We had a quick chat with Neon Indian's Alan Palomo ahead of his performance this Sunday at SF Weekly's All Shook Down Music Festival. (Which, coincidentally, is the day after Palomo's 22nd birthday.) Palomo told us why Neon Indian's live show is like a Neon Indian cover band, which Scandinavian city the next Neon Indian album may be recorded in, and why you shouldn't consider Palomo an introvert, even if his music is made in the bedroom.
How do you describe the Neon Indian sound -- and do you squirm at being thrown under the chillwave umbrella?
That's always been kind of a tough thing to define. I know that plenty of Internet entities and publications have taken every liberty to do that for me. It always just kind of seemed like psychedelic electronic tape music. I didn't necessarily think of it as being something new. The Internet has a really nasty habit of wanting to put things under a microscope and write as if things are just now happening.
Do you feel a kinship with the other artists who've been labeled chillwave, such as Washed Out or Memory Tapes?
I can see some parallels, but it's not like we invented lo-fi. It's not like we really knew each other. This is a conversation I have almost endlessly. I've never seen such a self-referential genre as chillwave. It's really weird when the only way you can talk about a genre that is dubious or precarious to begin with is to talk about it in acknowledgement of its precariousness. Why can't you just talk about the music? At the end of the day we are just a band. Soundwaves haven't changed. The music is the same as it always was.
What will the next Neon Indian album sound like? Are you going in a different direction from Psychic Chasms?
Obviously, I have that [more recent] track, "Sleep Paralysist." That was more of a collaboration between me and [Grizzly Bear's] Chris Taylor. A lot of people's perception of that was that it was the next sound or the next direction for Neon Indian, which isn't really the case.
There will be more dynamics to [the new record]. I wanted to make music that has its own sort of narrative. The next record is going to sort of continue to have those narrative qualities to it. This lo-fi thing is something that I was just kind of stuck in because of resources. Now that I have the ability to play with fidelity exactly how I want, I can do the contrast.
Will you record it in a studio?
The idea right now is to get an efficiency apartment in Helsinki and mail all my synths and equipment there. Part of what I need -- I think much of the concept behind the first record -- is being in a place of isolation and being just a little bit alienated and allowing myself to go into this introspective lull. In order for that to happen again I really need to go somewhere where I really don't know many people and where I really just have a more romantic connection to the city itself. Maybe not necessarily Helsinki, but I would like to go somewhere more isolated.
Why are you inclined toward Helsinki?
It's probably been my favorite place I've been on tour. There's something a little sleepy about that city. I find that Scandinavians are the nicest people I've ever met. I had a collection of experiences there that have been really positive. It's like a city surrounded by endless woods. I like the idea that it's a city that's stuck in its own isolation. The only culture that it can perpetuate is its own.