Neon Indian: "Around the time I start to write a record, I stop listening to new music altogether."
Neon Indian (due tonight at the Bluebird Theater) got a boost early in its career by online media, and by the time of the act's first album, Psychic Chasms was released, there was a pretty big buzz around his blend of synth-driven, R&B inflected pop songs. Alan Palomo and company went on to tour with the likes of Flaming Lips (with whom the outfit recorded an EP), Massive Attack and Prefuse 73.
For the follow-up to Psychic Chasms, Palamino took a handful of musical ideas and plenty of confidence in his ability to sort his way through the creative process and commenced to writing during a stay in Helsinki, Finland. From there, he went to work with David Fridmann, and the result was the more sonically-adventurous Era Extraña, a record with a more downtempo mood and richer atmospheres. We recently spoke with Palomo about the teenage narrative, the PAL198X, Boards of Canada and what he learned from Flaming Lips.
Westword: You probably could have picked any relatively isolated city to work on and record an album away from familiar surroundings. Why did seeing Night On Earth influence your picking Helsinki?
Alan Palomo: I've been there a couple of times on tour. There was no specific rhyme or reason to it. It's a really beautiful city, and I hadn't really given myself the time to digest that happened around the release of Psychic Chasms, so I was really just looking for some privacy. I didn't even necessarily go there with the intention of writing the record. It just kind of ended up that way.
In a September 2011 interview with Pitchfork you said, "the teenage narrative will always echo, regardless of time and place." Why do you feel that 's true?
Just because I think that it's completely and inherently innate. I think it's something kind of beautiful, the idea that even in some fictional, post-apocalyptic scenario, you would still have people doing the same goofy shit they would be doing in any other time, place or situation. It's part of our wiring. I feel like it's what makes sort of timeless teenage films and that time in our life is shrouded in mysticism and it seems to be such an emotionally evocative time.
Who came up with the name Static Tongues Industries?
That was myself. [The name] just sounded good.
How and why did you go about getting that look for making your ad for the PAL198X? It looks like an early Gregg Araki or John Moritsugu movie.
Totally! Well, actually, I collaborated with my friend Johnny Woods. At this point, he's started doing a lot of visuals for us. He's always doing some pretty heavily VHS-treated stuff. Much in the same way with the first record, for me, I kind of liked purposefully glitching-out the tape deck, or sort of trying to play it like a whammy bar and some sort of musical instrument. I feel like he's always working at visuals the same way.
I wrote the script for it pretty quickly. Over the course of a day, we kept bouncing ideas back and forth over exactly what the feel of it was going to be. We definitely wanted it to be somewhere between a public access demonstration video and...we kept watching the same, absolutely terrible fucking Atari company promotional video from the early '80s, where they're introducing the entire crew and they have the same fourteen second loop of music that keeps playing throughout the whole thing.
It's the only thing they have to go off of. At some point it just starts sounding droney and creepy -- the same fourteen second metal guitar lick is going on for nearly twenty minutes as they're introducing, "The software department." And it's just these three dudes who look like they haven't seen the sun in a few years. I don't know, I really liked the idea of it. Static Tongues will eventually evolve into a more autonomous entity that I'd like to operate out of for different projects and releases. So it was a good opportunity to iterate some of the potential within it.
How did it come about you worked with Dr. Bleep on that synth?
I hit up John-Mike over an email, and he got back to me within the hour. We had a lot of mutual friends, so it was really the culmination of like twenty minutes on the phone. "It'll have this; it'll have that. We might base it off of some of the circuit boards for the PicoPaso." The turnaround time on the first PAL was like two weeks. I think both of us were really excited about it.
For me, right from the get go, I wanted it to be potentially hackable, and he already had these ideas for these interchangeable screw terminals. I think we were both kind of inching toward the same concepts before we had talked to each other, so it made sense that this was going to be the right project for that to unfurl.
I haven't told anyone, but I made them available on this last tour partly because I'm going to have something that's going to have the participation of everyone that's bought one pretty soon, but I can't say just what the details are yet.
The name says "PAL198X" is that a way to just plug in a number to indicate a year there as in it is related to the aesthetics of that decade in general?
Yeah, to some extent. Even with the video, when I think of reference points and visual schemes aesthetics, at some point I'm liable to talk to Johnny or John-Mike about the movie C.H.U.D. or Terrorvision or Nightmare Weekend or any of those wonderfully awful '80s tech horror [films], which is something I'm really in love with.
Videodrome is one of my favorite films. I always leap at the opportunity to give a nod and a wink to something like that. As far as an original product that could live in that universe of weird, tech, sci-fi stuff it just kind of clicks.