Alan Palomo is a Mexican-born, Denton, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist, producer and film maker, who’s best known as the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed recording project Neon Indian. I’ve written quite a bit about Palomo and Neon Indian over the years, and as you may recall, with the release of four albums and an EP, 2009’s Psychic Chasms, 2013’s Era Extraña and Errata Anex EP and 2015’s Vega Intl. Night School, Palomo firmly established a slickly produced synth pop sound indebted to Prince, Michael Jackson and others.
Last year, Palomo released his first narrative short, 86’d, “a love letter to New York cinema and in a way, a final recapitulation of the Night School universe,” the JOVM mainstay explained in press notes at the time. “Shot on 16mm over the course of three nights, it was an ambitious undertaking for all parties involved but honestly making it was such a blast that at times felt like just that, a party. I’m eternally grateful to all the wonderful people that came together to realize this kooky project and proud to finally be able to share it with music and movie goers alike.”
Directed by Palomo, written by Palomo and Kai Flanders, edited by Pete Ohs and Dustin Reid, the film stars Buddy Duress (Good Time, Heaven Knows What), Lindsay Burdge (Easy, Thirst Street, The Midnight Swim), Seaton Smith (Top Five, Mulaney), Chase Williamson (John Dies at The End), Mitzi Akaha (Lowlives, Dark Side of The Moon) and musician Alex Frankel (Holy Ghost) as well as Palomo. Set in Ed Koch-era NYC, Max takes a mouthful of mescaline and desperately tries to make it home before it kicks in. On his way, he decided to stop at an all-night deli for a quick, late night meal. After numerous order delays and full-on trip stampeding into his psyche, he is made to pay witness to the colorful cast of Lower East Side weirdos, visualizing their stories through his newly altered lens: A Times Square dominatrix meets up with one of her regulars to reveal an answering message left by his wife. Two punks discuss an ultimatum as one reveals his connection to a pistol found in a drug bust. A recording engineer convinces an aspiring singer to re-record a destroyed vocal take from a canonic 80s group and attempts to pass it off as the original. Visually speaking, the short would remind a lot of viewers of Martin Scorcese’s After Hours as its centered round a New York and peculiarly New York characters that are sadly long gone — and situations that can’t possibly happen in a sanitized, suburban mall version of New York.
Along with the film, Palomo wrote and recorded the short’s theme song “Heaven’s Basement,” an 80s inspired, synth pop, club banger centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, scorching, distorted guitar solo and Palomo’s dreamy falsetto. And while continuing on the slickly produced club friendly sound of his previously released work, the song managed to possesses a lysergic buzz.
Interestingly, Palomo’s first single of 2019 “Toyota Man” is a decided left turn for him and for Neon Indian, as the song is the first song written and sung in his native Spanish — and perhaps more important, finds the project leaning towards a seamless mesh of synth pop and psychedelic cumbia. Interestingly, “Toyota Man” may arguably be the most politically charged song, Palomo has even written and released, as he sings in Spanish “We came here to study, we want to work” as a protest, which is followed by mischievously dueling riffs of “La Cucaracha” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” In some way, it points out that the experience of the Mexican, Central American and South American migrants and immigrants are equally as American and as valid as yours or mine.
Directed by Alan Palomo and starring Palomo Brian DeRan, Chris Silcox and Veronica Sanders, the recently released video is part a proud and defiant view of the border culture that Palomo grew up in and an absurdist comedy inspired by a wild melange of things that features a proud and defiant view of the culture of his people and a possessed Trump piñata that gets its deserved comeuppance.
“’Toyota Man’ was filmed along the road map of what essentially was my path to American citizenship: Monterrey, the Nuevo Laredo border, San Antonio, and finally Austin. The process is a multiple decade commute known by many Latinos and other Americans,” Palomo says of the video. “Though my music has always been generally apolitical, I realized when recording this song that it was impossible to write biographically (in the rhetorical context of the Trump administration) without being entirely that: political. The story of my family, which before felt commonly American, was suddenly politicized. Recognizing the absurdity of it all, I thought it would be refreshing to address the social narrative around immigration through comedy – nods to Benny Hill, misremembered San Antonio car commercials, and School House Rock. My family and I had a ton of fun making this and I hope it’s equally as fun to watch. Enjoy!”