Neon Indian Has a Lo-Fi Cell Phone
Based on sheer technological
prowess, this shouldn’t happen. Palomo plays electro-pop. His electronics
should work. This is a man who has just purchased a Theremin, nature’s most
complicated musical instrument, with money that easily could have been spent at
his local Verizon store. Instead, Palomo’s phone turns our call into one of his
He records music as Neon
Indian, with songs that are essentially Daft Punk tunes played over an 8-bit
video game console. They click and pop, smothered in reverb and drowned in
noise. That’s all that comes from his end of the phone call. Neon Indian is a
lo-fi dance music act with a lo-fi dance music cell phone.
Either that or the
problem is on my end of the line.
Palomo is 21, and has
plenty of time left in life to find a working phone. He has already played the
music industry trade show South by Southwest three times with three different
bands—no small task for someone who didn’t intend to become a musician until
“We came to the U.S. from Mexico with the idea of me coming
to college,” Palomo says. His film degree at the University of North Texas
has been put on pause with only a year and a half until completion. “I had to
convince my dad that I wasn’t just leaving school to sit in my apartment
smoking weed and playing ‘Call of Duty.’”
To not have seen a music
career coming, Alan Palomo, like his father Jorge, must have overlooked the
Palomo family history. Jorge was a successful pop singer in 1970s Mexico, and
Alan's older brother had already followed in Jorge's footsteps. By now, it’s a
A career in music was an
inevitability, but Neon Indian was an accident. It started, more or less, as an
apology note. Then the driving force behind the band VEGA, Palomo made the
fateful decision not to go on a planned hallucinogenic binge with his friend
(and Neon Indian video artist) Alicia Scardetta over holiday break. The
resulting song “Should Have Taken Acid With You,” was too good not to publish,
and too good to rewrite as a VEGA song. Neon Indian developed to continue
working in the aesthetic.
There is a universe where
Palomo took acid and never birthed Neon Indian. He’s probably a rising star
there, too. Palomo’s first band, Ghosthustler, drowned in its positive buzz.
attention beforewe were really ready for it, and we kept
trying to make massive production strides to keep up with our peers. LCD
Soundsystem blew up overnight. I was doing that thing where you listen to a
song and then write. Every song became a massive production,” Palomo says.
Barely older, and
somewhat wiser, Neon Indian is less about keeping up with the present and more
about hazy memories of the digital past. And that’s what Palomo is best at.
It’s what drew him to the fundamental instrument of all his bands, the
synthesizer, to begin with.
“I walked into a pawnshop
and saw an Oberheim OB-X, which is a synth that’s normally Van Halen. I never
saw one in person, and I hit one note, and it triggered a flood of sense
memory,” Palomo says. “I was $300 short of buying it, and by the time I raised
the money to buy it, it was gone. But I found my old Casio Rap-Master [kiddie
synthesizer], and started using it instead.”
So he has $300 lying
around? That’s a brand new iPhone. Just saying.
Neon Indian plays the Turner Hall Ballroom on Saturday, July 17, with Beach Fossils at 8 p.m. as part of WMSE’s Radio Summer Camp.