NEON INDIAN + GRIMES ::
INTERVIEW

An evening of precocious geniuses at Circolo degli Artisti. On May 28, the stage of the Roman venue was dominated by artists who have already made the best out their twenties. As part of the FSNCPS Live Experience party, Neon Indian and Grimes have in fact shared the same stage. After having portrayed them in the afternoon, during a pause between a soundcheck and the other, we were able once again to interact with them just before (Alan Palomo/Neon Indian) and after (Grimes) their shows. Here is, finally, the fresh and friendly conversation we had with them.

DROME: Where does the name of your band come from? Does it mean anything in particular?
ALAN PALOMO: To be honest it’s something I can’t really take credit for. Back to high school one ex girlfriend of mine used to mock my first music project calling me Neon Indian. Then, few years after, when I started writing the first couple of songs, given the importance of that particular time to my life, it all made the perfect sense to me to name this new project Neon Indian after the first band I’ve had. So, I guess, there was a kind of story behind it, and I think she probably took it from the Holiday of Holi, the Indian festival of colours.

D: Does the fact that you are really young encourage you or does it scare you within music contemporary scene?
AP: No, my age doesn’t necessarily intimidate me. Growing up, I have always been surrounded by older friends and people. I don’t usually think in this terms; when I’m working on music projecting my self on this timeline with all of the things I want to do and bring together, I always have to remind myself my age. In moments of doubts, when I question my self, wondering if I should do more, I always reminds himself that I am only 23 and I’ve actually plenty of time to improve and do better.

D: Your music genre has been labelled as “hypnogonic pop, glo-fi, chillwave”. But how would you describe it?
AP: Actually, I don’t really have a mean to describe it. I think categorizing music is one of those things I couldn’t do as I am too involved and conscious of my music. The act of categorizing, might be sound a bit contrive, but at the same time I kind of feel a certain excitement in seeing the verbal equivalent of my music. I like seeing all of these funny adjectives, usually referring to 70s and 80s electronic pop, which I love, but I wouldn’t be able to come up with a categorizing genre.

D: How about If you had to explain it to a six years old little boy?
AP: I would jut put it on! I wouldn’t talk about it I would just grab a stereo and play it!

D: Who do you feel inspired by, musically speaking?
AP: Loads of band influenced me. I would say in the last year and half I have been really interested in looking at studio electronic musicians, who, working on commission, were able to come up with a variety of sounds,  creating also this mythological “body” of electronic music. The fact that this music was usually commissioned for media or commercial advertisement is inspiring in a way; although it might sound bizarre and unusual, it’s wonderful at the same time. 

D: What did you grow up listening to?
AP: Probably, pop music, as every other kid did! My parents played mostly Michael Jackson’s songs and also Paul McCartney solo stuff… It was mostly felt like a communal experience. On Sunday my parents would clean up the house, and we would all listen to this music, together.

D: I know you have grown up in Texas; how do you find Texas and more generally the US framework in terms of Music possibility? Is it easy for an Independent artist to emerge?
AP: Well, much of the appeal of growing up in Texas, comes from the fact that there wasn’t a lot people trying to do our kind music. And with the few that I met, I feel like I forged a really intimate bond. I wouldn’t probably have been driven to the same music if I haven’t felt I was a little bit on my own. And I mean there is a lot of amazing electronic music that come down to Texas, but still, I think if I grew up in a place surrounded by people doing the same kind of things in different clubs and other urban contexts, I wouldn’t have thought of it as nearly as charming.

D: What do you think about your musical path from the beginning to your third album Era Extrana?
AP: Well the production of music and methods obviously change, and also he fact that now I have got more access to instruments and equipment in the studio makes me focus on every sound individually. I think the best way to describe it would be saying that, whereas before, I was writing songs and simplistically looking for an interesting combination of sounds, now I look at things more individually, and I think how to compose a harmonic whole peace of music, combining together more carefully and delicately. I didn’t want to write another Lo-fi record in the traditional sense of the word as It wouldn’t have been representative of the way I am now.

D: Is it the first time for you in Italy?
AP: No, it’s not, actually. I played before in a festival in Rome.

D: Have you noticed a particular reaction from the Italian audience?
AP: One of the interesting thing about my first record is that I reconstructed the samples of quite a bit of Italian disco. I was in Rome at that festival and I played this little piece by a band called Pineapples, and the amazing thing was that the audience understood the reference and the process in making it into a Neon Indian song! The fact that they were on the same wavelength made me feel absolutely comfortable.

D: Is there ever anything you regret doing on stage?
AP: I think I kind of learned how to deal and live with whatever my performance are like. Now especially, anytime you take a stage, everyone can record and film it with a phone and put it on you tube few minutes after… you have live in peace with all of the awkward dances and movements that someone might to want to document!

D: What about playing with Grimes tonight, how does it feel like?
AP: I am absolutely happy. The first time I was really able to engage with the record was when I watched the video Oblivion; it’s an astonishing video, one of the most clever and well constructed video in a long time. Yes, I am pretty stocked! I haven’t seen her live in a long time so I am curious to see how is her performance evolved.

DROME: What kind of musician do you like to picture yourself as?
GRIMES: I consider myself firstly as a producer and secondarily as a singer. I don’t really see myself as a musician though; music happens to be a medium that is easy for me to work with, but that doesn’t mean that expression cannot be represented throughout any other form. I don’t know how to play instruments, my engagement with music is mostly non-technical, emotional, purely driven.

D: How would you describe then your way of creating music and engaging with its production, since it all seems so intimate and personal?
G: Music is just what I do to keep my sanity! Making music has become extremely necessary for me and I think this is really audible in the product. I don’t conceive music as a passive thing and I want my engagement to be really personal and reflexive.

D: When did you approach music first?
G: When I was a child I was really into Patsy Cline, I think that is how I got into music!

D: Is there any particular event of your life which address you to take a musical career?
G: Actually, I could say there are a few of those. Maybe the most meaningful was when, a while back, one of my best friends, who I had been working on music with, died. After that I promised my self I would be an artist and I would spend my precious time doing things I did want to do even if it meant starving.

D: How about the place where you’ve been growing up in? Did Canada inspired you in any particular way?
G: Canada is so cold, there’s not much to do. However I also live in a strong and vibrant artistic community in Montreal. Everyone is working on art all the time, and it’s all really inspiring. To be honest, I wouldn’t be a musician if I hadn’t lived in Montreal the last few years.

D: Is there any particular female artist, out there, that you admire and possibly feel really close to, musically speaking?
G: So many… but my biggest inspiration is Raphaelle Standell-Preston of the bands Braids and Blue Hawaii.  She’s a genius.

D: Do you think is it still difficult for a female artist “being taken seriously” within the Music contemporary scene?
G: A little bit, but it’s subtle. I usually feel very comfortable in many situations these days, but maybe because my peers are pretty liberal. A lot of people -mostly ex boyfriends, ah ah!- have told me that I’m only successful because of my appearance and stuff like this. To be honest, it does really piss me off! I usually play shows in my pyjamas… do you think I have a very sexual appearance?!

D: Which kind of music do you listen to?
G: I listen to all kinds of music. At the moment, I am obsessed with the band called Cut Hands. I am also really into this New York producer called Outer Limits… he is a genius! His song i kontact is my favourite song right now.

D: What does it scares you about live performances and what do you enjoy the most?
G: I enjoy the adrenaline rush, the feeling from the fear. I also like screaming into the microphone and being aggressive so to freak people out because they expect a pop show. I’ve been doing that a lot lately and it feels good. I like getting sweaty. I used to be really scared, just because I used to be scared of people, but I’m not really scared anymore. The worst that can happen would be getting humiliated if my gear fucks up or something… but that wouldn’t even be the end of the world, would it?

D: In Rome, you shared the stage with Neon Indian. What do you think about them?
G: They’re super nice! It was really cool to see them: I’ve met them briefly before, but this was a more extended hang out. Ah ah! We stole their Tequila!

text by Giulia Frigieri
photos by Claudia Pajewski for DROME magazine

web: www.neonindian.com / www.grimesmusic.com