André Allen Anjos — better known as the driving force behind RAC, aka the Remix Artists Collective — is about to drop his latest album of original material Boy to a captive audience. “I felt like, of all times, we’re stuck at home, why wouldn’t I release an album?” André laughed when we spoke over the phone earlier this week, finding a sense of humor in a situation that has thrown a lot of other artists for a loop.
In his mind, pushing the album back, especially after months of preparation, didn’t make any sense. “This is a perfect time,” he continued. “Plus, we had put so much effort into preparing for this. So much work went into it that it would’ve been a pretty big disruption to push it back. And this time around we really focused on social media, podcasting, interviews, and digital marketing, so in a sense we kind of felt like we were prepared for it.”
Everyone is stuck inside, and live shows are canceled for now, but luckily his fans are used to gathering digitally since André has been building an online community since he founded RAC in 2007. His latest decision to launch on Patreon six weeks ago to foster his community has only made the longevity and passion of his fanbase all the more clear.
“I started a Patreon for RAC like a month and a half ago, and now that I’m doing it I wish I started earlier,” André said. “I’m just going deep because I’m having a lot of fun with it. Obviously, we’re also all kind of stuck at home right now, but I have all this material I’ve never been able to release or limited edition stuff that was never really put out. It’s a community, and I’m taking feedback from people — there are people out there that actually want to be a part of this, which is cool. On the other side of it, I actually feel like I’m working toward something, and I’m already starting to envision a future where I don’t have to rely on anything else. Which is kind of incredible. Building that community on Patreon has been a really eye-opening thing for me.”
"Building that community on Patreon has been a really eye-opening thing for me."
Initially, RAC was just what the acronym stands for: A collective that featured André and fellow remixers like Aaron Jasinski, Chris Angelovski, Andrew Maury, and Karl Kling. Created more than a decade ago, back when André was still studying Music Business at Greenville College in Illinois, the group started gaining momentum on their YouTube channel for their remixes of artists like The Killers and Phoenix. Eventually, it morphed from representing the whole collective into André own remix tag, and finally, into a moniker for his original compositions, as well.
Following up his debut album, Strangers, in 2014, and his second record of original material, Ego, in 2017, Boy is an even more emotionally resonant project than the first two, delving into André’s childhood experience growing up primarily in Porto, Portugal. Never quite feeling like he fit in with either American roots or the culture in Porto, some of those old feelings began to surface when he was working on songs for this album. “The album is sort of about that period,” he explained. “It’s about being sort of torn between two different cultures, and the confusion in there, along with a lot of other typical childhood/adolescent stuff. I just kept coming back to that, and felt like it was the common source of inspiration.”
André’s artistic process for creating original material varies slightly from his remix work, which has been one of his primary ways of supporting himself financially over the course of his career. At this point, he’s done somewhere between 200 and 300 remixes of seemingly every pop, rock and electronic hitmaker.
“The remixing is sort of a source of income for me,” he said. “I’m hired by whoever wants to hire me to do a remix. Fortunately, I’m in a position where I can be a little picky about it, so I still get to work on stuff I like. I don’t really want to work on music that I don’t like.”
Conversely, when he produces original tracks, the next step is seeking out collaborators after the music is done. Sitting in his home studio in Portland for a year writing demos for this new album, André had to cull down from sixty songs to about forty with vocals from collaborators, and then, hone in on just under twenty tracks that made the cut for the album. The final eighteen songs mostly include collaborators or vocalists, though a few are strictly instrumentals from the producer himself.Embedded content: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-KgbznJmvR/
Early singles like “Stuck On You” featuring the golden-voiced Phil Good, or “Change The Story” with the beloved crooner Jamie Lidell perfectly encapsulate just what makes RAC songs so beloved — they feature itchy, grooving beats that burn sweet and hot, never too ostentatious or slick, and catchy pop melodies that are balanced by sincere heart and an occasional touch of pathos. These help set the tone for Boy, but it’s a deeper cut called “MIA” with up and comer Danny Dwyer that stands out to André in the week leading up to release.
“I was so happy with that song,” he remembered, revealing the personal significance of that particular melody. “That chord progression, I wrote it back when I was like 13 or 14. It was one of the first things I ever did, and it’s super basic. There’s nothing really that special about it, but it’s personal to me. So seeing that come full circle, 16 or 17 years later is so cool. I have very vivid memories of sitting in my kitchen with my little guitar playing that song for my dog or something, an audience of one. And now it sort of comes back and will probably reach a lot more people.”
Like all of the songs on Boy, “MIA”is caught in the sweet spot of nostalgia and presence, looking backward without losing sight of what’s yet to come.
For André, his longevity doesn’t preclude the possibility of an even bigger music industry presence in the future, even if that mostly means fostering a community online while we all wait for the rhythms of the outside world to fall back into place.