Neon Indian is the musical moniker of Alan Palomo, who creates authentic and texturally dense electronic music that has made him more than ‘that total synth nerd’. Although Alan certainly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to electrical equipment and it’s great to see that shine through in his music. His second album, Era Extraña has just been released in the UK and there’s a degree of polarity within the album as some songs adhere to the bouncing effervescence of Psychic Chasms and some showcase a more dark and mysterious side to Palomo’s song writing.

After the disappointment of the London show being cancelled in August due to the London riots, Neon Indian are ready to come back to this side of the pond in November to play a show at Heaven, one of the most intriguing London venues at the moment as well as other UK dates. I talk to Alan Palomo about touring, recording Era Extraña in Helsinki and their return to London;

I understand you’re on tour in the US right now.

Yeah, I’m actually driving up to Chicago right now.

You’re touring with Com Truise and Purity Ring, how’s it going?

So far it’s been pretty awesome; it’s been a really perfect bill for us. Especially Purity Ring who I’d never seen before live, they have this really incredible and very DIY, self-built live show where they’re banging on these mini reactive pipes and lights are shooting out of them, it’s definitely something to see.

So you recorded ‘Era Extraña’ in Helsinki, was it important for you to record somewhere that was far from familiar contact?

I think originally, it’s funny because in the beginning it wasn’t necessarily meant to be such a specific part of the narrative of the record. When I went up there, I’d spent the last year and a half touring Psychic Chasms and I didn’t really have a lot of time to digest everything that happened and calculate what the next record would be and whether or not anybody had even had listened to Psychic Chasms, it was more about trying to find that head space. When I got there, it did create an influence around the record, I picked a very particular time of year to go there when it’s incredibly cold and there’s a sufficient lack of sunlight so it was definitely a bit of a head trip and sort of found its way into the story of how this record came to be.

How did the recording process differ to Psychic Chasms?

It was the first time I’d ever recorded in a studio. In some way, it felt like this weird rite of passage and I had to find someone to share my vision with and trust them enough to put this together, a proper studio with and this is really that kind of experiment. I think that the process differed in that when I finished the songs for Psychic Chasms, I did them in a day, I did the writing and the recording process and by 4am, there’d be this song that just existed and it’s been a little bit different. In Helsinki, I spent a lot of time doing sound experiments, just learning how to even use these things that I’ve acquired this time around and then finally frankensteined them into cohesive songs. It was a little bit different; it was a lengthier process.

You released the first video from the first part of the three part instrumental (and first glimpse of new material), ‘Heart: Attack’ quite a while ago, how did you decide on which video clips to use?

It was actually edited by my friend Sean who’s someone who I’ve known since high school and came up there in the last couple of days to shoot some studio stuff, we did get a lot of footage of all sorts of things. We kinda had a little bit more fun and painted a portrait of the city. I think that trip was a lot more conducive to personal development than album writing. It was rad to show what there is to do around that time of year and to stare into these open, frozen overseas and look at some incredibly old churches. The whole place has a pretty whimsical quality.

You self produced the album but Dave Fridmann added post-production, was it helpful to get an outside perspective?

Yeah I think so. If there was anything he could’ve brought to the table, it was really sort of creating a space around which the instruments could exist in. That was a big thing for me. For the first record, it was easy because I put this gauze over everything. We really did tackle each song one by one , We tried to imagine this weird fucked up universe in which these sounds would exist and that was his sort of expertise, The sounds of things reverberating off each other and off of walls. I think a lot of my motivation for working with him in the first place was the walls we were bouncing off also were the same walls that housed my favourite records.

With the deluxe album bundle, you’ve included a mini analog synth called the PAL198X which is something that hasn’t been done before to my knowledge. What was your inspiration for including it in the deal?

I remember the time when the first record came out; I got into more circuit bending, building electronics. I realised that so much of that world is so easy and there’s this general disposition that DIY electronic are alien and unapproachable and I think the purpose of the PAL198x is the gateway into become resourceful. It makes great sound on its own but to really generate unique results out of it, you really have to get creative about it. It was really more about someone looking at it and thinking oh shit; I can get my stereo out of my garage and crack it open and start turning it into a musical instrument than just being something that comes with the vinyl.

How did the collaboration with Bleep Labs come about?

We have a lot of mutual friends in Austin. There’s this local shop called Switched On where a lot of my friends hang out, a lot of friends that I know and different bands. When I started thinking about how this little project was going to materialise, it just made sense to ask for his [the guy who owns the shop]email through somebody and hit him up, we spent 20 minutes talking about all the cool shit we could include in it and then 10 days later it was built.

Did you use the PAL198x in the making of ‘Era Extraña’?

I used a lot of the same circuitry, a lot of it was influenced by the Atari Punk Console [square wave oscillator that creates a single pulse], it has this weird 8 bit messed up sound to it and it’s definitely an element of the record. I actually used some of the other products that Bleep Labs had designed in the past so it’s definitely peppered throughout there.

You also made an infomercial for the PAL198X, what was the inspiration behind it?

I thought it’d be a good opportunity to have some fun with the band. The most immediate influence was these Atari promotional videos that they put out for the company. I’d seen a bunch of bad corporate instructional videos from that era and thought it would be fun to make something like that. There’s actually a British TV show called Look Around You, I love that show and that was the first time I’d ever seen anyone take that kind of brand of teaching videos, I love how they incorporate the ‘stop the tape now’. I grew up with so much of that and that was the first thing that came to mind.

You’ve released two records in quite a short time I’d say. Do you think you've changed a lot as an artist and as a person in that time?

I think so, I’ve come to find that my emotional politics have remained the same as far as who I am throughout all of this and attempting to navigate through these situations that I don’t really have a template for. I think musically, when the first record came out, I merely had more of a curiosity for a lot of the things I had done and continuing this, taking it on the road having to explain it and having to explain it and then having to record it at the end. It became this very formative experience of not being that guy, that total synth nerd. I think some things have changed but I tried to treat the project and my own personal circumstances as if nobody cared the first time around.

Do you enjoy the attention you get from making music?

I’m excited that people are into the music, that there’s a genuine fan base. There’s nothing like going on the road and seeing people shouting the lyrics back at you. The press, that whole world tends to be a little convoluted in my eyes, there’s a lot of presumptions but I guess that’s kinda the name of the name, it is what it is. I’m appreciative of it but it is a little alien, you have to make sure you don’t Google yourself that often.

Your London show in August was cancelled because of the riots in London, were you aware of what was going on?

When we got into the hotel, it was Sunday [the day before the show] and there was already pretty massive talk that some building had been burnt down and I was definitely aware of the climate in the city at the time. It was a very surreal and strange experience to be around at that particular point in time and especially given that our show was cancelled as a result of it.

Were you disappointed about it?

Yeah, we don’t get to play London that often but at the same time I couldn’t even pretend to comment on the anguish that the city saw that week. We just had to cut our losses and had to make sure we didn’t put our fans in any danger and by sound check we realised that the show wasn’t going to happen. We decided to sit back from the situation a little bit and give it some time.

You’re playing a London show at Heaven in November. Are you excited for it?

Yeah, absolutely! Because we didn’t get to play last time, we’ve definitely got to bring it this time.

Are you planning to do anything else while you’re in the UK?

We’ll probably play a bunch of shows around the UK but there’s not really much time to hang out. Although I do have a bunch of friends out there that I’d like to hang out with.


Era Extraña is out now, and you can catch the band live at the following dates:

  • November 15th: Brighton, Sticky Mikes
  • November 16th: London, Heaven
  • November 17th: Birmingham, Hare & Hounds
  • November 18th: Manchester, Night & Day
  • November 19th: Bristol, Cooler Bar