LSTN 11: Neon Indian
Neon Indian is Alan Palomo, a Texas native whose joke band eventually became a real, and a really successful, one. Neon Indian's track "6669" is featured on LSTN #11, and is also playing this Sunday's Secret Generator Series show in Boston. We caught with Palomo recently, right after he'd picked up keys to his new apartment in Brooklyn.
What prompted you to move to NY?
Psychic Chasms was written in Austin, and it was this bizarre alienating year. The nature of what I wanted to do after writing that record and being on the road for a while was to be somewhere where I could facilitate my creativity a little better. It made sense because a lot of the people I work with are out here. It’s kind of bizarre in that half the things that have happened for this record wouldn’t have come to fruition if I had already been in New York.
What do you mean when you say it was an 'alienating year' when you were Austin?
Well, I’m not dogging on the town itself, but it was weird year for me. I had a lot of friends, and when I moved I thought I had a lot of connections, but I felt like I stepped into a situation where everyone was already established in their own rhythm. I had the sensation of being the fifth wheel and on top of that, I didn’t have a car, so I was just taking the bus to class or spending copious amount of time in my room. From that spawned this lull that eventually came to spawn Neon Indian.
Do you think a period of boredom is necessary for creativity?
Oh, absolutely. There’s this situation where people perpetuate who you are back at you, and you hang out with your friends, who are always sort of reminding you how you fit into this community. So when you lose that, you’re thrown into your own head for a while and are forced to rummage around.
What kind of influences do you have?
Todd Rundgren is one of then. He’s one of those guys that personifies perfect knowledge between writing pop singles but then also having this other side who writes this 30-minute epic synth/instrumental track. To have that dichotomy in sounds is really impressive to me. More contemporary influences are Ariel Pink and the Doldrums. When I listened to that stuff in high school, it got me thinking about recording lo-fi music and how it’s really more of a narrative process–that idea of creating that other dimension where the music isn’t dictated by the lyrics. There is something weird about the sound that makes you feel like you’re listening to it from some lost AM radio broadcast or hearing a song reverberating from another room.
And the name Neon Indian came from one of your friends' joke band?
Right around the time I had my project Ghosthustler, almost in mock retaliation, my friend was like, “Oh well, if you have a band called Ghosthustler, I’ll have one called Neon Indian.” If I had to theorize, it would be a reference to that Indian festival “holi.” What resonated with me was that so much of the subject matter when I was writing was centered around that time in my life lyrically, so it only made sense to name it after this high school band that was conceived as a weird inside joke.
Were you making music in high school?
Not really. I bought an acoustic guitar like everyone did in high school. I was more of a film guy, which is what I studied in college before I went on my permanent hiatus touring with Neon Indian. I remember my main frustration in film school was that I was picking up theory and not using creative concepts. You never get to do anything until you have the resources, and my school definitely wasn’t giving me those, so music had this immediacy that let me finish a song in a week and gave me a feeling of accomplishment. I ended up needing that sensation all the time.
How do you name your songs?
There’s always a play on words I guess, because punning is something I do with my friends. My band and I rip on anything from porno-parody movie titles to seeing street signs and ripping with it. So titles are some all-inclusive short phrase that summarizes all the feelings in that song. “Terminally Chill” is so sarcastic. If I can coin it, then it becomes a song title. It’s a summation that sets up what’s going to happen. “6669” is an inside joke about the most brutal of sexual positions.
Your album Psychic Chasms was recently re-released with new tracks. What prompted that?
It was never really all that available to begin with, it was always on backorder on Amazon.com. There’s nothing more frustrating than playing Jimmy Fallon and then anyone who’s seen that has no idea where to buy the album. So you’re forced to type in “Psychic Chasms + rapid share” on Google. I always wanted to have a proper tangible packaging for it because it's such an intimate thing. With the remix record, it’s really the result of a year of travelling and meeting bands and creating connections there, and having a communal friendly approach to let these people I love rework these songs. That’s really to me the purpose of this. Everyone’s already heard the record, so that’s not really my objective. To have it be in this particular incarnation that also comes coupled with all these remixes–I’m excited about it.