Events, Issue 22, Magazine

Neon Indian Play CMJ Tomorrow Plus the D+T Interview

Isaac Lekach :: Friday, October 23rd, 2009 3:00 pm

In the early months of 2009, Neon Indian found its way onto the blogosphere. The gushing synth swells of “6669 (I Don’t Know If You know)” captivated listeners with its psychedelic dance grooves and “Should Have Taken Acid with You” positively melted ears with its instrumental New Order-meets-Ariel Pink sounds. Shortly thereafter, “Deadbeat Summer” and “Terminally Chill” followed and received equal praise. In a matter of months, Neon Indian had become a buzz band.

What’s unique about this feat is that nobody actually knew who Neon Indian was. We knew one member was a guy, the other a girl. Their names, histories, ages, credit history—all a total mystery. Needless to say, this only stirred the buzz something fiercer.

Well, now those names are known. Alan Polarmo—formerly of Ghosthustler, currently of the electro-pop band VEGA—and his close, personal friend Alicia Scardetta were the culprits. Polarmo was responsible for the music, Scardetta for the video art. And although the duo has yet to perform any shows (they are set to make their debut at Morrison, Colorado’s Monolith Festival in September), their vision was clear from the get-go: Overwhelm their audience’s sensory perception through a stealthy combination of weird music and even weirder video.

What prompted the genesis of Neon Indian?

The way the story goes is I had this unusually vivid dream one night where Alicia and I were taking acid. I texted her about it later as sort of a joke, but then she asked me if it was something that I actually wanted to do. So we arranged this time during the holiday break to take acid together, but I ended up getting caught up mixing someone’s record in Dallas, so I wasn’t able to go down. I felt really bad about it, so I wrote “Should Have Taken Acid With You” as this sort of tongue-and-cheek apology. It was really kind of rushed and thrown together and I didn’t really think of it again until she texted me back and told me, Wow, there’s really something to this. After that, I starting revisiting the same aesthetic I had used for that song. The only rule was to try to write each song in two days at most and not get lost in the process. In a month’s time I pretty much had Psychic Chasms.

How did Alicia become involved?

I was really inspired by this piece that she did when she was at Pratt [Institute] this past year. It was this really weird stop-animation short that was comprised of all these found images she had literally torn out of magazines and put together. It was set to Ariel Pink’s “Getting High in the Morning.” I was really impressed. It was just a thirty-second clip, but as soon as I saw it, I knew that it fit my music perfectly.

Neon Indian started as a total mystery. Nobody knew who you guys were or anything about you. Was that intentional on your part?

It was. Initially, preserving some kind of anonymity was based on the idea that I really didn’t have any expectations out of Neon Indian. These were really just songs that I was making on a whim, and I didn’t want the music to be judged preemptively based on VEGA or Ghosthustler or any other project I’d been affiliated with.

How long were you able to keep your identities under wraps?

It was a few months. Once we were looking to put it out on a label and perform live I realized it was just kind of a nuisance to retain anonymity.

It’s got to be pretty weird, being in a widely buzzed about band that’s just surrounded in mystery.

It is. I’ve gotten some pretty ridiculous comparisons. People have thought that I was from MGMT, Animal Collective, St. Vincent—the list goes on.

St. Vincent? C’mon, that’s a stretch.

It is a stretch. It certainly didn’t help when a friend of mine put up on his blog, like, Wink, wink, just so you know, it’s a band that has had moderate success in the past. And immediately people just started thinking like MGMT and all these wild names. Speaking of MGMT, there was one really weird interaction I had with this random girl. Out of nowhere I started getting these endless text messages from this person I didn’t even know saying, Hey Andy, it’s me! And being a smart ass, I was just like, What’s up? Long time no see! And I just remember thinking, Andy? I wonder who that is. Many messages down the line she says that me and the rest of MGMT can stay at her apartment, and it suddenly clicked.

Did you tell her you weren’t who she thought you were?

Yeah, but she doesn’t believe me! She still thinks it’s Andy Van Wyngarden [MGMT front man], but trying to convince her otherwise is just… I don’t know, I find it so weird that someone would be so convinced—because she kept saying things like, With those lyrics, you have to know Andy. You must know him! You must be him! I find it hilarious that I’ve somehow inadvertently attracted stalkers from this other band camp. -Danny Fasold

Neon Indian perform tomorrow night 10/24/09 at The Roots Studio Jelly NYC Party.