Fun Fest Interviews: Neon Indian

FFFFest2009_neonindianWe continue our Fun Fest interviews today with a few questions and answers from now local Neon Indian. We had the chance to speak with founding member and mastermind of the group Alan Palomo. We talk to Alan about his new project, his work with VEGA, and what his future plans are in this crazy musical world he lives in. Follow the jump for to read this really fun interview. And no, we don’t ask him about video games…


ATH: So I hear that you guys were tearing things up at CMJ. How has that experience been?


AP: It was pretty wild. It’s definitely very different from SXSW. That was sort of the universal thing we were anticipating but it really doesn’t have the same sort of homely vibe to it. It’s hard to navigate through the city and if you’re playing a lot of shows it can be almost like complete insanity. The actual venues and the show experiences themselves were actually completely amazing, but getting around can be hard. We did about 4-5 VEGA shows, 1 official Neon Indian show and I did a couple DJ sets apart from that. It was awesome, pretty wild and we got to see some really cool bands. It’s definitely a different environment from what you would find in a normal festival. The official Neon Indian show in Brooklyn ended up being really great too. It’s kind of surreal now that the album is out and kids come out to the show and just chant all of the lyrics. We got all kinds of crazy crowd participation and that always makes the live show go a lot more smoothly.


ATH: Similar question, and you touched on this. I’ve never had the chance to make it out to CMJ in the NYC and am curious what it’s like. What would be pros and cons of CMJ and then maybe compared to SXSW? You don’t have to state preference if you don’t want… but as an artist, which would you pick?


AP: I don’t know, but I’m obviously going to have a bit of bias since I’ve been living in Austin for the last several years. This last SXSW was actually the first time I was living in Austin and playing the festival as well. Obviously you’ve got more of a hometown vibe there because you can play a show and then go back to your apartment and take a shower or nap before going to the next place. When you’re at a place like CMJ it’s kind of difficult to do that. Each festival really has its own particular charm. The one in New York you just play these shows that are packed to the gills at venues that you’ve always heard about or you’ll be at this house right in the lower east side that’s like 4 stories tall. CMJ has that very cosmopolitan vibe. At the same time, the pros of playing SXSW is that it just has more of that homely appeal. You can play shows at venues that you’ve played plenty of shows at and you trust them. Getting from one place to the next is another big plus at SXSW. You can just walk next door after you’re finished playing and you’re favorite band is doing a set there. So you just have a lot more time to do things at SXSW since it’s all kind of centralized in one specific area.


ATH: You’re now working on your 3rd group at the young age of 21. Any plans to ever slow down? or put all your eggs in one basket?


AP: I generally need to have these multiple monikers to stay creative especially since I have such a short attention span when it comes to music. I have these multiple monikers that I can bounce back and forth to so things never really get stale to me. Maintaining creativity gets a lot easier when you look at things that way. At the end of the day if VEGA gets a little redundant, I can just sort of switch over to different brain waves and start working on a Neon Indian song. I can sort of change my approach in that way to keep things interesting. You definitely have a big learning curve being in so many projects and it’s been a big lifestyle change now that Neon Indian has this crazy momentum behind it. I’m also 21 and I figure while I got it in me I better do it ya know? We have some big plans next year to not only put out the first VEGA record but to put out another full length Neon Indian album. It just seems like it won’t really be slowing down within any foreseeable future. I’m going to stay as busy as possible for at least the next 2-3 years to the point of exhausting myself to complete insanity.”


ATH: I read online and watched a video of you guys making it onto an ABC news music feature. Gotta say, I laughed out loud when I heard news anchor Charles Gibson say Neon Indian. Did you have a similar reaction? Do you think the world is catching on when ABC takes note?


AP: I actually though it was pretty hilarious as well. My first initial reaction was just that I never thought in my life that I would hear Charlie Gibson utter my name for anything that wasn’t somehow some horrible crime or bankrobbery. Of all things, Neon Indian somehow got this guys attention through Pitchfork. It’s kind of strange especially because they have to find a way to make it palatable to a completely new and different audience. It’s kind of strange because they are really reaching out to a diverse and wide audience with something like that. Obviously it was a lot smaller, but I remember the first time ABC did kind of a local Austin thing on VEGA at SXSW and it seemed very strange as well. They are taking these sound bytes from you that are like the most simplistic and over generalized terms and it’s kind of funny to me. It’s like I wonder what moms think about Neon Indian? Or the guy who’s waking up at 7 to go to work and just so happens to be watching ABC and hears that. I wonder what kind of reaction comes from him? He’s saying: “Neon Indian. Hmmm.” I’ve always thought about that.


ATH: At Fun Fest, you’re playing with both Neon Indian and VEGA which you said you did at CMJ. What did you do or what are you planning to do to mix things up or keep things interesting if you will?


AP: The approach to the VEGA show is definitely a pristine pop approach. It’s a very interactive show and it’s all about getting people into it. It sort of feels like a DJ set in that you always have this kick drum going and it has very few pauses. Differentiating that from Neon Indian is the addition of Leanne, who is in a band called Fight Bite from Denton, on keyboards. With Neon Indian we are trying to contextualize these songs that are completely lo-fi that we recorded in my bedroom. We’ve tried to find the right way to reincarnate them in front of a stage in such a way that it can be performed in front of people. Even then, it has a lot of strange elements, sonic interludes and a lot of strange loops that come in and out of the show. You’ll have these moments where one song starts ending and you’re incorporating sounds from the next one. It seems like Neon Indian is a lot more free form and little bit of theatrics as well. One of the main things we’ve been trying to get together are the visuals but obviously that’s kind of taken a little bit of time to put together since our scheduling and touring aren’t really allowing it. So we do have some commonalities between the two sets and it has been a work in progress to make them as distinct as possible. You may see a time when they don’t resemble each other at all. For now they are different just in the way that we approach the music and the addition of another member.


ATH: Ever bust out any Ghosthustler hits with either project?


AP: That’s funny because I actually have gotten a few requests for it at shows but it would just feel really weird performing those songs. I still love them and I revisit them every now and again, but probably not live. That’s actually not a bad idea though. We might have one date randomly with no one expecting it and we get back on stage and play some Ghosthustler live.


ATH: So sticking with Fun Fest… Crystal Castles are on the bill. Has that hatchet been buried after the Dallas debacle? Do you expect any confrontation or “words” to be exchanged? You can say no comment if you want…


AP: I did notice that. It’s actually funny because we’re playing on the same stage as them but we’re also playing with them in L.A. a few nights before. I’m also pretty curious to see how it pans out as well. It really does already feel like such a long time ago with all the stuff I have going on right now. At the same time, I try to be professional about things under any circumstances and this is just another one of those things that comes up every now and again. Hopefully they’ll have a similar approach about it. Obviously I’ll get texts from my friends going: “Oh my god, I saw that Crystal Castles are on the bill! Are you going to start some beef?” It’s not like I’m going to go on stage wearing a “fuck Crystal Castles” shirt or anything like that. To this day I still really enjoy their music so I’m actually kind of looking forward to seeing them play live. I don’t think we’ll have too much to worry about with so many people backstage anyway. It won’t make much of a difference.


ATH: Yeah it’s kind of been funny to see how some people in Austin and Dallas have sort of turned on Crystal Castles after everything that happened. Like how dare anyone mess with one of our own ya know?


AP: Yeah that was one of the first moments that I kind of got warm and fuzzy in terms of feeling like Texas and Austin and Dallas as places to call home. When you can get an immediate response from your friends and people that do blogs who can say that this is an injustice. It’s really cool to know that you have people out there who are looking out for ya. It’s great that people have your back in situations like those.


ATH: You’ve been in Austin for a while now,let’s get you out of here on a rapidfire round….


Best venue


Mohawk. At least best experience playing there.


Best jukebox


I’ll say Creekside for now.  Oh and that place on the east side Scoot Inn.


Best local beer or beverage


Shiner. I really miss that and you can’t get it anywhere on tour. It’s so cheap in Texas as well. And actually the best white russian I’ve ever had in a very long time was at Barcelona before I had a DJ set there. That’s got to be my best drink experience before going on stage.


Local festival


Aw dude Fun Fun Fun Fest.


Music store


Backspin Records. They have the best dance cuts from early 80s electro-funk to that first wave of early disco.


Thanks again Alan and we hope to see you in town during Fun Fest. You can catch Neon Indian at 6:35 on November 1st on the blue stage. Alan’s other project VEGA will be on the same stage earlier in the day at 3:35.


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