Every successful career starts with a vision. And for André Allen Anjos, the brainchild of RAC, that vision was to change the way that music is remixed.
Formerly known as Remix Artist Collective, RAC is just that; a collective. And after taking the indie-electronic genre to new heights in 2014, a Sunday slot at Lollapalooza was just the start for this Portland-based act.
Unlike the majority of artists in electronic music, RAC does everything differently. Now the solo project of André, RAC’s success has been defined by his unrivaled ability to collaborate with other talented musicians.
From the keyboard to the bass-line, everything about RAC is different.
What they produce is different. How they play it sounds different. And who RAC plays it with is almost always different.
Known throughout the industry quite simply as “André” – the project’s frontman moved to the United States from Portugal when he was young. Bilingual, André grew up in Porto (the second biggest city in Portugal). He took up guitar and piano as a child, becoming inspired by bands like Nirvana during his defining teenage years.
He didn’t have a full-ride scholarship to some music school on the East Coast, nor did he have industry connections on the West Coast.
Like so many other bright minds, it wasn’t a smooth ride for André. Despite his eventually wild success, André failed the 12th grade.
“My dad always made fun of me and said ‘you’re the hardest worker I know, but only on stuff that you care about.’ I failed school because I was lazy, but that doesn’t mean I was lazy about everything else. At the time, school just was whatever to me.”
In his early years as a musician, André played in a wedding band to pay the bills. When I asked him about those years, his humbleness almost baffled me.
“In a way, it’s kind of a pay off. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun and fulfilling and I don’t think I’m now like above that – but it was a stop on the path to get where I am now.”
The idea for RAC was conceived at Greenville College, a small liberal arts school in Southern Illinois. Founded in 1892 by the Free Methodist Church, Greenville adheres to a strict, “Christ-honoring” code of conduct.
In addition to upholding academic honesty, the school mandates that students avoid “drunkenness, gossip, immodesty of dress, occult practices, profanity, sexual promiscuity (including adultery, homosexual behavior, pre-marital sex), theft, and vulgarity.”
So essentially, the modern music industry in a nutshell. But as you can imagine, André said that the rules didn’t exactly hold them back.
While at Greenville, André formed RAC with Chris Crookram Angelovski and Aaron Jasinski. Later on, Andre would team up with Andrew Maury and Karl Kling (another graduate of Greenville College). These three would become the core members of RAC, and more importantly – the trio that would take it to new heights.
Still, RAC’s conception happened by chance.
“It was kind of trying something out when I was in college,” André told me. “My first band got a little bit of traction, but RAC was a hit from the get-go. When I was in college, I was freaking out about getting an internship like everybody else…but then RAC just kind of took off.”
In retrospect, this “take-off” occurred during André’s sophomore year at Greenville. After reaching out to the manager of The Shins – one of André’s favorite bands – RAC was given the green-light to remix “Sleeping Lessons.”
When it was completed, the reaction couldn’t have been more positive. As James Mercer (the band’s frontman) told André, they just “made the song better.” From Bloc Party to Lana Del Ray, the remix garnered significant attention from a plethora of talented artists.
Before long, remixes were in the books for Foster the People, Kings of Leon, Imagine Dragons and countless others. But while remixing got the ball rolling, the decision to start creating original music has put RAC on the map.
RAC’s debut studio album, Strangers, was released on April 1, 2014. From timeless gems like “Tear You Down” to smash-hits like “Cheap Sunglasses”, André successfully steered RAC in a daring new direction.
Despite all of his accomplishments, however, you’ll never hear André bragging about it. You won’t hear him talk about the phone call he got from Entourage, or the conversations he had with James Murphy about remixing a song for LCD Soundsystem (right before the band decided to break up).
That is, of course, unless you ask him about it.
“I was talking with James Murphy about remixing one of their songs. But it was right before the band (LCD Soundsystem) broke up, so I never got the chance,” Andre reflected. “I guess you could say that’s the ‘one that got away.'”
When I caught up with André on the phone earlier this week, the group was celebrating a day off before heading to Denver – the next stop on their Something Classic Tour.
According to André, his inspiration for the tour had a lot to do with their performance at Lollapalooza this past summer. When André first heard that RAC got the gig of a lifetime, he was a bit overwhelmed.
“It was amazing,” Andre reflected. “I got a call from my manager that we got some bad news, he told me ‘you’re playing at Lolla.’ Everybody in the world knows about Lollapalooza. It was just a crazy day.'”
That crazy day, however, would lead to a crazy revelation. After their heralded, completely-live Lollapalooza performance, André told me that everything began to click.
“I was on the flight home and just thought that we needed to make our tour a completely live thing. We had always used pre-recorded vocals because I was scared to cover songs without the original vocalists…but after Lolla, I knew that it needed to happen.”
Though it’s tough to put your finger on it, there’s something innately remarkable about RAC. Swaying to their relentless set at Concord Music Hall on Saturday night, this “remarkable something” became quite apparent.
As RAC began gearing up for their final song, frontman André took over the mic and reported to the electrified crowd, “I’ve broken strings before, but never a strap. This is something special.”
As soon as RAC walked off the stage for the first time, vehement echoes for an encore roared throughout the venue. And not surprisingly, they came back on for two more songs.
Starting with their remix of “Home” – featuring live vocals from Alex Ebert, the actual lead singer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – RAC closed on an even higher note with their irresistible jam, “Let Go.”
As the band waved their goodbyes to an astonished crowd, André Allen Anjos just stood and smiled humbly. Perhaps he was simply ecstatic, or perhaps he was thinking the same thing I was.
This show might be over, but RAC is just getting started.
Photos courtesy of Interscope Records
(This post was modified at 11:41am, 11/11/2014)