The acclaimed artist André Allen Anjos, known as RAC (pronounced Ar-Ay-Cee), recently released “I Still Wanna Know (Ft. Rivers Cuomo)”, and “The Beautiful Game (Ft. St. Lucia)” from his highly anticipated new album EGO, out now via Counter Records. We had the opportunity to interview him and ask some really fun questions about future collaborations, touring, and what EGO is all about.
You’re well known for your collaborations with other artists. What are the advantages of collaborating as opposed to creating tracks solo?
Well, you know, it’s two-sided for me. So when I got into music, I was never too interested in singing. It’s also just not in my skillset. I’m basically not a good singer and I’ve just never really been interested in that side of things. I was always more into the instrumental side and the recording – all the techniques that go into that. That’s really become a passion. So, it was a little bit out of practicality because I wanted to make music for a living. I also wanted to reach a large amount of people, so, you know, instrumental music has somewhat limited appeal. There’s a couple exceptions, one being Tycho, I think even he’s doing some stuff with vocals too.
So, I knew I wanted to do something more in the pop realm. As soon as I was able to, I started working with other people and it turned out it was actually a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. It’s something I kind of fell into. It’s sort of like having a different lead singer for every track and that opens up a lot of doors. It’s creatively fulfilling and it’s challenging as well, but in the best way.
When collaborating, do the artists come to you or do you typically have a specific person in mind?
It’s a bit of both. Sometimes there’s somebody, maybe I have discovered their music, really liked it and thought it might be a good fit and I’ll reach out. But there’s a lot of times people have reached out, expressed interest and tried to make something happen. With the remixes, which is a big part of what I do, that’s a little more service-like, where I’m simply hired to do these things. A lot of people request that and I’ll kind of pick and choose what I want to work with.
The original stuff is a little more all over the place: I’ll reach out to people who I’ve remixed before or people I’ve met through touring or maybe it’s just a friend or maybe it’s somebody I don’t know at all, which happened a lot on the last album. Even the biggest song off that album with MNDR, I didn’t know her before we wrote that song. I knew of her music and I really liked it, but that was kind of a cold call. I don’t know, she’s awesome [haha]. It was the beginning of a long-term-working-relationship. That’s kind of how these things come about.
With Rivers Cuomo, did you know him before or did you cold call him?
This actually came about in an interesting way. It’s not normal for this to happen. So Rivers and Classixx, who are good friends of mine, they had an early demo of this song and I think they were kind of stuck on it. For whatever reason, they basically approached me about essentially taking it over, changing it over into an RAC track.
So it actually technically started as a Classixx track early on and then they brought it to me. And then from there, a lot of work was put into it but it kind of started as something completely different. It’s kind of nice to get an e-mail, “hey, uh, we got this track with Rivers, do you want to do something?” From there we worked on it, and I asked him to do this guitar solo which was really fun for me because I grew up with Weezer, especially Pinkerton era, Blue Album, etc. Just to have him on this blows my mind.
What are your favorite collaborations?
It’s hard to say, like there are people that I certainly like to work with (MNDR being one, that I already mentioned, I’ve worked with her twice now). I have a lot of close collaborators, like Karl Kling, and my wife as well, you know we worked on both albums and we play in a live band, stuff like that. I don’t know if I have a specific favorite…I do have a favorite song off the new album.
I think it’s hard to pick one personal favorite since each one is so different and everybody kind of has their own message. It even depends on the session, for example I did two tracks with St. Lucia now at this point, and the first one (off the first album) we did it remotely and I didn’t even know them at the time so we just did it through e-mail. Eventually we met and toured together, became friends after the fact. On this new album, we did that here in my studio and that was a much better experience – nothing wrong with e-mail, but it was much more personable, you can talk about things, talk about life, talk about musical concepts in real time. You get more accomplished.
Are you able to share any favorites from the upcoming album, EGO?
Yeah! I think my first favorite is this song called “Be” (Ft. Jordan Corey). This song came together in an interesting way to me. I think my reasoning is for musical things, it’s kind of a long track that plays with a lot of different concepts that I’m trying out with this album.
I’ve seen your live set and it’s really exciting. You often bring along your friends, usually featured in your songs, to play in the band and/or sing their vocals. Will we see the same thing with this upcoming tour or should we expect something different?
It’s a lot like that. I mean we’re changing things up musically, you know, since we have new material we have an opportunity to re-think the musical side of it. As a group, it’s the same people–we’ve been playing together since 2013 as this unit but also we’ve been playing together for many years before that. We’re all just friends who have known each other for a very long time. When I have this idea to do a live performance, I kind of have the options like, do I hire professional people? Do I hire other artists? I was trying to figure out a way to make the show work. In the context of what I was doing musically, it just made sense to bring out my friends, like who else do I want to hang out with?
Definitely, you’re spending all your time with them, for the next however many days — all day, all night.
Right, yeah I know – it’s very close quarters. That’s something a lot of people don’t think about when putting together a tour; chemistry among the crew is super important. It can change the dynamic of the entire tour. For example, on the last tour we did in 2015, we ran into some really bad weather, a bunch of us got sick, and it was 12 people stuck on a bus. My wife got pneumonia, another person had the flu, so it sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? And it was bad, but in a way, we made it to the end of the tour despite that. Everybody banned together and worked together. We really made it happen. It’s that kind of mentality. It’s a pretty tight-knit group and I’m glad to hear that it comes across that way.
Do you write your music with the live set in mind, or create your live set based on what you’ve produced and try to come up with the best way to perform it?
It’s definitely recorded first and then I have to figure out how to do it live, which is a problem. When we go into these live things, you just have to adapt it. Very rarely are we going to get the original singer there and just from that standpoint alone, you have to just re-think it, you know we generally have to change the key and other technical stuff. There are some physical limitations but we make it work in that setting, and that’s fun in itself, so I enjoy that too.
What do you think is the most important part of a live performance?
Hmmm…I think having fun with it, you know? If you’re not having fun then why should anyone else? Whether it’s part entertainment, or being moved by the art, or a combination of both, it’s all a part of it. It’s an extension of what I spend most of my days doing in the studio and it’s important to represent that in a good way. I think it’s just enjoying yourself–I think that’s contagious and it’s a lot more fun because of it.
Since you mentioned earlier that remixes are typically something you’re hired to do, if you had the choice — who would you want to remix? Is there anyone you haven’t collaborated with yet that you hope to work with in the future?
You know, there are a couple of people on my list, like Kimbra is one that comes to mind, I think even Hot Chip or if it’s just Alexis from Hot Chip. I actually just did a Joe Goddard remix so that was one step closer, but no I’m just a huge fan of that band for many, many years, since college. LCD Soundsystem is kind of one of those that have been on the list for a long time.
I feel really fortunate because I’ve gotten a chance to work with a lot of people who I really admire. And you know, there’s always new artists popping up. I really like working with new artists and people just starting out. I feel like when you’re at that stage in your career, you’re a little more hungrier, you know? When you’re just starting out, the world is very exciting.
What’s next for RAC?
The big thing at the moment is obviously the album and touring for the next 2 years which is nice after being in the studio for awhile. This album took me about 3 years on and off, but the last year I’ve been spending more time at home and DJing abroad. I’m excited to get into touring mode for the album.
More long-term, I’ve already dipped my toes into film scoring. I actually got my start in TV scoring way back in the day. Anything to keep things interesting. I’ve been getting more into art installations. I did one at SXSW last year — it was a 2-day event, it’s actually a touring exhibit now. It’s like a 32 speaker array in a room with crazy surround sound and it kind of looks like Tron. So I basically built the musical side of it where it creates intimate amounts of music.
What do you want people to get out of your new album, EGO?
If anything, if people listen to it as an album, as a whole. I certainly don’t mind if people listen to singles or even put it on shuffle, but it’s very important to me that it’s an album. It’s a cohesive piece of work especially when you listen from start to end. It’s exactly 60 minutes long with no pauses, it’s continuous. I think of it as one piece of music.
EGO is available now on RAC’s online store.
RAC will return to DC on Thursday, October 5, 2017 at Black Cat. Tickets are on sale now!