On a different note, you mainly play and record everything by yourself. What’s your process for translating your recordings into a live show with a full band?
The whole reason why I like to perform with a band is to breathe a different life into the music, or at least be surprised with the live result. There are songs that required such a process to make—playing all the parts, programming the drums, and eventually doing the vocals—that by the end of it, I wanted a completely different result for the live presentation. When it comes to making music, first it’s just about nailing the parts, and after a while you’ve played a song so many times that you start to deviate from it in some interesting ways. And that’s usually when the live show reaches its zenith.
Yeah, I’m sure it keeps it fresh. Especially when you’re cooped up in a recording studio by yourself for weeks at a time.
Yeah, totally. This record was the first time I incorporated the band mates into the process. Jason played toms on “Fallout” and did some percussion stuff. Josh played guitar all over the record. It gave the project a new dimension.
Pitchfork and everyone else out there praised you as one of the best new artists when the first record dropped. How’d that affect the songwriting on the second album?
Well, like everybody says you’ve got 10 years to write the first record and six months to write the second. So it’s a very different process. When I first started writing the record, that neuroses would trickle through—as far as what the expectations for it would be. Part of my motivation for leaving the country to write the new album was to escape any sort of familiarity, or expectations, people that I worked with, or anything in relation to Neon Indian. I thought a trip to Helsinki would be more conducive to personal development than just, “And then Neon Indian went to Helsinki to write an album,” which in itself sounds kind of contrived. It was more that I needed to remove myself from my surroundings long enough to start generating ideas that felt honest and interesting.
Polish Girl by Neon Indian
I think the name Neon Indian really suits the music you play. If you were in a death metal band, what would you call it?
[Band mates chime in] Dude, we come up with such good band names all the time. Yeah. I actually already have a death metal band name. It’s called Demon Semen [laughs]. I’ve been sitting on that one for a while. Unlimited Tears [laughs]. Well the side projects are called Torcano and Sex Medics. We’re all gonna go on one big tour some day.
Yeah, totally. One group of musicians, but a whole shitload of alter egos for each set.
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s just a super bill. We just play for like five hours straight.
You’re obviously influenced by video games. I think I heard some Street Fighter samples on the new album?
Oh, “Arcade Blues”? Close, but not Street Fighter.
Arcade Blues by Neon Indian
I think it’s just one of those samples—I will say, it’s something of that era.
So what’s the sample? Or is that top secret?
It’s just one of those things where I’m hoping someone will surprise me and reveal to me what it is, if they can hear it.
Well, damn that threw off my entire next question. I was gonna ask you who your favorite Street Fighter character is.
Chun Li I think. It’s all about the high kicks, man. She’s the quickest one.