’re joking – and she writes a song on an acoustic guitar, and she brings it to the recording studio… We go over there, she plays them for me… pretty much as soon as I hear it, I can get an idea of what sonically I think what it should sound like… Our drummer lives in Los Angeles, I’ll send him it after I’m done… And then he’s gonna track drums and then once he’s done that, he sends the drums back to me, and we mix it here.”
They constantly make sure to shake people up with the content of the songs, as well as the sound, and Ken and Josie note that they keep track of the artists they like that are comparable, and to make sure they don’t create something that sounds like those artists. What a novel idea, working to be UNIQUE! (Note my sarcasm, not directed toward them, but the cookie cutter movements of today’s industry!)
I had to ask, after watching the music videos for “No” and “Lies of the Lovers” if Josie’s native language was German, and after they laughed, Josie and Ken explained that the “No” music video was based on ‘Atomic Blonde,’ so she counts in with German, and at the time that Josie had written “Lies of the Lovers,” Ken had noticed that there was a ton of Entertainment that was based on The Cold War, so he asked Josie “How ’bout we do that song in German?!” and she goes “I don’t KNOW German!”
A testament to her dedication, she hunkered down with her teenage sister Jenna to learn German diction and enunciation, and then they consulted with a fan in Germany that was also in a band that helped them bridge the gap between Textbook/Google Translate and what phrases work in the language and those that don’t. This included finding out that there is no phrase in German to “show someone your heart” like “show someone your feelings,” so when it was actually translated, it was like to “rip open your chest and show someone your heart,” which is honestly very Metal. After the success of the song, they are going to do an English version with an 18-20 piece orchestra to keep reinventing the range of their music.
With that kind of commitment, it’s not surprising that she’s getting attention in multiple countries and was nominated for a Detroit Music Award. Upon sifting through her music, the emotion and darkness of her songs blew me away and seeing Satori Circus performing with her in a video (playing her conscience) lead me to note the state of mental health in this country, and asking if it was cathartic to write songs about heartache and trauma. Upon asking this, Ken says “The first person to get it! This girl gets it!” Laughing, Josie said, “I’ve been waiting for this question my whole career!”
“When I was in school, Psychology was one of my favorite classes to take… If I didn’t have music I would have went to college for Psychology. But definitely, Mental Health is a very big thing in my life, and I like to write about personal experiences, and I don’t like to be so on-the-nose, just because when you have these problems, or if you know someone who has these problems, the way that they describe them is different than you describing something. They describe with feelings and touch and scent and taste, and that’s how I like to write the songs… Every time I sing a song, a different emotion is coming out of me. I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but… It’s more of a release for me… I like to make people feel like they’re not alone… That there’s somebody out there who feels exactly the same way and it’s okay to feel that way.”
June 8, Josie, Ken, and Mark will be playing at Bar Sinister in LA, and it’s the perfect scene for music like theirs. If you’re out in LA, you can catch them there!