If you go to see Neon Indian in concert, you will see a band and stage decked out in bright, black-lit colors. You’ll see visual effects projected onto a movie screen and onto the musicians’ guitars. You will hear flashy, rocked-out, synth-dance music reminiscent of the hazy pop of the ’80s. You’ll probably dance, unless you’re on crutches.
It’s going to be totally retro-‘80s-rad. Neon Indian is an awesome live band that combines visual art with music to create not just a live show, but a performance.
Ironically, Neon Indian was never meant to be playing live gigs. In fact, it wasn’t even supposed to be a band.
Alan Paloma began the project as a form of therapeutic escapism from collaborations. At the time of Neon Indian’s inception, Paloma had just finished an EP for his glittery pop band, VEGA. He was tired of the long studio sessions, the differing opinions among bandmates and the endless song revisions. He wanted a blank slate on which he could do what he wanted. And he wanted a project where he could work alone.
“I came from the studio having labored tediously over every song,” Paloma says, “to reach a point where I wanted to write a song in a day without even thinking about it.”
Armed with vintage synthesizers, a computer and a microphone, Paloma produced Neon Indian’s debut LP, Psychic Chasms, during what he describes as “the most alienating year of my life.”
Paloma geeked out on music for a large portion of that year, but with a specific and almost calculated spontaneity. “I wanted to make music more about not losing the initial spark of the song idea,” he explains. Basically, collaboration from all VEGA’s members took precedence over Paloma’s individual ideas and left him with creative energy to spare.
“It’s nice having Neon Indian as an outlet in which there is no such thing as a bad idea,” he says. “It’s about recording all the sonic shit that never had a place before.”
Paloma finished his homespun LP and posted some songs online anonymously. He remained anonymous because he didn’t want people to confuse it with VEGA, and he didn’t think it would catch on.
He couldn’t have been more wrong. It caught on like wildfire, and soon people were demanding more Neon Indian. Fans were frustrated that they couldn’t find any images of the “band.” There was no contact information available. There was no Website. Neon Indian was a mystery.
Because of the hype, Paloma pulled up the curtain to reveal himself as the wizard behind Neon Indian. Immediately, he was getting offers to play music festivals and concerts.
Paloma was faced with a problem. This music was not meant to entertain a live audience or to be performed live. Paloma doubted whether he could even pull it off. He recorded and played the whole album by himself (aside from two guitar tracks that his friend helped with), so how was he going to reproduce it live?
Paloma took the challenge, hired some adept friends to be his band and developed a live set based on Psychic Chasm. “The live show has required quite a bit of re-contextualizing,” Paloma admits. “It’s been a long workshop process.”
Once again, Paloma and company find themselves continuously changing and revising the songs. They do this “not just to make the songs palatable to an audience, but to make it fun for us, as well.”
“We get the songs to one place, then we want something new, so we incorporate a new instrument,” Paloma says. “We incorporate pedals, or house drums, and I have a theremin up there now.”
Paloma has been touring in support of Psychic Chasms for a solid year. “Every time we go back out there, the audience is constantly expanding,” Paloma says, making the year touring as Neon Indian a lot less alienating than the year that went into creating its music.
Opening for Phoenix
In The Venue
579 W. 200 South
Thursday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m.