For 22-year-old Alan Palomo, reaching the 16th floor of 30 Rock was like reaching the 25th floor in ToeJam & Earl – surreal, exhilarating, and, thanks to him, soundtracked with electrofunk. He met Jimmy Fallon, he met Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr (both big fans). Jimmy held up Palomo’s new record, Psychic Chasms. Palomo flipped the switch, shook his ass. There was applause. And then Jimmy walked across the stage, shook his hand and said, “That’s how you do it, buddy.”
Do what? Depends on whom you google — a lot of blogs call it “glo-fi,” a lot of Indonesian tweets go with “hypnagogic pop,” a term coined by The Wire. The reporter for the Wall Street Journal apparently prefers the more widely accepted “chillwave,” because the day after Palomo’s performance on Late Night — his first on television — that’s all she asked him about.
“`Chillwave` is just another product of the internet… but she just kept going on as if it was a movement,” says Palomo, chief of Neon Indian, current it-projects of it-projects, still hungover from the Valentine’s Day party he DJ’d at his Brooklyn home. “She asked me, ‘What is it that breeds the sound of chillwave artists?’ I was like, ‘Maybe cheap beer? I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.’”
The San Antonio-reared Palomo is certainly aware that the hyperlinkable protoplasm of new genre has grown around a crop of young artists of which he is supposedly the chillest. Their commonality is said to lie in an affinity for synthesizers, disco-ish beats, and maybe video games.
“It’s supposed to be this sort of brand of psychedelic pop music that’s meant to sound like an old tape you found in the trunk of someone’s car,” Palomo sighs. “Some old New Order tape that got run over or something.”
Palomo really wants to isolate the punches on the Sega Genesis version of Fatal Fury II (“The Genesis has a slightly better soundcard”) for use as a snare on his next record.
“Before, a musical movement or genre was, like, a group of friends with similar musical objectives kind of tied to a venue or a city or just a place and a time,” he says. “But that doesn’t really exist anymore. Now a few bloggers can group together three or four artists from opposite ends of the country that kind of sound alike and it’s like, this is a movement.”
Palomo is adamant that it isn’t — at least the bass lines and beeps of the ’80s pop (recalled from the ’90s Muzak he heard in San Antonio’s post-millennial malls) that he controls… and wields as if they were Theo’s Synclavier-captured voice cracks in that Stevie Wonder episode of The Cosby Show. However, the fact that young Palomo has only ever enjoyed things like the The Cosby Show via reruns has led to accusations that Palomo’s producing “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered ’80s,” a borrowed line from the 2002 LCD Soundsystem song “Losing My Edge.” In other words, the fact that Palomo was born the year before the Power Glove was released makes it false for him to wear one (as he did in the video for “Parking Lot Nights,” a song by his earlier band Ghosthustler); the line is primed for use as an accompanying zinger to the inevitable eye rolls Palomo is already witnessing.
“Play that Pitchfork song,” someone heckled him at a recent show in response to his favored “Best New Music” status on Pitchfork.com — and perhaps to Disney Channel tweensation Demi Lovato’s twittered announcement that Neon Indian is her favorite new band.
“But that’s the way the internet works,” Palomo says. “The quicker you can understand something, the easier it becomes to dismiss it. Once you figure it out, people want to systematically kill the magic. People want to get really stoked about something just so they can be really unstoked about it a month from now … and pretty soon you’re being told what you sound like, what you are, and what your influences are.”
Then again, four days ago, Jimmy Fallon is also telling you at 22 years old that how you did it on his show is exactly how you do it, buddy.
“That was surreal,” Palomo says. “I barely remember any of it. I just have these impressions of telling myself ‘do a spin move, do spin move.’ Just these random commands in my head … like Star Fox — ‘do a barrel roll!’” •