Neon Indian: "I was trapped in a giant fucking mall, sailing the high seas”

Interview Neon Indian: “I was trapped in a giant fucking mall, sailing the high seas”

Late night Adderalls and tequila-fuelled cruises with celebrity chef Guy Fieri fuelled ‘VEGA INTL. Night School,’ Alan Palomo explains.

Alan Palomo will be the first to admit that his cruise-based recording experience in December of last year doesn’t exactly rank high on his list of rock star moments. After all, he notes, the food was curated by celebrity chef, Guy Fieri. But running short on time to finish up his new album, and determined to forge forward collaborating with his brother (one of the ship’s employees) the Neon Indian frontman bit the bullet and booked two back-to-back trips, braving both kitsch travel tropes and the rocky winter seas. Having previously recorded album tracks at DFA’S Plantain Studios, Pure X’s practice space, and producer Ben Allen’s Atlanta studio, it was one of the album’s most memorable work sessions.

“You’re basically trapped in a giant fucking mall, sailing the high seas,” Palomo reflects. “The whole thing was very surreal and almost farcical for us. One of the challenges was that the boat was rocking so much. They tell you that there’s pills you can take for it, but they have their own awful side effects. The only other way to combat the seasickness is to drink heavily, which is what we wound up doing. The boat’s rocking like crazy, I’m drinking a bottle of tequila, while trying to give my brother instructions. But trying to also brave the nauseating sensation of going in circles in this cabin. Meanwhile my brother is trying to nail takes. It was a totally chaotic experience. But it was an absolute fucking blast too.”

That certain devil-may-care energy transferred into his third full-length. A convergence of his pop project Neon Indian, and a DJ/producer persona, ‘VEGA, VEGA INTL. Night School’ is an album aimed at glittery nightclubs and gritty back alleys alike. Full of synth squiggles, drum machines, and spoken word samples, it’s a hedonist dance party that could only have been concocted by someone well-acquainted with after hours haunts. Luckily, that’s where Palomo feels most comfortable. He says that he’s a 9-5 kind of musician, only his shift is from 9pm to 5am. It’s a joke… but not by much.

"It definitely gets crazy in moments."

— Alan Palomo

“I remember a friend of mine was kind of consoling me about it saying, ‘I read that Prince said that his most productive hours are between 10pm and 4 in the morning,’” he notes. “If it’s good enough for Prince, I should absolutely have no fucking problem with it! Even with that in mind, life at night has been a lot of formative experiences. There’s something to be said about communicating with your friends when the day is over. You’re trading experiences. There’s a lot that happens, at least in my life, which transpires in these hours. In some way, the most encompassing phrase that I could think for it would be night school. As someone who didn’t finish college, I find that you’ve got to find an education where you can get it.”

It’s an educational course he’ll never graduate from. When asked if his after-hours study sessions improve or devolve his view of humanity, Palomo makes it clear that he’s not out to draw conclusion - just to observe.

“It just is what it is,” he notes. “I feel like to assume that because I like to go out gives me some kind of bleak, misanthropic perspective on people wouldn’t exactly be the answer. It’s just a different shade. It’s a different shade of personality and intention.”

Palomo says he’s not much of a romanticist. Although holding a certain affection for New York (“If you cross Brooklyn Bridge and you don’t get excited about seeing the skyline, you probably should leave,” he says emphatically), years of touring and traveling has taught him he can live just about anywhere. Just because he calls Brooklyn home doesn’t somehow make it better than anywhere else. But he understands the appeal, which informed 'VEGA INTL. Night School’s first single, “Slumlord.”

"The only way to combat seasickness is to drink heavily, which is what we wound up doing."

— Alan Palomo

“The neighborhoods that are en vogue seem to jump around a little bit,” he says. “Obviously I’ve got a lot of friends living in Bushwick and places like that where you have a lot of these apartments that are left in absolute and complete squalor. But the landlord is able to charge some completely egregious rate for a one bedroom because it’s New York, and there’s an allure. There’s a lot of lyrics in 'Slumlord' [like] ‘you’re paying three Gs for four walls and keys.’ This idea that there’s always going to be people who are moving here and who subscribe to some romanticized idea of what New York city living is, and they’re willing to pay up the ass to live in some shit hole. But the only person who wins in that transaction is the slumlord. The song is detailing the experience. On one end you’ve got these people who want to be here for the romance of it, and seem to have the money to pay for it. As long as you’ve got the money, then the slumlord doesn’t care. It’s a concept that I find to be really fascinating.”

Fascinating—but not all encompassing. That analytical attitude has served him well, even if it meant taking a four-year break between Neon Indian albums, just to make sure he really had something to say. And if his time out of the spotlight meant forfeiting his career all together? So be it, says Palomo. He can always go back to filmmaking, he says, pragmatically.

All things considered, it’s a viewpoint towards life and work that sounds, well…shockingly healthy.

“Totally,” Palomo agrees with a hearty laugh. “That being said, there were plenty of super unhealthy stints. Whether in the wake of the last record, or trying to finish writing this one. It definitely gets crazy in moments. But you try to follow these aphorisms for yourself to stay on top of it… You have what you present. And then there’s those moments when it’s five in the morning, and you’ve had to take Adderall just to finish mixing this song, and you’re like, ‘what the fuck am I doing?’ But sometimes the unglamorous moments are just as essential as the ones that are.”

Neon Indian's new album 'VEGA, VEGA INTL. Night School' is out on 16th October.

Tags: Neon Indian, Features, Interviews

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