Interview with RAC, coming to San Diego on 11/22

I got an amazing opportunity to chat with an artist I’ve been a fan of since my early high school years. His name is André Allen Anjos, and he is the face behind RAC. Currently on tour, RAC will be playing at the Observatory North Park in San Diego on November 22, 2015 alongside St. Lucia. Check out the interview below, and you’ll see just how chill and down-to-earth he is.

A: Hey Jasmine, how’s it going?
J: Hi Andre, it’s great! How are you?
A: I’m good, I’m good. We’re setting up here in Boston.
J: Sweet, so you’re in Boston right now?
A: Yeah, we’re setting up. We’re playing tonight at the Royale. It’s here in Boston, so we’re going through the whole process of loading in, setting it up, you know, it takes several hours.
J: Sounds busy, haha.
A: Nah, it’s all good, all good. We take it at a leisurely pace. *chuckles*

J: How long have you been making music?
A: Man, I think I’ve been making music since I was about maybe 13 years old? So, when I think I was maybe 10, I asked my parents for a fake guitar. It was like a guitar where you could just press buttons on it and it would play chords, basically like an easy way to play guitar. And it was like a toy. I asked my parents for a toy and my parents actually gave me a real guitar instead. And I was pissed, like, “What is this?” because I want the easy way out… Anyways, they got me the real thing and that got me started, and I kind of got really into it and at about 13, I started taking it a little more seriously. I was getting into Nirvana and stuff like that. Those are very accessible songs as a guitar player, so, yeah that’s the very beginning.

J: How did music influence your childhood?
A: It’s funny because even though I did take it seriously early on, I never really saw it as a career path until maybe I was going to college. It was always just this fun thing to do, and I grew up with this mentality that for musicians, it’s very difficult to make a living. So, I never really saw it as a practical thing. And part of that was just growing up in Portugal where it’s even more difficult to make a living as a musician and so I never really took it that seriously. When I was picking a school to go to, I think that was sort of a deciding factor. I was actually interested in design—industrial design and graphic design. So I was thinking of going that route—which my life would have turned out very differently—or to go to a music school, and I ended up going to music school. Not that the music school informs that, but that was sort of a deciding moment I guess, where I said,”Okay, I’m gonna pursue this for real,” much to my parents’ worry.

J: What was it like moving from Portugal to the United States?
A: Well, my mom’s American. I grew up in bible school so it was a very natural thing for me. I had actually lived in the U.S. before when I was a kid. I went to 3rdand 4th grade in the U.S. So I was pretty aware of American culture and the language, obviously, which helps a lot. You know, Portugal is not that vastly different than America in that way, but there’s still a little bit of culture shock. Mostly with the difference between the size of things, everything’s a little bigger in the U.S. I think anyone that goes to Europe can probably attest to that. So it was little things like that, nothing too drastic. It was a pretty easy transition. And with music I sort of adopted a certain DIY quality about doing everything myself, trying to take my career into my own hands I guess, and so I think that helped me out a lot when I first moved to the U.S.

J: Can you explain the meaning of the name RAC?
A: Yeah! Well, basically when I started it—it stands for Remix Artist Collectives—and that was the original idea that I had when I was in college. I wanted to create a collective of remixers that would essentially work for hire. We’d work with labels or artists, anybody that wanted a remix that we felt like it could be creatively interesting; it was sort of like a creative agency, almost like working behind the scenes. I never really intended for it to be like a front-facing-artist thing. And that was the beginning. That was what I envisioned at first. The reality was very different from that. I was doing pretty much all the remixes myself and it just never really took off in that way. I was doing a lot of remix work, but I was sort of making a name for myself as an artist in that way. It was becoming like a recognizable name. Especially when I later moved into original work, the name just kind of lost its meaning. So at this point, I see it as almost like a brand or a name that you attach to things. Hopefully, if they enjoy my remix work, they’d enjoy my original work and whatever else I decide to do. So it’s sort of like an umbrella for me to make music under.
J: It’s nice how that worked out!
A: Yeah, it never worked out how I wanted it. I’m just kind of going with it now.

J: How would you describe your music to those who haven’t listened to you yet?
A: Well, let me put it this way. When people ask me, I just say it’s electronic music. But when I really think about what it is…to me, it’s pop music. And that’s what I’m kind of trying to do. I use a lot of electronic sounds, and I use a lot of more traditional sounds too. So to me, it feels like I’m trying to write catchy music and poppy music that is enjoyable but also has substance. I’m trying to make functional art I guess, or practical art. Somewhere in the middle where I can reach a vast amount of people but also fulfill that creative need that I have.

J: Is there something you have to do or say to prepare yourself before a show?
A: Not really… I’ve kind of been doing this for a while, and a lot of people do have routines. For me, I just chill out for an hour. About 10 minutes before we go on, I just go and hang out by the stage, just kinda hang out by myself, kinda regain my thoughts, stuff like that. There’s not really any kind of special process or anything like that. It’s kinda, sit there and relax for a second, and get ready to jump around for an hour, I guess.

J: What are you looking forward to in the future of your career?
A: I guess just to try new things. It’s been kind of a theme from the very beginning. As I mentioned, I had a grand idea of what it would become and it never became that. So the things that have worked out in my life are things where I go with the flow and try new challenges and try to stretch myself as a musician. Whether that’s remixes or lately it’s been trying film, or TV, or I just did a video game soundtrack, too. So it’s stuff like that, projects that are interesting to me that are out of the norm, anything to keep it interesting, whether that’s like a genre of music or…just something. I basically want to keep doing this as long as I possibly can, and I think a big part of doing it long-term is not get burnt out. So that’s sort of my way of not getting burnt out, it’s just by trying new things and keeping it interesting.
J: That sounds like a good strategy!
A: Yeah! I mean, it’s worked so far. We’ll see.

J: And last but not least, if you were stranded alone on a deserted island, what are three things you’d want to have with you?
A: Oooh, hahaha.
J: It’s tough, so take your time.
A: Probably a guitar for sure. It’s one of those things that I’ve had to sort of force myself to just sit down with a guitar and just play music, for fun. You know, what an idea, to play music for fun. But for me, because it’s my job, sometimes I feel this immense pressure that any time I’m working on music, it has to be for work. And sometimes I have to remind myself to just enjoy myself and to play music without any project in mind, and just do it for fun. So definitely if I was stranded on an island, I would want that escape. Hmm, although I’d probably break some strings and then I’d be kind of screwed but, hypothetical anyway. Let’s see, other two things… I think the core of that question is what you value in life. So the other things are friends, obviously. I’m kind of answering your question in a broader way, but friends are something that I definitely value more and more. Especially helps with staying alive and it’s basically just hanging out with your friends for a month in a semi-stressful situation. Oh, I also just got kittens so I want them to hang out with, too.

Connect with RAC:

Wednesday, July 29: Cymbals Eat Guitars coming to San Diego’s House of Blues

Get ready to meet Cymbals Eat Guitars. Coming from New York, the 4-piece band has a sound and vibe that can be described as garage punk mixed with psychedelic rock. Their newest album titled LOSE was released in August of 2014 and is the band’s third album so far. It features songs with a variety of emotions from energetic punk rock anthems to slower melancholy pieces. Tracks like “Jackson” and “Laramie” are ballads full of echoing emotion. Most impressive in LOSE are the melodic basslines, space-like distortion of the electric guitar, and the well-ranged, accented vocals.

Cymbals Eat Guitars is currently touring across the country with Say Anything, Modern Baseball, and Hard Girls. Don’t miss their show at the House of Blues on Wednesday, July 29! Check out some of their music below. Click here for tickets to the show.

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SnowGlobe Music Festival in Lake Tahoe, California [Dec. 29-31, 2014]

Everyone is now settled into the second semester, and the end of winter is finally here. Hopefully your winter break was enjoyable and full of holiday festivities. The highlight of my break was a very unique experience: a music festival…in the snow! For three days, my friends and I danced, sang, met new people, and huddled for warmth in a winter wonderland of music and snowflakes as we celebrated the end of 2014 and the start of the new year. Check out all the photo galleries as well as our awesome recap video of the event!

I’ve had my festival-hungry eyes set on SnowGlobe ever since I first heard of it in 2012, when Deadmau5 was a headliner. Since then, they’ve kept hosting more and more big-name artists, and this year’s lineup was a smorgasbord of popular talent. With an abundance of electronic artists like Disclosure, Flume, Porter Robinson, Skrillex, Zedd, Flux Pavilion, Odesza, Bro Safari, Justin Martin, Thomas Jack, Trippy Turtle, Branchez, Djemba Djemba, Party Favor, Le Youth, and more, SnowGlobe drew in countless EDM fans and ravers alike. To add some variety to the festival, SnowGlobe also featured great artists from other music genres like rapper Atmosphere, indie band Phantogram, electronic-indie duo Cherub, and so on. With 3 stages: the outdoor main stage, the Sierra Tent with its dangling icicle decorations, and the warm and cozy Igloo, there was always someone great to enjoy.

The main factor that made SnowGlobe such a unique festival was its setting. The venue is located at the campus of Lake Tahoe Community College, only accessible via vehicle drop-off or the shuttles which transport the thousands of festival attendees. The festival is nestled within a wooded area surrounded by huge pine trees, which when lit up at night in a spectrum of colors, looked absolutely magical. Add the effects of bright stage lights and laser light shows, and it was like some kind of futuristic enchanted forest. The main stage was on the school’s sports field, complete with independent vendor booths around the perimeter, fancy VIP tent in the back, and an epic snow ramp adjacent to the stage for talented snowboarders and skiers to show off their backflips and 360’s during the time between the main stage’s sets. The Sierra Tent was a partially-indoor stage fit with large cartoon-like icicles that glowed all different colors and flashed to the sound of the music. And lastly, the Igloo was a dimly lit fully-indoor stage with dark fabric hanging from the ceilings and walls and dangling disco balls to add to the nightclub feel.

Outside around the stages, there were delicious food vendors to feed the crowds, a healthy abundance of portapotties to reduce restroom wait times, hammocks strung up between the pine trees for people to lounge in, walls of beautiful murals, and art installations that doubled as fire pits to warm up by. The festival was mindful of protecting its attendees from the harsh cold, so in addition to the fire pits spread throughout, there was another decorated tent for people to gather for warmth, sit down, and socialize.

Okay, let’s talk about the performances. With such a solid array of talent, SnowGlobe threw an amazing end-of-the-year celebration. My favorite sets (and by favorite I mean I physically could not stop dancing) included Disclosure, Flume, Le Youth, Thomas Jack, and Max Manie (who I discovered at the festival and instantly fell in love with). I now realize why SnowGlobe has been adding more and more electronic dance artists… the more people dance, the less cold they are! Trust me, dancing was the best method of staying warm. And if it was ever too hot, the sub-freezing air outside cooled us down in seconds. Enjoy the final gallery, with some of my favorite close-up shots of the performers!

Make sure to mark your calendars and make plans for SnowGlobe 2015 for an unforgettable New Year’s celebration.

Thanks to SnowGlobe for the amazing opportunity to attend the festival and share its splendor with SDSU, and thanks to Andie Nguyen for being so awesome at photography and videography and just about everything in general. Good luck with the spring semester, everyone!

Netsky: Live at the House of Blues [Nov. 24, 2014]

Last Monday, I had the awesome opportunity to see one of the most famous drum and bass DJs in the world, Netsky! And that’s pronounced net-sky, not net-ski. The 25 year-old Belgian named Boris Daenen adopted his alias from a real-life computer virus. His current tour has been taking him all around the US and Europe, one of his stops being at the House of Blues in downtown San Diego.

As my first time at the House of Blues, I was delighted to take in all the exciting sights that come with entering a new venue. After the entrance, there are two directions to go. Forward, into the bar and balcony area looking down on the stage, or down to the floor of the stage with another bar area behind it. The wide downward staircase, the walls decorated with murals, felt like a stairway down into the depths of some sort of secret underground lair of a concert hall. The small stage had an intimate vibe, especially since the performers would be so close to the audience.

House of Blues

Staircase murals in the House of Blues. Photo by Jasmine Ho

Finally, Netsky himself entered the stage, along with another keyboardist, a drummer, and an energetic and British-accented MC. The MC did a mighty fine job of hyping up the crowd, as he danced and jumped around the stage, and threw in his own cheers to interact with the crowd and get people clapping, jumping, and shouting back. Their setlist was a high-energy explosion of their drum and bass tracks as well as remixes of other artists’ tracks that got everyone’s blood pumping and heads banging. They even brought out singer Billie Bentein to sing the vocals for their collaborated tracks, “We Can Only Live Today (Puppy)” and “Come Alive”. Whether you were standing and bouncing to the drum beat or going crazy in the mosh pits, the show was an incredible amount of fun, and Netsky’s music was uplifting and electrifying to the crowd.

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P.S. Tune in to my show Not for Basics tonight and every Friday night at 8pm for an hour-long electronic music experience!