Neon Indian is the ongoing musical project of Mexico born, Texas raised, Brooklyn based Alan Palomo. It initially began as a creative exercise. After his stint as a teenaged, newly-devoted electronic musician in his first band Ghosthustler, he moved to Austin and laid the groundwork for his next disco-centric endeavour, VEGA. In the midst of writing an EP, he found that the tedium of focusing on high fi club production, in turn was killing the spontaneity and fun of just simply making music.
One morning during his writing rut, he was stirred by a dream in which he took acid with his high school girlfriend. As the psychotropic took hold he was suddenly awoke and for the first few moments of the day, he had to evaluate if he was in fact actually there or hallucinating. He was so taken by the experience, he reached out to her and the two of them arranged to meet one winter break in San Antonio, where they grew up. He would be unable to make the trip. Feeling the guilt of flaking out, he played with a keyboard for a few hours and hashed out an apology tune to send her titled, “Should Have Taken Acid With You”. He realized that instead of attempting to reverse engineer his favorite pop songs on a dollar menu budget, he could embrace the unsanded surfaces and cragular fidelity of this kind of sound. As an exercise, he proposed to never spend more than a day or two per song and write entirely from personal experience. What followed next was a song a day until completing a full album.
His 2009 debut Psychic Chasms, placed him on various year end lists including the likes of Pitchfork and rolling stone. Neon Indian’s idiosyncratic approach to writing tape affected electronic music helped define an internet music genre explicated by such pop essayists as Simon Reynolds in his book, Retromania. It’s doobie brothers on peyote wonk would swagger its way to various television performances such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
For his sophomore album, Alan opted write in Helsinki, a favorite destination on tour. It’s lack of consistent sunlight and sub temperature weather made for a more haunted, disembodied narrative. He recorded it and mixed it in upstate New York with Dave Friddman at his remote Tarbox studios. During the Friddman sessions he also collaborated with The Flaming Lips on their ep ‘The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian’. Influenced by cyberpunk manga and the sarcastic narcissism of songs like Jesus and Marychain’s “The Living End”, he finished his techno jerk, post-punk follow-up, Era Extraña. For it’s release he co-designed a synthesizer called the PAL198X with Texas based noisemaker company Bleep Labs. It’s 8-bit shoe gaze and robo guitar blitzes would take him on an exhaustive campaign ending in a 3am performance at Primavera sound festival in Barcelona.
After two back to back records Alan retreated to his Greenpoint apartment for a palette cleanse. His longtime friend and visual collaborator Johnny Woods and him, made a MOCA commissioned animated short film titled Outer Osmo Ghost Mode. The experience rekindled his first love and focus; film, and unbeknownst to him would begin to influence the broad strokes of his next musical move. In the downtime until now, he traded anecdotes with Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations, sang songs in renaissance garb on Yo Gabba Gabba, wrote a single for Grand Theft Auto 5, and gave a Ted Talk at Martha’s Vineyard.
Throughout his smaller more film related projects he began to imagine a narrative love letter to the timeless, chintzy allure of his years in NYC and a confessional to the habitual behaviors it brought out in him. Once again, he would come full circle at the realization that while attempting to write new VEGA material, that the developing direction of neon indian had found a busy intersection at which the two could meet and ultimately merge into one fast lane. He had also begun to collaborate with his older brother, Jorge Palomo, on more guitar-centric songs and began to tread into funk. The narrative of his album began to actualize when his brother took a job in the house band of a cruise. In order to finalize his brother’s contributions, he set up a small studio in a cabin one magic week aboard the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship.
Alan, Jorge, and Josh, their engineer worked as the ship traversed the Bahamas, docking in nassau, and eventually making its way back to Florida. Upon his return, Alan had the songs that would be the blue print to develop the rest. The rhythms got faster. The baeleric influences more apparent. And the approach to songwriting more elaborate. He recorded at various location in New York including DFA’s Plantain Studios, Midnight Studios in Greenpoint, Rad studios in Bushwick, and his own home. Whatever had the right gear for the right tune. New York is a great place to be your own boss but certainly not your own employee. At some point, the distractions that fueled the rakish, altered misadventures peppered throughout in the lyrics of these new songs would prove too apparent. He then relocated to Austin for the early winter and set up shop at Pure X’s practice space in Austin. He would finish most of the writing there. Upon his return, he immediately pinged back out of the city to record some songs at Ben Allen’s studio in Atlanta. As he loaded the equipment for the drive down, he slipped and cracked his face on a rack of equipment, leaving 9 new stitches clefting through his right eyebrow and a fresh sloping scar that seemed to create a sideways exclamation mark. After his stint there he returned to Brooklyn to attempt to finish locally. He teamed up with Alex Epton to mix the album at his home in south Brooklyn and they worked for nearly 2 months until it’s completion.
They’d often play trashy b movies and new york flicks while working to see if the visuals were thematically aligning with the music. Did this song fit over Abel Ferrera’s Ms. 45? Was this interlude remnant of the punk show in After Hours? More than ever, the goal of this album was intended to be a film score to an imaginary film playing indefinitely at the neglected theaters or porno booths of Alan’s head. “I work 9 to 5 but 9pm to 5am.” he joked when asked about his ideal hours. Only when working with players did he reconfigure his habits to suit the work. And this record had many. Amongst some of the musicians were Morgan Wiley of Midnight Magic, Nick Millhiser of Holy Ghost, his own drummer Jason Faries, and his brother, of course. Upon it’s completion, he noted that “most of what I’ve learned about human nature in my twenties has happened after dark. People are just kind of more honest then. More deliberate. I like to call the places I go to Night Schools.” He would finish his record in June, after on and off 3 years of writing ranging from casual to marathon. To celebrate the marriage of his previous project’s aesthetic into one and his eureka regarding it’s themes, he dubbed this double album, VEGA INTL. Night School.