Since the release of Psychic Chasms last year, Neon Indian has gone from just a name being tossed around the blogosphere to buzz band to a veritable major player on the electronic scene. His Twitter bio dubs him a “wiley Mexican,” but, having made his mark on the U.S. indie scene, most wouldn’t think of Alan Palomo as a Latin musician in the traditional sense. Palomo talked to us about this in between working on demos in his van and doing sound check for his show at the Metro in Chicago.
Well, with “Latin music” as opposed to “Latin artist” there’s the connotation that the music is trying to tap into certain communities where that music is more prevalent. I consider myself a Latin artist by default. Even though my music isn’t overtly Latin, I have some Mexican pop influences, and there were a lot of Mexican artists in the ’80s doing the synth thing.
You were born in Monterrey and grew up in Texas, where Mexican culture has a very strong presence. Do you still feel a strong connection to that culture?
I lived in Monterrey until I was 6 and even after moving to Texas I visited Monterrey every summer up until very recently. And whenever I went back I found that there was much more of an audience in Monterrey for electronic music than there was in Texas.
Your dad was a musician and had some hits in Mexico back in the day. “Nada puedo hacer por ti” was the jam, at least it was at my house. So, did your dad encourage your musical tendencies and does he support what you’re doing now?
I didn’t have much interest in music until the end of high school. I was more interested in film, which was what I studied in college. Then at some point I went off on a musical tangent. But my dad and brother have been musicians their whole lives, and it’s great to find commonalities with them through music.
“I TRY TO IMAGINE
THE SPACE IN WHICH SOUND EXISTS.”
For me growing up in Texas and beginning to shape my musical tastes in the early ’90s, it was inevitable that my first obsession was Selena. Is there anyone that you’ve completely fanboyed out over?
New Order was the first band I was a total fanboy over. I remember listening to “Bizarre Love Triangle” and just the romantic feeling of being a kid.
Are there any Latin musicians that you follow now?
For me music and film can’t be mutually exclusive. It’s hard to think of song writing without imagining a visual aesthetic. I try to imagine the space in which sound exists. A lot of movies in Spanish have been pretty influential, like Buñuel’s Los Olividados. And later my mom introduced Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu. I’m especially compelled by movies like Amores Perros that penetrate the underbelly of whatever community they are portraying and explore the seedier elements.
Have you ever considered writing a song in Spanish or maybe incorporating some traditional Latin styles in your music?
There are indie acts out there, like El Guincho, doing a great job with that. I have the intention of writing a song in Spanish, but I’ve never actually tried, so we’ll see how it goes. Definitely for the next album, though.
Your sound is sometimes videogame-y. If Psychic Chasms was a video game, which one would it be?
Zombies Ate My Neighbors or Monster Party. Or maybe Super Metroid.
“THE WHOLE THING’S A DELIRIOUS MESS.”
You’ve been super busy in the past year or so. It kind of seems like you’ve been on tour forever. Are you tired yet?
Well, yes. But this is the homestretch. The tour’s up in November, then it’s on to working on the new album.
What’s the weirdest thing that has happened on tour?
Weird things happen all the time. Whether it’s getting lost or just having weird interactions with people, like going to a party where everyone’s drinking out of a punchbowl spiked with acid. The whole thing’s a delirious mess.
Catch Neon Indian at this year’s CMJ and watch the trippy video for “6669 (I don’t know if you know).”