Paperhouse: On remixes

Over winter break, one of my friends downloaded a bunch of one-hit wonders. It did not take long, however, to find that someone decided that gems such as “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe” needed remixes.

These remixes were not just bad — there was also no new perspective gained from listening to them. There was barely anything about the songs that was altered; hi-hats, bass, and synths were simply added on top of the songs with some minor equalizer manipulation. It was the musical equivalent of using Microsoft Paint to do photo manipulation.

Good remixes have a lot in common with good song covers: They maintain the most essential aspects of the song, provide a new perspective, and show an appreciation of the source material. For example, I was never a fan of Lady Gaga’s “Yoü and I.” However, after hearing Wild Beasts’ remix of it, I changed my opinion.

Wild Beasts’ remix stripped away almost every element of the song, leaving a vocal loop of Lady Gaga singing, “This time we made love / This time baby you and I,” over sampled loops taken directly from the song. The only addition the band makes is singer Hayden Thorpe moaning over parts of the song. The two layers of the song could not sound any more different. Wild Beasts stripped away the theatricality, the radio-pop polish, and the schmaltzy country-rock ballad feel. They left listeners with the soul of the song: sexual longing and the torture of being separated from a loved one.

It’s easy to discredit remixes as a legitimate art form because it’s not terribly difficult to make one. But artistic vision is necessary to make a remix worth listening to. Although there are enough mediocre dubstep remixes of pop songs to make one lose faith in remix culture, it’s important to remember that if you just keep looking hard enough, you’ll probably find a remix that will remind you why you started looking for them in the first place.

(Originally published in The Tartan)

Interview: Ra Ra Riot

Interview and photos by Jess Phoa.

On Nov. 29, I went to the Passion Pit and Ra Ra Riot concert at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia and had the opportunity to go backstage and interview Mathieu Santos, the bassist of Ra Ra Riot, before the show.

Ra Ra Riot is releasing its third full-length album, Beta Love, on Jan. 22. Here I talk to Santos about the best television shows for touring, his spirit animal, the band’s upcoming album, and more. Check out the full interview below.

Mathieu Santos, bassist of Ra Ra Riot (photo by Jess Phoa)

Jess: On your Facebook page, it says you like “Spaghetti, Scramble, and Planet Earth” is that true?

Mathieu Santos: Milo makes amazing spaghetti

Jess: Is it a family recipe?

MS: He studied abroad in Florence as an architecture student and brought back with him some amazing sauce recipes. So we eat lots of spaghetti as a band, we do play lots of Scrabble, and Planet Earth, so yeah we do love all of those things!

Jess: Do you have a favorite food aside from spaghetti and if you could have a sandwich, what would you want on it?

MS: My favorite food aside from spaghetti, that’s a great question. Well, when I’m home I eat a lot of amazing Portuguese food, and that’s probably my favorite food.

Jess: You’re Portuguese… are you fully Portuguese?

MS: I’m half, my dad is fully Portuguese and my mom is fully French so I’m 50/50 and they each grew up in their respective gene pools.

Jess: Are you multilingual?

MS: Ahh, no… I speak a little French, no Portuguese. My sister, though, is a French major and speaks really good French. Portuguese food is definitely my favorite food and so I would have to say that the cacoila sandwich, which is a Portuguese marinated pork, it’s delicious…it’s unbelievable. That’s like the first thing I do whenever I’m home, go straight to the amazing Portuguese restaurants in New Bedford, MA.

Jess: You watch Planet Earth, do you watch anything else? Do you have movie nights or something like that?

MS: There’s a lot of show trading on tour. I know a couple of years ago, everyone was really into The Wire, we did all of The Sopranos

Jess: I know Breaking Bad is pretty popular right now.

MS: I don’t know if anyone is watching that, but I know Wes [Miles, vocalist for Ra Ra Riot] has been into Game of Thrones, Becca’s been into Girls. There’s lots of TV watching on tour. I usually just watch sports mostly, but I’ve been rewatching The Sopranos recently.

Jess: So I understand you’re a huge Bruins fan, but what about the rest of the band?

MS: Wes is a huge Devils fan, ‘cause he’s from New Jersey. Becca’s also from Jersey, a fairweather fan, “Oh did they win?” [laughs]. Everyone puts up with it, that’s probably accurate. Listening to us talking about it at dinners and stuff. If they win, we’re happy and they’re also supportive if we’re going through hard times too.

Jess: How are you coping with the NHL lockout?

MS: …well I’ve been waiting for somebody to ask me about this [laughs]. It’s been really tough on us. We have our fantasy hockey league, it’s been on hold for a bit. The hardest part is that I’ve been boycotting my Bruins merchandise, which is a good portion of my wardrobe. I’m in just the apathetic stage of “Okay, who needs those bums…” Every night I’m home in my apartment, “Oh the Nets are playing…” then I watch 30 seconds of it and I’m like, “What am I doing? I can’t get into this.”


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