by Janice Chou
Neon Indian is the musical side project of Alan Palomo from the 80’s inspired synth-pop band VEGA. Despite sharing a key component (namely, composer Alan Palomo) Neon Indian is a musical deviation from VEGA. Neon Indian’s sound blurs grinding guitars and synths and old samples underneath somber lyrics with a dance hook.
What started as an apology song astutely titled, “Should Have Taken Acid With You,” Neon Indian has flourished into an audio/visual wonder as Palomo partnered with video artist Alicia Scardetta to contribute to Neon Indian’s live visuals. Neon Indian attempted to remain anonymous and successfully alluded the public before their popularity caught up to them.
Since then Neon Indian has received the prestigious, “Best New Music” merit badge from Pitchfork and has gained serious notoriety for two Grizzly Bear, “Cheerleader” remixes dubbed: Sega Genesis P-Orridge and Studio 6669.
Alan Paomo discusses with Free Williamsburg both VEGA and Neon Indian and his artistic plans to stimulate and fascinate (the drug addled and sober alike) New York crowd at his upcoming shows. Neon Indian will be playing at Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday, December 17th with openers Tigercity and Awesome New Republic. Doors at 6PM, show at 9PM. Cover is $5.
1. Does your music with VEGA influence your music as Neon Indian? And vice versa?
It definitely takes a bit of coordination. The initial desire to conceive separate projects tends to be kind of compulsive to begin with so most of the planning and distribution of time happens after the fact. I’ll get majority stoked about the concept behind it, write some songs and make a band page for it before having that realization of, “Oh shit! I gotta play this live.” That definitely happened with Neon Indian.
I initially didn’t have any particular expectations and just wanted to write these songs in rapid procession as kind of a creative exercise. In terms of musical influence though, I’d say they only really bleed into each other on rare occasion. And I think much of it is just dictated by the fact that at times, I can be a bit unconscious of my isms and idiosyncrasies when it comes to writing music.
Overall though, they seem to come from such separate places that I find it pretty easy to keep them on their own creative paradigms.
2. With both of your musical projects being so popular in their own respects, do you find it difficult to balance the two — especially with your tour this fall and winter?
Weighing the tours and writing is definitely a challenge. I’ll finish a Neon Indian remix and then immediately get two for VEGA so I’ll be forced to shift gears all the while packing gear onto a van, airplane, etc. Keeps me on my toes for sure. And next year when the VEGA LP unfolds it’ll be even more so delirium inducing.
I like working like that though. Lets me stay in my head for a while and not internalize any of the exposure. Being conscious of where I’m at on a given tour or fresh from releasing some music gets to be creatively arresting. I’d rather just keep writing till I find a good stopping point and the only thing I’ll want to do is disappear in a
mysterious boating accident only to re-immerge six months later with no recollection of my travels and a penance to write mod jams. I day-dream about having a mod band quite often.
3. As people began connecting the dots and realized you were in both Neon Indian and VEGA, did you want to keep the musical projects separate?
Well my initial desire to preserve anonymity for Neon Indian was based on the notion that I didn’t want people to judge the project preemptively. I figured I’d just let it develop on its own and see what kind of impression it would garner over time.
4. If you could have it your way, would people have ever noticed the connection?
Eventually it became more of a nuisance to do that once I started doing interviews, playing live, and overall just exposing myself to my audience. These days I guess I don’t mind it so much though.
It seems like people are equally supportive of both and the projects tend to just reflect on me as a song writer, through whichever incarnation that might be. That in particular has been a new thing to deal with; when someone associates a name rather than just an ambiguous entity with a musical project.
My only desire to really keep them that separate in terms of associations would be to let the personalized aesthetic of the band sink in, or to not have them be described in comparison to each other as a, “trippy-er VEGA’ or a, “dance-ier Neon Indian.”
5. When Neon Indian first gained notoriety for its music and piqued curiosity among bloggers and listeners, how did you feel to remain anonymous as everyone applauded your music?
It was definitely weird in a fun way. I’d walk around Austin and randomly hear a conversation pop up at a restaurant, “I think they live in Austin but it’s tough to say, I think brother met them at a party.”
It almost became an inside joke amongst friends as the speculations became more absurd. I’d read blog posts saying things like MGMT, Gang Gang Dance, and at some point I think I read the, “Brooklyn girl was St. Vincent.” I almost wanted to put out a fake press statement saying it was Jonathan Taylor Thomas or someone completely arbitrary like that to blow people’s minds.
But to even have people draw comparisons to bands like was a very flattering thing. I had my fair share of fun with it but it was also nice to reveal myself and start talking about the music first hand.
6. What was your reaction to the shout out by Grizzly Bear? Did you have any connection to Grizzly Bear’s music before Ed Droste pointed Neon Indian out? Did you have any music inclinations to remix Grizzly Bear prior?
I was tremendously humbled. I think that was the first real moment of realization that people were really responding to the songs. To have a peer like Ed in a musical community I’ve followed since I heavily got into music early on in high school even acknowledge the fact that its floating around out there and that he’s diggin’ it was a really great push of encouragement.
I was actually in Melbourne hanging out with Ben [Vanguarde of Miami Horror] doing some vocals for his album when it happened. We were eating breakfast and I saw like 20 re-Tweets pop up about it. I messaged Ed shortly after and the idea to remix some stuff with both Neon Indian and VEGA just popped up. I knew then I’d have my work cut out for me when I got back.
The remix thing happened shortly after that. It didn’t start off as two remixes of the same song which is kind of funny. I finished a rough cut of the ‘6669’ version and decided I wanted to tweak a few things. I ended up pushing it so far that what I got was a different song entirely. ‘Sega Genesis P-Orridge’ version was kind of just a happy accident in that way. Overall though I was happy with the results. There’s just so much to that song that it was pretty easy for it to inspire musical tangents to build off of.
7. Do you collaborate in any way on Alicia’s visuals? Does Alicia provide you with any musical feedback?
Well, when I initially invited her on to work on Neon Indian, we had the idea of making it a feedback process in which we’d send each other tidbits of content and just random media in general to fuel the writing process.
It was a bit pre-emptive on my part given that she’s heavily involved in school and that unfortunately our schedules don’t really intersect very well. It might be something that happens more actively in the future but for the time being I’m focusing on just the music.
I have about 3 music videos in production for Psychic Chasms that are slated for release early next year in collaborate with a few filmmaker friends I’ve always wanted to work with though.
For the upcoming New York shows in particular one of them is coming up with us to do visuals for the live performances. He recently built his own video synthesizer amongst a few other crazy toys so that’ll be a pretty unique show. If it goes over pretty well we’ll hopefully make it a regular thing for the shows. The kind of stuff he pulls of kind of looks like what a Commodore 64 being dipped in sulfuric acid would give you if you patched some burnt RCA cables to it: lots of geometric static patterns and nauseating saturations. I remember when we did it at Fun Fun Fun Fest I’d periodically get stuck staring at it during the songs instead of facing the audience. Definitely fun to look at. Hopefully I’ll stay focused this time around.