Interview | Neon Indian Just Really Wants To Direct

Photo: LukeLauter 

Neon Indian (real name Alan Paloma) is a musician who talks like a filmmaker. Born in Mexico and raised in Texas, the film school grad professes his love for Abel Ferrara “I just watched Driller Killer” and makes albums like someone would score a film.

Also: Giveaway | Win Two 2-Day Passes to Treasure Island Music Festival in S.F.

After year a four-year recording break, his third album, VEGA INTL. Night School would both sonically and thematically fit into one of those late-night cable movies your 13-year-old self would watch after your parents fall asleep.

I chatted with Paloma on the phone about music trilogies, directing in New York and his Schnauzer-look back in the “Bay” as he prepares to play at this weekend’s Treasure Island Music Festival (October 15-16) in San Francisco.

Crave:  Where does Vega Intl. Night School fit into your music catalogue?

Alan Palomo: In a way this third record was meant to be the bookend to a trilogy. The first two records Errata Anex and Era Extrana were about setting up a mood. Okay, he’s got this sample-based aesthetic. All the subject material was autobiographical. They definitely are not collages, but I feel that Vega International Night School was like creating your own universe. I built it from scratch. No songs are sample-based. 

It’s a dance record, but unlike so many from that genre there’s a fun, almost comedic narrative to it. 

The first record I made as a hobbyist and the second there was a bit more pressure to perform. So I decided with this one, if it wasn’t going to be fun that I didn’t want to do it. I approached it like doing a comedy. As far as a narrative, with something like “Annie,” I was fascinated by classic pop songs like “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant and 867-5309/Jenny” (by Tommy Tutone). I was learning how to be completely autonomous and literally weaving the songs together as if it was a fictional film that doesn’t exist.

It’s funny you mention films because I caught the premiere of the “Annie” music video you directed at this year’s Sundance Nextfest.

I’ve directed a couple things before, but definitely the MO of this record was to cut out the middle man. I had to build a little bit of confidence to do it myself. “Annie” was pieced together while on the road. The only money we put into it was to rent a van to to put a pay phone in it to drive it down to Red Hood (New York).

You definitely feel the New York vibe, the music video reminded me of those eighties movies like Night Shift and After Hours. 

Oh, dude completely. I was fascinated by how New York filmmakers romanticize the city through weird, distorted lenses and I wanted to make something that was like a surreal encapsulation of my years in New York and if I couldn’t do it in film I would do it on a record.

You’re going to be playing the Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco. Any favorite memories of the “City by the Bay?”  

My first guitar player Ronnie, my friend Heidi and I all hung out in San Francisco. We gravitated to each other because we all had bizarrely long hair like un-contained, curly coifs. We looked like schnauzers roaming around the city and we’ve been friends ever since.