Reverb: Neon Indian


Words and photography by Kevin Duffel

Only two types of people fly across the world to hide out in total isolation: fugitive terrorists and reclusive artists. When Alan Palomo, mastermind composer behind Neon Indian, packed his bags for Helsinki to record Era Extraña, the follow up to 2009’s Psychic Chasms, he proved to fall under the latter. Not that he went there to create some shamelessly contrived PR back-story for the album; he was just seeking an unfamiliar and distraction-free work place. And shit, you’d have to be a real pretentious dick head to think it didn’t work for the best. With plenty of retro video game samples hidden beneath fluorescent swirls of vintage synths and catchy vocals, the album—which sounds as if some long lost John Hughes movie soundtrack was remixed and recorded on a dusty old 16 bit Sega Genesis cartridge—is a blissed out mix of nostalgic tones and ’80s hooks.

Right before he and his band played to a packed audience in San Diego, Palomo graciously greeted me backstage with a shot of Patron and an ice-cold Pacifico (hot damn, what a gentleman!) to discuss video games, skitching on cars, the new album, and more.

Hex Girlfriend by Neon Indian

First off, what’s the worst question you’ve ever been asked in an interview? Something you never wanna talk about again—I don’t wanna make the mistake of asking you the same damn thing you hate talking about.
Anything that involves the term “chillwave.” I think the worst question I ever got was, “What is it about the South and rural Texas that just spawns chillwave artists?” It just felt bizarrely out of context. What do you say, like, “Yeah, it’s all that barbecue and weed,” ya know? It just doesn’t really make any sense.

Now that that’s out of the way, this being a skate magazine, have you ever hopped on a board?
I have, actually. It was my brother that got me into it. It’s funny because I think I was a little bit too shy to do anything even remotely athletic, so I just had a little Tech Deck. Unfortunately I broke the one serious board that I ever owned—I was trying to pull the Back To The Future trick—you know, where you’d grab onto the back of a truck, and gain speed, and then eventually just whiz off in your own direction? Well, my dad was leaving for work and I asked if I could grab onto the back of his car, but like an idiot I did it while he was in park. He was barely pulling out into the street, so he goes in reverse, and the board just slides under me and slips right underneath the wheel. And for a second it’s supporting the entire back weight of the car. He kept driving for a couple of feet while the skateboard was under there, and I’m like, “Dad, wait, wait, wait.” And when he pulled back it just snapped completely. Serves me right for trying to pull the Back To The Future II trick.

Oh man. You needed the hover board.
Yeah, exactly. You can’t do it without the hover board. And the self-tying Nikes, while I’m at it.

Those are so awesome. They’re actually making them for wide release soon.
Yeah, totally. I can’t wait. They bought the patent for it years ago. They’ve been sitting on this project for such a long time. They look so cool. Somebody actually bought the first proto pair for like 16 grand or something.