Q&A with Andrew Maury of RAC
October 11th, 2011 • Interview
Andrew Maury is a New York City based producer, live sound engineer and remixer, who’s come to prominence in the indie-rock world over the last few years due to his work with some great and exciting new artists within the genre.
All bands have had the “RAC Maury Mix” treatment, with Andrew’s interpretation of The Collectable Few’s “Headstrong” being officially released by us this past January (he also mixed the original version, which was the lead track). Andrew is credited on production duties for The Static Jacks’ 2009 EP, “Laces”, and continues to work with The Collectable Few on their latest recordings. His most recent remix is of The Static Jacks’ “Into The Sun”, which premiered on Rolling Stone’s web-site on 29 September. The original version will see the light of day in the UK through us next month (click here for full details on that).
With all this in common (and seemingly seeing eye-to-eye about up and coming guitar bands) we thought we ought to find out a bit more about the man and his modus operandi…
LFC: How did you first get into live sound, music production and remixing?
Andrew: Each of those paths started at different points, but are all certainly related. I grew up playing guitar in bands through middle school and high school. I was the guy who had the PA system and kind of “ran” the band events. I even directed my high school talent show! Music, sound, and stage have always been in my blood. Things took shape during college when I became friends with Ra Ra Riot and their manager, Josh Roth. I went to Syracuse University, which is where Ra Ra Riot formed and were playing house parties during their senior year. They graduated in 2006 and started touring and making a name for themselves.
Around the same time, I was still in college and had just discovered RAC. After some net surfing, I deduced that a guy named André Anjos was behind it. He was remixing in a style I had never heard or imagined… his arrangements were so original and inventive, using the original tracks of the song in new contexts which were so exciting and concise. I decided to take a stab at remixing a Ra Ra Riot song (given that I was friends with them and had easy access to their studio tracking). I cold emailed André the first draft of my remix and we kind of hit it off. I dug up a few other remix gigs for myself, and within about 3 months André asked me if I wanted to join RAC and team up with him. Since then, the platform for which I procure remixes has been entirely fueled by my association with RAC and the reputation we’ve been building over the years.
By the time I graduated college in 2008, Ra Ra Riot had just put out their first album, and they gave me a shot at doing live sound for their headlining tour. It was trial by fire at first, but I’ve been with them for just over 3 years now and I’ve learned the ropes pretty quickly. New challenges still present themselves as we continue to play larger and larger venues. I’ve been fortunate to have met dozens of bands on the road – some leading to other opportunities to mix front of house. In addition to Ra Ra Riot, I tour pretty consistently with GIVERS and have done a few one-off shows for Surfer Blood in NYC where I live.
Producing, recording, and mixing records is yet another tangent. Given all the experience remixing and doing live sound, it was becoming obvious to me that I also wanted to make records with bands. I had some experience dabbling in self-recording during college, and had taken a few courses related to audio recording. I even had a brief internship at a Brooklyn recording studio called Headgear before I started touring. But it all really started in 2009 off the heels of a tour with Ra Ra Riot when we were opening for Death Cab For Cutie. I became friends with DCFC guitarist Chris Walla, who is also a highly esteemed engineer and producer. After talking shop the whole tour, Chris asked me to come to LA for 2 weeks and be the Logic operator for Tegan & Sara’s Sainthood. It was kind of the the coolest thing that ever happened to me… here I was at the world famous Sound City Studios with Chris, Tegan and Sara, their guitarist Ted Gowans, and Jason McGerr who was drumming on the record. Seeing and hearing a REAL record being made. I was running the computer while Chris and Howard Redekopp were producing and engineering the session. I learned so much so fast. It got my lexicon and studio etiquette up to speed.
That summer, I bought a 16 channel recording interface, some monitors, some microphones, and hit the ground running. Pulling from the network I had built remixing and touring, I ended up recorded and mixing the Laces EP for The Static Jacks, mixing The House Floor’s Warship, and mixing Kisses’ The Heart of the Nightlife. Later in the year, I went into the studio with Ra Ra Riot to engineer and co-produce their sophomore album, The Orchard.
For the past two years I’ve had a pretty exciting, steady stream of work touring, remixing, mixing, and recording!
LFC: What projects are you working on right now?
Andrew: This summer has been a lot of touring with GIVERS and Ra Ra Riot, but I’ve recently been wrapping up the mixing for the forthcoming Princeton record, which I recorded with them last summer. Its totally, totally unbelievable and I couldn’t be more proud of it. I’ve also been mixing some early recordings for The Collectable Few. I can’t get enough of them… they hit the nail on the head for so many of my influences and favorite music. I’m really hoping to continue to work with them in the future. They are special. I finished up a bunch of remixes for various artists recently too.
LFC: To the uninitiated, what exactly is RAC and what do they do?
Andrew: RAC is a team of three people who create music: André Anjos, Karl Kling, and myself. Our platform for work has largely been remixing for the last 4 years. We pride our remixes on a sonic brand we’ve developed. I think its safe to say that you know an RAC remix when you hear one. Much to our surprise and excitement, the RAC reputation has grown fast. We tend to remix indie/rock artists… like Tokyo Police Club, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Shins, Surfer Blood, Phoenix, etc. Early on we did a lot of remixes for smaller unsigned bands, but have been moving into doing larger acts. RAC also has a touring DJ component, which André and Karl do together. They have been DJing some huge shows recently! We are also looking to start producing records at a certain point. The future is bright for RAC.
LFC: What do you try to achieve in a remix?
Andrew: If its a band that’s hired me to remix a song, I often listen to the original once or twice before I start the remix to refresh myself with the melodies and highlights. Then I’ll drop all the multi-track files into Logic and just go. I’m always attempting to reinvent the song while still paying homage to the original. The magic in remixing comes from striking a balance between using the original multi-track and recording my own newly composed tracks. It gets to a point where I’m interacting with the song, and it actually feels as though it starts to write itself. I sometimes will listen back to the original song days after I’ve been immersed in my remix, and I’ll be shocked how strangely different the original feels. If anything, I try to invent a whole new world for the song.
LFC: Do you have a favourite RAC Maury Mix?
Andrew: I don’t think I could pick one, but my top 5 are:
Lenka – Trouble Is A Friend
Lacrymosa – Good At Heart
Surfer Blood – Take It Easy
Phoenix – 1901
aaaaaaand… a remix that releases october 24 for a rather huge artist which I’m VERY excited about!
LFC: What are the ups and downs of a career in sound engineering?
Andrew: Ups: incredible fun. The work is so rewarding. For me, the career is doing what I can’t get enough of anyway. You meet hundreds of cool people every year. Some of the people you meet are rather famous, and may even be people you grew up inspired by.
Downs: its extremely competitive and difficult work. Self-imposed neurosis levels can be pretty intense. When you are mixing a live show in front of 1200 people, or recording a band with a large reputation, or mixing a record which will be the thing that the artist and public will hear forever, the stakes can feel really high.
LFC: What advice would you offer to someone looking to get into your field?
Andrew: Get in tune with your opinions on music. Get inspired by records and sounds you love. Learn to separate what’s amateur and what’s pro. Go to shows. Meet as many people as you can. Be the nicest person you can be. Email young bands who you believe in. Impress people with your work. Take pride in your work. Take risks!
LFC: Who are the bands or artists most exciting you at the moment?
Andrew: I recently got into Dutch Uncles’ new album Cadenza and Little Dragon’s Machine Dream. I’ve also been on an extended kick loving Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Working with bands is probably the most exciting though… feeling like you have a hand in creating something that others will learn about and discover. The Collectable Few tracks and this Princeton record I’m wrapping up fall in that category.