"I'd always wanted to self-direct a music video."
A sense for the cinematic has always been at the heart of Alan Palomo's music. Better known by his stage name, Neon Indian, Alan Palomo has been releasing music under that moniker since 2009's Psychic Chasms. But with last year's Vega Intl. Night School, Palomo combined years of work into a master class of psychedelia, disco, and pop. And the atmospheric sense of texture and mood that helped turn his music into one of the leading examples of the nascent "chillwave" movement at the beginning of this decade exploded outward in an orgiastic celebration of pop excess. And that hedonistic excess was brought fully to bear in the music video for "Slumlord Rising."
Situated at the top of this post is the making of video for the "Slumlord Rising" music video which we're premiering today. The music video, which is the neon-streaked (pun half-intended) 80s nostalgia of Drive-era Nicolas Winding Refn fused with the hip post-modern formalism of a Paul Thomas Anderson flick, was an arduous task to put together, and Alan took the time out to talk with us about the process of making it all happen.
"The opportunity [to direct one of his own videos] had never entirely arisen. That being said, I've had the pleasure of working with a lot of really great people who are now considered to be dear friends. But as far as finally having some bridge between what I think about conceptually when I'm making music and the sort of images that evokes and then finally being able to tell people that's what I was always seeing is kind of an amazing thing. Outside of the incredible amount of pre-production that it took to pull it all off, it kind of felt like throwing a party. This was a disco club that was getting ready to be internally renovated and gutted essentially to become a more contemporary Los Angeles club. They gave us carte blanche to cover the walls with blood and slime and sort of reconfigure things the way we needed them to be."
Before embarking on his career as a musician, Alan Palomo was a film school student frustrated with the strictures of his early film education. And making music became a way to vent his creative energies in a program that wasn't allowing him to rent the equipment he needed to explore his art as a filmmaker.
"Given that I didn't have that initial previous skill set for it, I had to approach it through something that I did know something about which was filmmaking and I've never really gotten out of that particular vernacular."
Despite the fact that he was frustrated with his time in film school, Palomo still demonstrated a wealth of knowledge and criticism of the contemporary film industry but threw in praise the role that artists like Nicolas Winding Refn had in revolutionizing the way contemporary indie music was portrayed in independent film.
"I think, like a lot of people when I saw Drive, it addressed a problem in a lot of contemporary independent filmmaking which is that there's nothing more tragic than a great film with terrible music and it happens all the time. Even when an indie film starts veering into that genre of "indie whatever" and I use scare quotes when I say that, it's always the same kind of bullshit banjos, xylophones, kind of mid-2000s Fox Searchlight movie type soundtrack. And what I loved about Drive is that it made a contemporary independent music soundtrack. In addition to the Cliff Martinez compositions, the fact that he showcased Johnny Jewel's work and Kavinsky was just not something you see in a movie. And hopefully it becomes a trend that you see featured more prominently in other films."
One of the most notable elements of the "Slumlord Rising" video is the impressive "oner" (one take shot) that evokes the club sequences from both Boogie Nights and Scorsese's Goodfellas. And Palomo gushed about the way that P.T. Anderson was able to fuse form, function, aesthetics, and subversive mood in his films which is something Palomo hoped to emulate as a filmmaker.
"I feel there's a kinship in the idea of playing with form. Tarantino does this too but the fact that Boogie Nights is at one level about this one thing. It uses the pastiche and kitsch of a certain era and time to seduce you a little bit and bring you into this world and it's sort of campy and comedic, but once you're there, it immediately begins dissecting the tropes of what that kind of film is and what pornography is, and, ultimately, I really think it's a story about family. And I think that's a very postmodern concept...to approach a movie under a certain pretense or guise and start peeling away the layers until it becomes an entirely different story altogether. And I see it too in Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction obviously."
Palomo also name-dropped a host of independent filmmakers who were influences and inspirations including Seijun Suzuki, Leos Carax, Antonio Campas, and Lynn Ramsey.
"Slumlord Rising" was one of our favorite music videos from 2015, and be sure to tune back in tomorrow when we share the second half of our interview with Palomo where we explore his work on last year's Vega Intl. Night School. You won't want to miss it.