André Allen Anjos can’t sing, but that’s OK. He can borrow the voice of Lana Del Rey, Tegan and Sara, Bloc Party’s Kele, and John Legend. Basically, at this point in the 30-year-old’s skyrocketing career, there are precious few indie-dance stars who wouldn’t send their hit tunes to Anjos, with full blessing to tear them apart.
That’s because Anjos, the Portugal-raised, Portland-based musician known as RAC, spins those raw files into ethereal clouds of sonic gold—songs a world away from thumping, meat-market club tracks.
He got his big break in 2007, when a cold call to the manager of the Shins bore fruit, in the form of his wildly popular remix of “Sleeping Lessons”—from there, a deep dive into the archives of Penguin Prison, Foster the People, U2, Bloc Party, and New Order.
It used to be that Anjos had to grub for remix work, writing songs on spec. But a reputation for giving pop stars a second shot at the charts has its rewards, he says: “I’ve gotten to the point where I can be picky.”
Last spring he tapped several of these big-name collaborators—St. Lucia, YACHT, and Matthew Koma among them—for Strangers, his debut record of original songs on Interscope. The album—with its treble-heavy, minimalist sound—backs RAC’s growing brand as a crowd favorite at festivals like Coachella. (First track “Let Go” has since racked up more than five million hits online.)
His success is no flash in the pan: Anjos intends to ride the industry’s fluid economics to the top, most recently with a charm offense of singles, four as of press time, that Anjos has self-released since June 2015.
“Remixing is a back door to being a producer,” he says. “Strangers, that’s what it’s all about—my ticket to original music.”
RAC IN HIS OWN WORDS
“I’ll get multitrack files from a band; most times I grab the singer and start looping that. I pick up an instrument and play till I find a chord progression. I compare it to hitting your head against a wall.”
“I see music this way: every song has an essence, and it manifests in a way that you can still recognize it if the chords change.”
“I don’t own about 90 percent of my music. One remix got used in a Super Bowl commercial. It’s a bittersweet moment, when your song comes on but you know you won’t be paid for that.”
“The metric for that is sales, but there’s also that people are singing my new songs—at the North Coast Festival in Chicago, and at Electric Zoo in New York.”