a conversation with alan palomo of neon indian and chaz bundick of toro y moi
  • MONDAY, JANUARY 11, 2010

  • Posted by:


Alan Palomo is one the most approachable musicians I've met on the interview circuit. He's a young guy, early twenties, laid back and very easy to talk to. You'd never guess that Neon Indian has been one of the buzziest bands of the past few months, gathering serious attention after CMJ and just now having their first selection of multiple tour dates in New York. Neon Indian emerges during a washed-out, lo-fi era of LA scuzz and New York blip dominating the cool-kid airwaves. Palomo is neither, rather an amalgamation of something else&mdash half psyched-out, half electro-composer whiz-kid. A Texan with influences in Mexican pop music, a father and brothers who were all classically trained, and an armada of noise toys, Alan Palomo is an approachable, appetizing artist with a great body of work beyond his current project.

Palomo's father was named Jorge Palomo, a musician/recording artist who released two records of note, significant not only for their influence on Palomo's early life, but the fact that Neon Indian samples his work twice on Psychic Chasms. Even playing video games and listening to his father tune a guitar or teach one of his brothers a song, sticks out as formative. Even though he found acoustic instruments intuitive due to his surroundings, Palomo prefers drum machines and synthesizers. "It's a very playful way of doing it without requiring the same kind of stenuous learning."

Palomo started his exploration of musicality with Ghosthustler, a disco-ish pop group that Palomo said was more of a rudimentary exercise in production values. "All parties involved were new at it" he told me. "We were trying to make these huge production strides... it was stressful." After nailing down sequencing, drum equalization, and other techniques, as well as some attention from notable indie blog Gorilla Vs. Bear, Palomo started a solo project called VEGA. "I was doing what I wanted to do" he recalled, "but hitting these weird little walls where I was influenced by one track." Neon Indian was formed as a reaction to the wall, a sort of "creative excercise" where Palomo really let loose with his "weird little ideas." Psychic Chasms, an album recorded in three and a half weeks in Palomo's apartment, was the result.

Reactions to the record have been wholly positive, and thus Palomo is a busy man these days. At our sit down, however, he was anything but tired. His first show in New York since CMJ had been garnering a significant amount of attention, and each one promised to be a unique and interesting experience. I happened to sit down with him just as his opener, an electronic artist from South Carolina named Toro Y Moi (which admittedly, is a nonsense name that Chaz Bundick, the one man show, thought sounded cool) walked in to the venue. As the two met, I used their meeting as an opportunity to get a first-hand account of what it is like being a young touring musician these days.



What Palomo and Bundick have in common in their musicality (chill-wave tunes in the Washed Out camp of music) reflects their tastes in today's trends (no surprise here). Bundick is even friends with Ernest Greene from Washed Out (natch). But well-known chill-wave isn't always the only thing in their stereo, and to get a full picture you need to dig deeper. Luckily with two guys meeting for the first time, you get to see what they have in common pretty quick, and everyone is excited about it. Bundick is "...listening to a lot of David Axelrod and Francis Lai...and anything with pick bass." He is really into "soundtrack kind of stuff, lounge." It is "taking a huge influence in what [he is] trying to do next." Palomo chimed in with his own Francis Lai enthusiasm, "it's so cheesy but I was like I'm in Paris! I've got to listen to some Francis Lai!"

Finding new music isn't as easy as before they hit the road. "I used to read blogs all the time" Bundick said, "I haven't been keeping up." Luckily, as most of us turn to the internet for musical dissemination, the touring musicians find another kind of tried-and-true network to discover new tunes: each other. Palomo discovered Real Estate, another buzz band of the minute with a highly regarded record (it's good), while at a show.
Palomo and Bundick had a similar experience in their relationship with Real Estate. "Everytime I see them its a total bro-down" Palomo said. "The nicest people I've encountered on tour have been those guys."

Before touring Palomo spent some time in Austin, and before that, Denton. He found Austin to be an "alineating experience." The city "has a kind of community" where one needs to be a "patron of the town in order to start playing shows with people." Denton, a smaller, less well known town, was his preferred music scene. He called the small community of underground house parties his "true musical stomping grounds." "It's a lot like Brooklyn in some ways" he said, "everyone knows each other." The "weird little community" attracts noise acts from all over the world, to little venues like House Of Tinnitus, staples of the "strange, uninhibited little town." Palomo did admit Austin had a few synth nuts as well... he attended an "analog synth" party there where musicians came and went with equipment, playing off of each other on and off into the night, like an "organic little jam."

Toro Y Moi had a different, more difficult experience. Although Bundick didn't grow up in South Carolina, he spent his formative musical years in Columbia trying to get a small college crowd going. While the nearby cities of Atlanta and Chapel Hill provided networking opportunities, South Carolina is often skipped over by promoters and tour bookers. "You lose money when you stop in SC" Bundick admitted. Bands benefit if you drive an hour less or an hour more." Palomo inquired about the music scene in Columbia. "It's predominently rock bands, heavy metal" Bundick lamented, and we both sympathized. "Not ideal for a small electronic pop artist." Obviously in today's musical climate, location is much less of a factor after internet buzz gives artists a viral lift... Toro Y Moi has been featured all over the blogosphere, despite his locational challenges (thanks, internet, seriously).

And let's not forget that these are young guys. Having a leg up in notoriety helps, but nothing is stopping them from moving to a larger hub. Palomo plans to relocate to Brooklyn this month, mainly because he is recording another VEGA album there right now. He told me off the record who is producing (I can't say, but it's going to be awesome). He also hopes to start writing the next Neon Indian record. As for Toro Y Moi, he will be releasing his debut, Causers Of This in a few weeks on 2/2, on Carpark Records.

Check out a track from each below and keep your ears to the ground for both of these guys to make a splash in 2010. -joe puglisi

* * * * * * * * * * * *
MP3: Neon Indian - "Deadbeat Summer" (Psychic Chasms)
Neon Indian on Myspace
MP3: Toro Y Moi - "Blessa" (Causers Of This)
Toro Y Moi on Myspace


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