ELECTRIC POWOW: Q&A With Neon Indian



Dylan_LongBY DYLAN LONG Alan Palomo, AKA Neon Indian, has spent the last six years making music that sounds like an ’80s dance party taking place inside of a lava lamp, so it’s no wonder why the Flaming Lips collaborated with him for 2011’s The Flaming Lips With Neon Indian EP. VEGA INTL. Night School, his latest LP, is a kaleidoscopic blend of gooey synths and funky rhythms backed by Palomo’s ’80s-esque high-octave vocals. The Monterrey, Mexico-born 27-year-old is currently in the midst of tour in support of Night School which stops at Union Transfer on Sunday. Last week we got Palomo on the horn to discuss all things Neon and Indian. DISCUSSED: WTF is a Neon Indian, exactly; LSD; his old college band Ghost Hustler; MySpace; VEGA; Hall & Oates and his father the Mexican pop star.

PHAWKER: Tell me how the band name came to be. What does it mean and why did you choose it? I read that an old GF came up with the name, the same person that “I Should Have Taken Acid With You” was written for. Please explain the circumstances behind that song and the name of the band.

ALAN PALOMO: What you read up on is pretty much it, at the time I was working on my other older project VEGA and essentially the name came about when I was with my first band right at the beginning of college called Ghost Hustler. In mock  Neon-Indian--Vega-Intl-Night-School-1400pixels_800retaliation, my girlfriend said “Well if you’re gonna have a band I’m gonna have a band and it’s gonna be called Neon Indian.” Her and her friends didn’t play any instruments so the MySpace page kinda just sat there blank for a few years, and sometime later when I wrote the first song that would later become a project, given so much of the subject matter was about her and just in general at that time in my life, it made perfect sense to name the project after this make believe project from high school that didn’t quite materialize.

PHAWKER: Lastly do you feel that psychedelics has expanded your consciousness in ways that have been useful to you as an artist or a creative person? Or is it just a party drug for you?

ALAN PALOMO: Well you know, I do psychedelics very very little, over the years there’s been a perception built up around me like “Whoa that guy probably does a lot of acid.” I don’t use it in the studio, in fact I think in general any kind of stimulant or psychotropic tends to diminish my ability to determine if the ideas are worth exploring or not, ‘cause it makes kinda everything interesting, it puts a lens over the general idea of songwriting. However early on when you’re a teenager and you’re filling your brain with all these chemicals unbeknownst you’re getting all these permanent side effects and it does a lot to your brain chemistry, I think that to some extent has perhaps changed my worldview, but whether or not it’s powered me as an artist I’m too close to the material to call it.

PHAWKER: So overall more of a recreational use?

ALAN PALOMO: Not even that, recreational would imply that I just do it to get fucked up. There’s something to gain from it but I don’t necessarily use it when I’m getting ready for work.

PHAWKER: You’ve been a big player in the “chillwave” genre/movement for some time now. How have you seen it grow since the inception of Neon Indian, and where do you see it heading?

ALAN PALOMO: I don’t think the genre exists, I think it’s something music journalists sort of coined just because it was a way of cataloging a lack of understanding about the 1980s. I think in general it’s just a silly question that I get asked a lot; I probably won’t give you a good answer because I’m not super connected to whatever you think it 1058is.

PHAWKER: You’re a man of multiple projects, having also been working on the solo project VEGA before merging its sounds with Neon Indian and retiring the separate moniker. At what point, or which specific moment was it that made you realize that VEGA was coming to a halt and that you were going to retire the project?

ALAN PALOMO: Well I initially set out to write a VEGA record and at some point I came to the conclusion that I was splitting hairs production-wise, you know certain production components for one project were spilling into the other and vice versa. I just realized this didn’t warrant the separate monikers anymore and that it was more productive just to melt them into one idea, ‘cause as the years went on I realized my sensibilities were aligning themselves into one particular lane and it didn’t require the two separate ideas. In some ways I put it in the album title just because I wanted it to at the very least pay tribute to the idea of that project, to be like a celebration of that merger.

PHAWKER: So this wasn’t a bittersweet decision, you were on board with it?

ALAN PALOMO: Oh yeah of course! It was ultimately my decision, I mean if I wanted to write a VEGA record I could’ve written a VEGA record, but I think there’s enough components of VEGA in this new album that it keeps fans happy as well as myself.

PHAWKER: You recently came out with an eight and a half minute short film called “Slumlord Rising” for the song “Slumlord” off your newest record. What was the creative process and vision for the film’s storyline and its production?

ALAN PALOMO: Well I feel like I’ve always talked about film in relation to my music and how I perceive or conceptualize it, I just wanted there to be an actual visual accompaniment that would be a direct expansion of what a lot of the concepts of the record were. I think it’s one thing to talk to someone like “Yeah, I love movies!” but it’s another thing to actually say “if VEGA INTL. Night School was a film, this is perhaps some of the things you would see.” And for me it was really just about trying to create an entire sort of movie narrative, and for me and Tim (the co-director) to have the answers as to what it all means, who these characters are, what their relationships are, and what the general plot of this film is, but we only really wanted to present a tiny excerpt and to give you none of the answers. So for me it was really a dream come true to finally get to materialize something like that.

PHAWKER: So it sounds like you’re happy with the end product?lips-neon-indian

ALAN PALOMO: Oh yeah, definitely.

PHAWKER: You were born in Monterrey Mexico, and I read somewhere that your father was, for a time, a Mexican pop star and that you sample some of his music into yours. What can you tell me about your father’s music and his career, and what did you learn from his triumphs and his mistakes?

ALAN PALOMO: Well my father, he put out two records, one in the late 70s and one in the early 80s, they varied from a lot of the orchestral balladry that you would’ve come to expect from Mexico around that time. That eventually began taking on this more ’80s Hall and Oates electro-rock sort of sound. By the time my brother and I were born, that kind of arc in his career was behind him. He still performs live and that’s definitely what his vocation is and what it’s always gonna be, but I would say I learned a lot as my own project unfurled. When I was growing up I had different interests, my mom was in broadcast journalism so I was super into that, and I was sorta way into movies and didn’t start working on music until college but the things I’ve learned about his career have presented themselves more in recent years when I ask him about stuff or I’ll tell him some anecdote about what’s going on with the band and you’ll have some parallels happen based off of what he was doing then.