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Neon Indian: A Musician With The Mind Of A Filmmaker

Neon Indian's new album <em>VEGA INTL. Night School</em>, is out now.
Courtesy of the artist
Neon Indian's new album VEGA INTL. Night School, is out now.

For his third album as Neon Indian, Alan Palomo wanted to take his time. Born in Mexico and raised in Texas, the electronic artist came to music slowly and indirectly — despite having watched his brother learn voice and guitar from their father growing up.

"I was always kind of more of a spectator, just because I think, from pretty early on, I was more interested in movies," Palomo says. "But I feel like, by proxy, I definitely absorbed some sensibilities from watching them work — and my dad did, in fact, teach me how to sing. You know, he would find some hokey Frank Sinatra duet that he would make me do the second part of, and then that's the kind of thing I would be forced to do on Christmas."

Palomo would go on to study film in college, which is also when he began to take music seriously, albeit through the lens of his other passion.

"Because I didn't have any formalized training, I kind of just approached it through the skill set that I did have, and that I had been sort of obsessing over since I was like 12 or something," he explains. "It just made sense to speak about music in terms of film scenes and movies. And to some extent, it's kind of become the ethos of what Neon Indian is — to create these isolated aesthetic statements, and treat them like their own films."

Neon Indian's new LP, VEGA INTL. Night School, comes after a four-year recording break — nearly twice the gap between the band's first two albums. Palomo says the wait was a not only a choice, but one slightly out of step with the music industry's current pace, in which a band like his might be expected to keep up a constant cycle of touring and new releases.

"At some point I was just kind of like, 'I don't want to spend my 20s in a van,'" Palomo says. "I still, to this day, have a hard time making music. Sometimes I have these little moments of inspiration, but a lot of it is definitely perspiration, and it's just about putting the hours in. And whenever I'm looking at that record that's still ahead of me, there's that surrender of being like, 'Oh yeah, this is gonna be a while.' So you'd better pace yourself and make sure it's fun."

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NPR Staff