Want your UW student band* to have an opening slot at one of our Birthday Fest concerts on April 18th? Here is your chance to make that happen!
Send in your music to email@example.com with subject line “Battle” to be entered to win a slot at the Battle of the Bands, and if you win that, you’ll be opening for national/international touring talent!
Come watch the battle at the Ethnic Cultural Theatre at 7:30pm on Tuesday, April 11th for FREE! Also keep an eye out for the announcement for Birthday Fest! You can RSVP here.
Open to all • 4/11/17 7:30pm • Ethnic Cultural Theatre
*At least one of the group members must be a current UW student.
It’s 10 minutes before the interview and my phone rings to my dismay. The basement of Winkenwerder was not where I wanted to talk shop with one of my favorite musicians. But there I stood, with a piece of TP in one hand and a buzzing cell phone in the other.
“Shit,” I mutter – fully intending my pun as I answer the Texas caller ID.
“Hi, I’m calling for your interview with André. I know it’s not for another ten minutes but he’s ready now and we’d love to get started.”
“Of course!” I grin as it starts to feel real. Standing with my pants half-pulled up, I remember my situation. “Erm… Can I call you back in 5 minutes? I just need to get everything set up.”
“Yeah sure. I’ll call you then.” Click.
I fasten my belt, swing my pack over my shoulder and head out into the hallway – frantic to find a spot to sit in relative silence. Behind a giant stump that looks like it was cut from a forest a millennia ago, I slump over and attempt to set up my audio recording equipment before my phone rings again.
“Ready?” He asks.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I respond with slight hesitation as my recording fails to start. A familiar voice is heard on the line and some light indie rock can be heard in the background.
It’s about time Portland grew up
From his home studio in Portland, Oregon, André Anjos talks about the last six years of his life living in the eccentric city. “I feel like a local,” he states first off, “and I love it here.” He goes on to explain that the city has been changing “like crazy” just like the Bay Area and Seattle. Referencing a recent trend in real-estate listings, he laughs about seeing “No California”-stickers, “as if that would dissuade people from moving here.”
Photo courtesy of Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
“People are complaining,” he goes on to mention. “They’re saying that a lot of things that made Portland unique is getting lost.” Although he really has appreciated the “amazing food” and “interesting things” in the city, André wants Portland to grow up a bit. Hesitating, he puts off the rest of his answer – stating that he might have a better opinion in a couple of years.
Portland, prisons and college
“Everything post-college has been here in Portland,” André goes on to say. “Well, sort of. I spend more time at the airport than at home.” We laugh.
“A couple of friends moved here.” His buddy, Karl Kling, had a girlfriend out here in college and they had a place to move. Rent was “cheap” – at the time it was $500 a month. Coming from a life at Greenville College in Illinois, this was quite the change.
“Three thousand people in the town were prison inmates and they counted that as part of the population,” he laughs. “It was a very small town and a dry town!” He had never heard of something like that before, especially since coming from Portugal, where the drinking age is fourteen.
When asked about his major, André couldn’t help but make a few jokes. “I got a music business degree, which is hilarious.” Greenville college was in the middle of nowhere and the Portugal native decided to learn about music from a bunch of old Illinoisans. “Maybe some basic knowledge came in handy,” he continues, trying to give some credit to his education. “But the music industry changes every year and you’re learning information that’s five years old in college.”
So, in school, he learned how the music industry used to work. “I guess you could say I earned a music business history major,” we laugh again.
The idea of RAC, what happened to the collective
“From the beginning, we wanted to be a group of people that all do remixes under one name,” he explained. “We could gather some talent and do it as a group as opposed to an individual person doing on your own.”
“How did that work out?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“You know when you’re in a group project and you’re the one person doing it all?” He asked rhetorically. “Well, I was doing it all. A lot of people had jobs and real obligations – I was just in school.” So André took over the project and started doing everything under the same name, Remix Artist Collective.
“The name stuck and I kind of ignored it. When I started touring, I brought Karl who started DJing with me.” The definition of the name, he went on to explain had started changing during those tours until it stopped meaning anything. As he moved into producing original music, it ceased to make any sense but, “at one point,” he explains, “I decided that I spent six years of my life building this brand… I’m just gonna stick with it.”
“It’s called RAC,” he concludes. “It doesn’t mean anything – it doesn’t matter.”
Now that things have developed and he’s become a writer of original music, the name has unintentionally become a point of confusion. He’s now writing with other people, covering tracks with his wife and has even produced original music for the HBO series, Entourage.
Independence, album woes and staying relevant
"I feel like I put out a track every week,” André says. “A lot are remixes but… it’s just easier to focus on a song at a time and just put [that one] out.” Since recording his album in 2011 and having to wait three years for the record label to approve the content for legal and distribution reasons, RAC has taken a step back from the traditional record deal.
“After the album came out, I didn’t really feel like it was relevant to do that in 2015,” he says of the album’s long release schedule. As of June 2015, a month after getting out of his contract, André has been dropping music at least once a month with a staggered release schedule. From single tracks to lyric videos, these regular releases are his way of “keeping [his] head above the noise.”
“There’s a lot of amazing work, and a lot of mediocre work out there… [the internet] is so incredibly saturated [with it]. Fortunately, a thing I got used to with remixes is getting to do things very quickly.” Despite the constant work, André is satisfied with this new methodology as, “with a waiting period that was once three years is now two months at the most.”
When discussing the success of his album, he reminisced but responded contritely, “the music doesn’t represent who I am anymore. You have three years of built-up expectations and when they don’t go in [the way you want], it’s so frustrating.”
Making music, with new singles and successes
Last month’s single, “3AM feat. Katie Herzig” (embedded below) has been quite the success – garnering almost half a million plays in the weeks since its release. When I asked him how he felt about this, André answered estatically, “I feel like we’re gaining momentum and people are catching on to what we’re doing. We compare numbers a lot since we’re doing things independently. Keeping my eye on it [lets me] make sure things are going well. I think it’s been a very fun game to get into that that, [especially] in these last couple of tracks.”
With all the data analysis that he and his team had been doing, I followed up by asking why he still makes music. Despite a somewhat-programmatic release schedule and metrics to understand their success, RAC manages to keep the soul in the music.
“So who do you make music for then?” I asked, “Your numbers? Your fans? Yourself?”
“Myself,” André answered, “Absolutely.” Stating that he continues to make music “purely for [his] own entertainment,” the man just wants to be happy with what he does. As it turns out a big part of him being happy is making others happy!
“I’m not just stroking my beard, happily listening to my own music,” he says. “For one, I don’t have a beard and I see it as kind of a game and it’s my job and it’s something to have fun with.” His goal is to “keep going” as he’s noticed the music is “creating an outlet for this weird desire [to] ‘have to make music’ and want[ing] to keep that going.”
“Part of growth is being heard and having people listen to your music,” he says. For André it seems that this is the core of the game. “Artists that say it doesn’t affect them are lying,” he continues. “If a lot of people are stoked about your song, it really affects you.”
In regards to his fans, he said “it feels good when sometimes people will leave really kind messages like, ‘hey this helped me out during this time of my life’.” He hears me smile through the phone and continues, “I don’t sit down and write songs to help people in that way, but it’s a really nice validation.”
Building a synth and making some music
In addition to his solo work as RAC, André still finds time to record music with his wife, Liz. “There was this goal on the surface to release [them] as a free track to celebrate when we hit milestones on social media,” he says of the covers (check them out on soundcloud). “There’s obviously a selfish side of it and it’s a fun project.” Aside from the benefits of recording for fun, he also has been grateful for the opportunity to be creative in a way he hadn’t tried before. “Working with Liz is also really fun,” he sums up, “even though we live together, we rarely collaborate.”
In his home studio in Portland, the electronic musician mostly uses physical instruments, “whether that’s a synth, drum machine, guitar, bass… I have a lot of toys and I just work [here],” he says. “It’s a really nice balance with the touring and, when I’m not touring, it’s good to be home.”
When it comes to his own production, André just “feels more comfortable” playing an instrument rather than programming music on the computer. “You can create exclusive items that you just can’t make on a computer since most people don’t have [the same] instrument,” he explains. “You create a unique sound that’s impossible to replicate.”
“The problem is that I can’t work when I’m travelling,” he continues. “I can’t fix a mix or something when I’m on the road, which can be frustrating.” Despite his long time spent on the road, the remix artist still finds time to come home and write original music on his modular synthesizer. “I’m a building a modular synth,” he says excitedly. “It started with one box and now I have five. It’s so much fun and it’s so nerdy!”
Yet the synthesizer has been more than a toy in André’s creative process. With it’s inspirational aesthetic and pleasantly unique sound, the modular synth has become a “magical machine”:
You turn the lights on and it’s blinking. It gets really heady sometimes when I have to think about every wire. But it creates a situation where a lot of unexpected things can happen. Most of the time they’re very positive things, like happy accidents – you can stumble upon a sound. It’s a magical machine. There’s so much potential that sometimes it’s too much… but it’s great because of that.
After geeking out about gear, it’s easy to become existential in describing the sound of an instrument. So André concludes, “I’m very into the studio and that whole process. I’d say I probably enjoy recording music just as much as I do writing it.”
Inspiration and dedication, some advice for new artists
The PR rep’s voice came over the line, “Hey guys. We’re running kind of behind so this could be the last question or so.” Looking at my notes, I grew excited as I read, “Which relatively new musicians have you been listening to or enjoying lately?”
Immediately, André answered, “A decent amount of people know Pomo. He’s a guy from Montreal and it’s just a breath of fresh air compared to the EDM, droning military march stuff. I really like it. His remixes are really top notch and I always check them out and add them to our set.”
I followed up by asking what advice he could give new electronic artists. He answered:
I think it’s important to learn how a lot of these sounds are created, specifically for electronic artists. If you learn the basics and understand synthesis, it’s going to go a long way. You can’t do the production tricks if you don’t know it. Learn the basics of recording and avoid presets. They are an easy way to get a specific sound that sounds good but then there’s everybody else and they’re using the same thing. If you can distance yourself from that and try creating sounds from scratch, [you’ll find] you’ll especially know what you’re doing.
Another line could be heard coming into the phone call and André began to quickly finish up. “Musicians need to beat themselves,“ he said. "You don’t want to be somebody else since they already exist. You can be inspired by other people, but try to do something that, personally, you’d be.”
This Friday brings a recent discovery for me to the nearby Neptune Theater. Destroyer, fronted by Dan Bejar of the Canadian indie band The New Pornographers, will be bringing his unique voice to fill the rafters of the local theater.
Poison Season is a showcase for a variety of lush instrumentals behind Bejar’s often imploring and questioning vocals. Ranging from golden trumpets to strings, sax, piano, flute, (yes, flute) and your standard guitar and bass, I am sure his live show will sound as beautiful live as they do on record, if not more so.
And while you’re at it, watch his amusing and oddly fitting stop-motion video for ‘Times Square’. It’s not what you would expect!
Opening will be Frog Eyes, with doors at 8 and the show starting at 9. Get your tickets here if you haven’t yet.
As a longtime fan of Seattle rappers, the KnowMads have held
a steady place on my iPod for years. They are one of the main groups that got
me into rap and keyed me into what the scene is like in Seattle. So to say I
was excited when they announced a show at The Vera Project last Saturday, May 9th
would be a bit of an understatement.
The two members of the KnowMads, Tom Pepe and Tom Wilson, have
been working on solo projects and living in different states, so hearing that
they would be doing a show for their new mixtape KnowMadic was a good sign. Their last project together was their
2012 album The Knewbook, and they
have since announced a Kickstarter for the next album, Knew School.
The Knowmads both attended Roosevelt High School together,
and have been making music together since their debut self-titled album in
2006. Their long career growing and producing music together was evident in
their hour-long set. The duo finished each other’s lines throughout the
concert, beatboxed, and even bounced freestyles off each other in between
songs, with the crowd giving them words to rhyme.
Their track list covered many of the songs off Knowmadic, but also songs from their
individual projects and previous work together, such as Seattleand The KnewBook. All of these songs were delivered with a
pulsing, raw emotion as they paced back and forth on the stage dripping sweat.
Pepe changed shirts a number of times throughout the show, but that didn’t help
The intensity was palpable throughout. The duo built on the
crowd’s energy when performing tracks like “The River Runs Deep” and “Sidewalkers”,
screaming their verses into the mic as their jugulars bulged. Put simply, there
was a vibrant charisma and history between the two MCs up on stage, and it was
something special to watch.
Those on the other side of the stage got plenty of love as well. We were thanked
multiple times for showing up and creating their steadily growing publicity.
The dedicated stans in the front row had many opportunities to recite lyrics
into the mic when Tom thrust it into the crowd, and there were high 5s all around
the crowded Vera Project. They evidently took advantage of the intimate venue.
As my first concert seeing them, it was special to realize firsthand how
dedicated their local fans are.
The show felt alive, and that says something for these two
rappers who have been grinding since high schools and are still only in their
early 20s. They still have it, just like they always have.
Definitely checkout the Kickstarter for their new album and
donate if you can. Head over to their website to stream their entire
discography, or their Facebook to stay up-to-date. And if my writing hasn’t
convinced you already, I highly recommend seeing them live next time they do a
The West Coast duo consisting of former wedding singer, Kelsey Bulkin, and local Seattle-based producer of Blue Scholars, Sabzi, released the single “Slow Burn” on Tuesday. It’s the second single off their upcoming album (out May 26th) Without My Enemy What Would I Do. And I’m a little disappointed.
I want to start off by saying Made in Heights is an amazing group. Attempting to label their sound as a whole proves difficult, seeing as they have yet to accept any one genre themselves. Continuously welcoming suggestions from fans, the current official description includes: mythical filth, pop fiction, beauty slap, goon lit, artisanal (c/t)rap, and west coast gothic. To put it as simply as I can, they are known for pairing soulful vocals with crisp electronic beats and atmospheric soundscapes. At times even incorporating elements of rap into their bright and ethereal sound, Made in Heights weaves an intricate and special sound under the ever-growing umbrella of synth-pop. The only way to truly experience the sound is to hear it for your self, something I highly recommend.
Slow Burn turns its back on this complexity of genres and heads straight for the dance floor. Let me get one thing straight – this track is completely infectious and a solid dancy-synth-poppy song. The track begins with a catchy synthesized staccato baseline with Kelsey’s simmering vocals drifting atop. By the end, snapping and groovy instrumentals layer in, creating an intoxicating, sparkly-smooth pop track. I would be lying if I said I didn’t bob my head to “you give me that burn, burn, burn, burn, burn”. It’s received good reviews from several sources and is now one of their most-listened to songs on Spotify, it just isn’t what I was hoping for.
Listen for yourself in the stream below:
It might be a personal taste issue that turned me off the new single, seeing as the airy female vocals and snappy dance beat of Slow Burn kicked in some post-traumatic stress from my days working in retail. Once you imagine a song bursting from the cheap speakers of a former employer at the mall, it’s hard to listen to it without feeling a little bit guilty.
It also could be the high expectations I hold for the duo, set by their stunning previous work. Ever since first hearing "All the Places” and “Wildflowers” off of their 2012 self-titled album, I’ve been craving more. Even their opening act for TOKiMONSTA I attended in LA last October reflected their original aesthetic I adore, the pair performing synchronized 60’s backup singer dance moves throughout the set. I just hold them up to a higher creative standard than what this newest track has produced. With sporadic releases and no single website to find their collective work (scattered throughout Soundcloud, Spotify, Bandcamp and their website), I was overjoyed to hear about the new album coming out in late May.
Now I’m just hoping that this single follows the rule of singles, and is the lone shamelessly-dancey track of the album; the rest hopefully following more in suit with the innovative sounds I’ve come to expect from Made in Heights.