Article - Neon Indian’s chill philosophy

Alan Palomo won’t commit to chillwave’s flash-in-the-pan success

There’s no better example of how technology and the Web have revolutionized music than Neon Indian. Alan Palomo’s lo-fi electro-psych effort blew up in October when Pitchfork gave a positive review to his sunny, laconic indietronic debut, Psychic Chasms, helping galvanize interest in similar-minded artists, loosely categorized as chillwave. Within weeks, Neon Indian had gone from a bedroom project to something in demand across the world.

“I still have a hard time internalizing all of this,” Palomo says, from the English countryside, where he’s on his third U.K. tour. “I’ll have a moment where I wake up in a van and I’m suddenly in a hotel room in Manchester. Like, ‘Oh my god, where am I and how did those 35 minutes of music get me here?’”

Inspired by the emergence of electronic dance duo Justice in 2007, the Denton, Texas, native rushed out – like many of his peers – to grab a MacBook and a copy of the go-to sampling software Ableton Live. While his father and brother are musicians, Palomo approached music from the production side. However, after generating some interest with debut project, Ghosthustler, Palomo burned out on dance music and started looking for a new direction.

“I began taking all these skills I developed and working with synths, going back to the sensibilities I had in high school, like listening to Magnetic Fields’ Holiday or those early Ariel Pink albums and Animal Collective,” he says.

The album’s gentle analog synth vibe and hazy vocals suggest the early morning hours of a beachside Nintendo 64 rave, though it’s much more focuses on hooks and song structure than typical dance music. While Palomo’s gotten to know other associated artists Chazwick Bundick (Toro Y Moi) and Perry, Ga.’s Ernest Greene (Washed Out), he’s leery of succumbing to some ad hoc genre straightjacket.

“I dropped out of college to write that record. It holds a very private place and wasn’t part of some collective drive,” Palomo notes. “It seems like music these days is always a flash in the pan. You really can’t start pandering to one idea. I don’t intend to be the Jack Kerouac of chillwave, spending the rest of my musical career trying to define something that I didn’t feel a part of.”