RAC: 14 November 2013 - Bowery Ballroom, New York (Interview + Photos)
RAC are no longer just reworking your favorite rock tunes. His scope now includes developing his own hit tunes. We spoke with Anjos before seeing his first live show in New York.
Let's face it. Even if you aren't getting music free from the internet, you are used to getting RAC's music free. RAC, or Remix Audio Collective, have been responsible for reworking a number of rock songs over the past five or six years that in many cases outshine the original. But the zero dollar cost associated with their music may come to an end soon now that RAC are creating and releasing their own artist material.
Started by André Allen Anjos, RAC consisted of Anjos and his collaborators Andrew Maury and Karl Kling. RAC got off the ground with a remix Anjos did for The Shins' "Sleeping Lessons".
Speaking with Anjos before a "live band" show in New York City, he described the foundation of RAC and how it began taking on alternative or indie rock tracks.
"I was kinda like 'I wanna do remixes that I want to listen to. I don't want to do club mixes cause I would never listen to that outside of a club.' At that time I think I had been to maybe one or two clubs in my life, so I was a complete outsider. I didn't feel connected to that in any way. It was this niche area I kind of found myself in accidentally. I try to credit this guy Cornelius, this Japanese dude, who has these remix albums called CM1 and CM2. He just did like the weirdest kind of remixes. They weren't club. They hardly had a drum at all. It was all like weird acoustic stuff. I found it fascinating. All that balled into a lot of other things."
But his rework of Tegan and Sara's "Back in Your Head" was the first track to work its way into my head and it had a dance feel to it, right?
"Accidentally, yes. I have known them for a while and I have worked with them quite a bit. I co-wrote one of the songs, a b-side on the record that just came out. I did a cover with them for the Girls HBO show. Just random things here and there. We've sort of kept in touch since 2007."
Blogs were starting to pay attention to RAC and Stereogum posted a compilation of his remixes in 2008 including a bunch of unreleased reworks of Bloc Party and others. Eventually, NBC called, asking for a remix for the strange Halloween-themed "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" song in their show 30 Rock.
"I was pretty excited about that because I love 30 Rock. That song was hilarious. They asked me, 'Do you want to do a remix for "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah?"'. I was like, 'Yes'. Why would I say no to that? It was just a super fun project. I don't take myself that seriously. I can have fun with music."
And fun Anjos is having, though RAC has changed course in the last couple years. There is no more "collective". Instead, the name RAC now applies to Anjos' own creative efforts, whether it be remixes or the venture into his own artist tracks.
"[Maury and Kling] had always been involved, but it just got to a point where I was always doing all the remixes. The name collective didn't make a lot of sense. Especially now moving into original stuff. So we've technically dropped the name, so its just RAC. It was one of those battles I debated in my head for a long time. 'Am I gonna start a new name, I'm writing original music, what's going on?' Well I spent seven years of my life building this why would I just turn over? You'd be surprised how many people have no idea what it means."
The groups first track "Hollywood" was released in 2012 while their newer single, "Let Go", is the lead off a recently released EP dubbed Don't Talk To. It features Kele from Bloc Party, who had originally connected with Anjos years earlier when he remixed some of their songs.
""Hollywood" came out the year before ["Let Go"]. That was sort of like a test to see how people would react to it. "What is this remixer doing?". The reaction was amazing. [For] most of the original stuff, including a lot of stuff that isn't out yet, I basically wrote the music and had guest singers. It's all through past connections. When you do remixes, you don't always get to talk to the artist. But every once in a while, there are people you develop relationships with, like Tegan and Sara or The Shins, and I've been able to ask, 'Hey, will you be on one of my tracks?'."
I asked Anjos about the process of turning the remixes and his own originals into a live show, given that he had mostly DJ'ed that material on tours.
"This was the first live tour, so we knew we had to play it safe. Let's not over do it. Let's not go too crazy and play everything. We have time to rehearse. [The remixes] were never meant to be performed live so that was a challenge. But its been so much fun because you get to kind of bend it a little bit. We come up with different arrangements for the same song. It's always still very similar but there's this added live feel. Change chords here. Add a part here. It’s revitalizing these songs I've been DJ'ing for years.
[Our set] hasn't been a very static thing. It's been kind of different every night. In the future, we want to be a lot more flexible. We want to rehearse a bunch more songs so that we can pick and choose depending on the city. We've been pretty fortunate that we haven't made any major mistakes on this tour. Hopefully it doesn't happen tonight because we are recording it tonight.
Yet from what I heard during the soundcheck, I thought it sounded like his live show would still turn into a dance party. It's something that's happened with the shows Radio Soulwax (amongst others) do.
"It ends up being that yeah. It has elements of [DJ'ing] that I like but it has a live side of things too. You play a song, it ends, people clap. You talk to the crowd. A DJ set is like two hours of music. It’s a whole different approach but there are very similar elements. Pretty much every show so far has been like sort-of-crazy dance party.
People aren't gonna be weird about having, for example, pre-recorded vocals. I mean it is a little weird. But hey, if [Radio Soulwax] can pull it off, why can't we? It was less about inspiration and more about motivation in the sense that you can actually do this.
We're a live band; we're still playing live. I'm sure there are gonna be purists that are totally against it. But at the end of the day, everybody that will come to the show will have a good time.
And so I wanted to know what's the future holds for RAC, whether it be more remixes or a full-length album.
"I just finished [remixing] London Grammar. [The album is] almost finished. Same concept as the EP where I write the music and there's a guest vocalist and everything. We don't have a technical release date. There's a lot of paperwork to clear all the artists. It gets complicated. We're just kind of getting through that. Hopefully early next year is probably realistic."
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The live show itself was fun and full of surprises, given that one often didn't know what the original song was before the vocals came in. But I did find it weird that there was no main singer. Except for a few originals, where guests including Chris from Penguin Prison ("Hollywood") and Amanda from MNDR ("Let Go") joined RAC to perform, there wasn't much of a focal point on the stage. The audience clapped for the band, but who were they watching on stage? They clearly weren't getting to see a prominent frontman like Alex Ebert (of Edward Sharpe), whose recorded vocals were featured on the new song "Tear You Down". But Anjos was very gracious for having people turn out, thanking the audience for being there and letting RAC test out this format. And with an affordable ticket price, there were few reasons to not see the music performed live (instead of DJ'ed). But still, RAC needs to work on filling a gap between a DJ set and a live performance, it was weird.
Rick Rubin introducing the band: