Oh Baby, Neon Indian was made in the '80s


Miniature scrunchies, neon-colored jumpers and babysitters who insisted the tube stay tuned to MTV— awwwww, weren’t ‘80s babies the coolest? I may be partial, due to the fact that I was born in said decade, but so was Alan Palomo, a.k.a. the synth-wizard behind Neon Indian— playing Fri/26 at Mezzanine— and he’s an ’88 boy whose cheeks and beats I always wanna squeeze. 

Fuzzy, freaky and so videogame-esque, Neon Indian is Palomo’s solo project, following the rapid success of his other electro gig, VEGA. The debut album, Psychic Chasms [Lefse 2009], is a charming mix of steady beats with whirling lasers and wired hiccups. “Should Have Taken Acid With You” is genius— Palomo’s baby-smooth vocals romping around the electronic rattles and laser toys. 


I called up Palomo on a Sunday afternoon while he was in Austin, laying low before the SXSW storm that would take over the following day. Even through his use of big, fancy words, I thoroughly enjoyed being distracted with the thought of his full head of baby curls blowing in the Texas breeze (slightly creepy, yes).



SFBG- How would you describe Neon Indian’s sound using verbs?

Palomo- Reactive. Warped. Like solving a sudoku. And this is going to sound like a L’Oreal commercial, but translucent and shimmering. Klodisesphocick?


SFBG- Ok, now you’re just making up cool words…

Palomo-  How about pastel-nauseating?


SFBG- Tell me about another art form that has influenced your music?

Palomo- I’ve been renting a lot of movies and they seem to be following a pattern: meandering characters, though well intentioned. Like Vagabond (1985)-- a French film about a female hobo traveling through various towns.  


(Palomo stops to admire an old couple cruising around him on a tandem bike).


SFBG- Sometimes your lyrics seem pretty obscure, or maybe I just get distracted by the lasers— what do you like to write songs about?

Palomo- Nothing makes for better art than relationships. Yikes. They’re fascinating. My music comes off as effervescent, people describe it as happy, but I have to have a little ambivalence in there, too. 


SFBG- So when you make music, it’s in your bedroom and it’s just you. How does this transfer to a live show?

Palomo- We’ve done a lot of recontextualizing. I’ve had to sacrifice a little bit here and there so people have something to look at. It’s alienating if not— go to a live show, get a drink and look at your watch. So we’ve really worked on making it palpable. 


(The tandem goes by again—followed by an obnoxiously loud motorcycle). 


Palomo- Wow that guy’s motorcycle is ridiculous. Really? Those machines don’t bring pleasure to anyone but yourself, sir. 


SFBG- Have people been dancing at your shows?

Palomo- At first they have quixotic looks on their faces, but then three or four songs in they realize this requires some physical movement, like ok, I’m not on the couch, wearing headphones and my Snuggie. And then yes. They dance— in a Peyote-dazed way.


SFBG- So ‘80s baby, what are some ‘80s elements have weaseled their way into your music? Favorite culture-tid bits from that era?

Palomo- Definitely Sega Genesis, Sonic (The Hedgehog) 3. All that rushing music in the underwater level. Brings about such a primitive mechanism in my brain. I really liked the Sega soundcard. It’s like a crappy sampler, condensed, crunchy, weird— a great, low quality sampler. 


SFBG- What are you going to do the rest of afternoon?

Palomo- Some some weed and watch Kids in the Hall. 


SFBG- Ah, I hate that show. 

Palomo- What? (He says with complete shock). I used to take sick days in middle school so I could stay home and watch it. 



Neon Indian

Fri/26, 9pm, $15

444 Jessie, SF



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