Sunny Sounds from the Heart of Winter

Three years ago Sydney residents Chris Stracey and Jack Glass, the duo known as Bag Raiders, were hard at work making mix tapes for their friends. They enjoyed the process so much, they started a production company and were soon doing remixes for bands like Cut Copy, Midnight Juggernauts, and Kid Sister. Inspired to make their own music, they put together their eponymous debut over the next couple of years. “Shooting Stars,” the single they released in 2009 while they were working on the Bag Raiders album, was an underground hit that garnered global recognition. When the album was released in Australia last year, it entered the pop charts at #7, making them instant stars. After a whirlwind tour of the world to support the record, Stracey and Glass decided to relocate to Los Angeles. SOMA spoke to them while they were working at the studio they’re in the process of putting together. The conversation was punctuated by mysterious samples the pair triggered while they moved equipment around the room.

When did you move to LA, and why?

Jack Glass: We’ve been here about a month. When we toured, it seemed like a good music city and a great place to hang out. We wanted a change in scenery; we’re planning to make our next record here. It took a long time to put together the studio, and, now that we have it up and running, we have to go back to Sydney to do some shows. We plan to be back in the new year for an indefinite amount of time.
Chris Stracey: We met a guitar player who has a studio in his backyard. He’s away on tour, so we shipped over a bunch of synths and built our little thing inside his space.

How did you meet? Did you start a band right off?

J. G.: We went to the same high school and hung out at orchestra and choir practice. We were both big band nerds. I grew up playing keys and drums. I don’t even know when I started, but I was pretty young. I wanted to be an elephant trainer, but there aren’t too many elephants in Australia. We were both in bands in high school; most of them never lasted long enough to even have a name.
C.S.: I played violin, guitar, and clarinet, not a great rock instrument, but I moved on to the saxophone. We had no career plan. At university, I majored in Digital Media—sound, video, photography. I know how to do a bit of everything.

What was the turning point?

C.S.: We had a lot of friends putting on dance parties and started doing mix tapes for them. We didn’t have enough money to buy the records we wanted to put on the compilations, so we stole them from friends’ collections. They called us Bag Raiders, so that’s what we called the first tape. The name stuck when we started doing production.
J.G.: It took about a year to make our album. We had snippets and fragments going in all directions, then we finally knocked it into shape in about three months. We built a studio in the loft of an old horse-riding academy, above the stables.
C.S.: We recorded in the dead of winter. The weather was gloomy, so a lot of the songs became quite sunny. We spent a lot of time wishing it was summer, and that came out on the record.

How have you evolved since you first began playing music together?

C. S.: Our eyes have gotten bigger from staring at computer screens too long, and our ears have gotten worse from listening to loud techno, so we’re evolving and devolving at the same time.