S.o.t.r. contributor Charles Baxter talked to Neon Indian front man and composer Alan Palomo backstage after a fun filled, energetic show at Fitzgerald’s. Alan Palomo is a bright young man from Austin, Texas son of an 80’s Mexican pop star. Talking to him he seems a lot older and wiser, with his expansive vocabulary and fluid way of speaking, than his actual age, which is twenty-three. He has had a short but notable career before forming Neon Indian he first created the band Ghost Hustler, then made his ongoing side project, the band Vega, which shot him onto the Indie electronic music scene. Neon Indian was started about three years ago with his first album Psychic Chiasmus. The album brought him notable successes the music website Pitchfork put it as number 14 on the 50 best albums of the year. Neon Indian has been grouped in with other slower psychedelic electronic artist in the new genre known as Chill Wave, which has gained some popularity. Neon Indian second album Era Extrana which is Spanish for it was strange which is a fair assessment of his new album which mixes his old style of psychedelic electronic music with rockier and more electronic melodies. When we finally sat down after I stole him from a backstage party you could see that he was still full of life after singing and pounding away at his keyboards for an hour and a half.
s.o.t.r.-I like that in your new album it feels like you were trying for something different but remaining faithful to the old neon Indian style. Was this your intention?
Neon Indian- I mean at least its such a personal project that I can never really divorce it and view it objectively, but the only criteria that I have ever had for it was that it just needs to always be shooting from the hips so too speak in that I’m just kind of expelling ideas that always seem just immediate and transparent and just completely indicative of what ever im listening to and feeling at the moment. Its rare that I just ever plan out that this is going to be this kind of record its just like, franticly write songs that all kind of feel like this conceptual hole and then eventually, when I’m done with it I can be like oh it was this kind of recorded.
s.o.t.r.-After you released your first album you were often grouped with other Chill Wave artists such as Washed Out did you feel like in your second album you had to differentiate yourself from him?
No, I mean at the end of the day I have always kind of had to sort keep that mind set of just writing what I would been writing if nobody would have even listen to neon Indian in the first place.I fell like that’s the only way I can really do it. I would be lying if I didn’t say obviously I take into consideration that people do have expectations, but my favorite part of doing this is kind of just like screw expectations.
s.o.t.r.-You recorded this album in Finland in the dead of winter why? And how did this shape your new album?
Neon Indian- I think at first my motivations were that it really seemed a lot more conducive to personal development being in some of far away land. It was really sort of just meant to be this thing where I needed to kind of divorce my self from every thing that was going on in New York or even that had gone on in Texas and neon Indian in general. I mean before I was doing neon Indian I think the last job I had was cooking burritos in Austin and taking classes so I can get into the UT film program. I mean there was a lot of stuff going on at the time. I think it was such a drastic leap from one thing to the other that I really just needed to step outside of it for a minute and reassess.
s.o.t.r.-I heard you went to Finland because of the movie Night on Earth by Jim Jarmisch and I had seen that movie and the way the Helsinki was portrayed and I totally understood why you did it.
Neon Indian- Well dude that was the first time that I had ever seen any images of Helsinki and when I went there that’s was kind of exactly what it was like.
s.o.t.r.-I remember what was interesting was in that movie they go to Madrid and Paris then Helsinki which was unusual.
Neon Indian-It’s a beautiful city.
s.o.t.r.-I also heard that you originally wanted to get into film. Are we going to get a Neon Indian film.
Neon Indian-Well I can definitely say that it wouldn’t necessarily be like Chill Wave the movie, but I eventually that’s kind of what I want to get back into. I mean music has been a really bizarre and interesting and fun deviation but I don’t know maybe I can kind of create a combination of the two at some point.
s.o.t.r.-Do you feel that your music reflects your personality? As one reviewer said you “ seem more content with looking in the past than the uncertainty of the future”
Neon Indian-I think in general I don’t really find a comfort zone with music I mean Neon Indian has always kind of just meant to be very personal in the way that these are all impulses that are falling out of me. At the end of the day though I think that part of those impulses are rooted in the desire to do something that I wouldn’t normally want to do. I think any time that I make any sort any type of polarizing musical move its with the intention of completely creating a juxtaposition of anything else I have done and just kind of expanding this little universe that’s supposed to be Neon Indian, Vega or whatever.
s.o.t.r.-You have said you are going to come out with a new Vega album but it seemed to be put on hold
Neon Indian-Well for a little bit, I have been slowly chipping away at it. With Vega its such a labor of love and its so production heavy that I’m always very slowly hashing things out over time. I sort of treat it like someone who has been building a shelf in their attic for a few years. You know every once in a while you go up there and you add a couple more nails and you look at it. But I think now that I have done this second Neon Indian record I really need to build that spice rack and get it out into the world.
s.o.t.r.-Who do you go to for musical advice?
Neon Indian- Well I have a lot of different friends but its funny for the sophomore record there is no really pertinent peace of advice you can get cause everybody says ya it sucks I hope it works out, I think anybody who has ever written one just knows that really the longest process is just getting your self in the state of mind to write music. Everything else just happens by default but I don’t know Wayne Coyne (from the band the Flaming Lips) is a pretty rad person to talk to. I feel like anybody that is rooted in psychedelic music and who has been doing it long enough to be able to look at the lineage and say screw it. Today I’m going to wake up and make this type of music.
s.o.t.r.- where is Neon Indian headed in the future?
Neon Indian- Headed to the future (jokingly). I don’t know I think thats pretty tough to say. Right now im pretty well underway with the third record and kind of have a couple of scatterbrain Ideas for it. You can expect it to be especially loud and bass driven and more so incohesive than Psychic Chasms in its own right, but you can just expect it to be me.
s.o.t.r.-What I liked about your most recent album is that it doesn’t seem rushed. Most bands make their second album on tour, which makes the record not as good as it could be.
Neon Indian- Well, I think in that sense you have to live your life as artfully as possible if that makes sense. I mean you can always tell people you went to Helsinki but the experiences you will have there on a day-to-day basis from waking up and making food for yourself and starring at your instruments and eventually coxing music out of them; that’s always going to be entirely your own.
Interview by: Charles Baxter