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Interview: RAC

When you talk about RAC, there’s an element of mystery surrounding this particular artist. When I ask around for people’s thoughts on RAC I get the same response. LOVE RAC. Is it pronounced RAC (RACK) or R-A-C? Is it a he? Maybe it’s a them? Your guess is as good as mine. Either way, everything RAC puts out is on point. To answer that burning question of this enigmatic artist… it’s a him. André Anjos, the artist known as RAC (originally the Remix Artist Collective). The modest Portland native who has blanketed your Soundcloud timelines for the last four years. Everything the man touches turns into shimmering musical bliss. RAC has created over 200 remixes since 2007 and reached number one on Hype Machine 30 times.

I had a chance to have a conversation with him last week and we caught up about a lot of things. His approach to remixing. The release of his new album (Strangers, out on CherryTree Records). His current tour. His affinity for Nirvana (he covered their songs in his first metal band at age 14). The first experimentation with music production courtesy of a promotional CD inside a cereal box.

Anjos, through his many remixes, has created a very distinct sound. You know an RAC mix when you hear it–even without cross referencing the song title and artist. Every track is intensely warm, infusing fresh melody with forward-thinking sound. “With a remix, you have to allow the original artist’s song and your style to gel. Taking the core elements and progression, but taking it somewhere else… somewhere interesting,” he explained. “To a degree, you are trying to impress the original artist with your remix.” Anjos bucked a lot of conventional methods of remixing and production in his latest full length LP, Strangers. With over a dozen separate contributors to the album, its ambition reminds me of David Andrew Sitek’s (TV on the Radio) Maximum Balloon project, an album that includes a different artist on every track.

Strangers perfectly blends indie with electronic, with just the slightest bit of pop sensibility. Every song makes it feel like Summer all year long. Anjos’ talent is evident as he’s not only a producer but a musician as well. He plays the guitar, piano, bass and drums. Although the RAC moniker has unintentionally become quite the puzzle, the blurry cover art and large list of collaborators for his album was quite intentional. “Several of the artists on the album I’ve actually never met in person (i.e. – Alex Elbert from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Kele from Bloc Party). They were kind of just… strangers.” At this point, the general public is anything but a stranger to his album with crowd pleaser tracks like “Let Go” and “Cheap Sunglasses.”

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For an artist to make the transition from purely DJing and remixing, to performing an actual “live” show, the road is met with risks. Will the fans get it? Will they progress along in the journey with the artist? So far, the response from previous shows has been great according to Anjos. “After four years of DJing late night shows, you tend to get burnt out on that lifestyle,” he stated. The natural progression would be to play live, and Strangers is a prime example of that evolution. It has allowed him to reach an audience that he couldn’t access as a DJ or with remix releases. After seeing his live performance at Lollapalooza, it’s clear that he puts a ton of creative energy into his work. His arrangements, coupled with unique instrumentation makes for quite the entertaining act.

Anjos has been driving up to catch shows at The Metro and performing shows of his own since his college days, but his next visit to Chicago will be different than the last time he was here and DJ’d a set at Subterranean the night before playing live at Lollapalooza. Anjos launched his tour last week, and comes through Chicago on November 1st at Concord Music Hall. It’ll be a special show, since its the first time he’ll be performing with live vocalists. He’ll be joined on tour with Pink Feathers, Karl King & Speak. NY DJ duo The Knocks will be joining them for their jaunt around the country as well, which is a great pairing because they’ve collaborated many times before. Its sure to be memorable show. Do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. You’ll thank me later.

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