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I Like the Night Life

Don’t ask Alan Palomo about his “chillwave” past. As far as he’s concerned it never existed. “That was something that was completely fabricated by publications,” says Palomo, noticeably a bit miffed by my asking if the made-up genre was dead. “It wasn’t even necessarily something that was accumulated and cultivated by the artists who were [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Don’t ask Alan Palomo about his “chillwave” past. As far as he’s concerned it never existed.

“That was something that was completely fabricated by publications,” says Palomo, noticeably a bit miffed by my asking if the made-up genre was dead. “It wasn’t even necessarily something that was accumulated and cultivated by the artists who were making the same kind of music at the same time. To this day I don’t even know those artists that well. My least favorite thing about making music is the categorical process that occurs when you put your music into the ether. I wouldn’t even answer that question with a response.”

It’s a fair response, mind you, as Palomo and his electronically resonant musings as Neon Indian have always been incredibly tough to view from a singular lens. The Austin native’s 2009 debut Psychic Chasms arrived as a lo-fi wash of hypnagogic squiggle and samples culled from Rundgren records and rotting 8-bit consoles. Its colorful technique garnered Palomo significant buzz and simultaneously painted him into a corner with other like-minded synth collagists like Washed Out and Toro Y Moi.

Defiantly, Palomo flattened those nonsensical “chillwave” attachments by releasing the moodier and more organic Era Extraña. Here, he was distancing himself from his peers and his basement-recorded past, incorporating bold live instrumentation and crafting a series of homemade synthesizers, which gave the songs a distinctive feel that was unique to Neon Indian. Fast forward to the present and this month’s anticipated VEGA INTL. Night School and it would be hard to trace Palomo’s work to those humble beginnings.

The album is intentionally ultra hi-fi. The guitars carry a Chic-like funk, the rhythms rooted in the extended remixes of Italo-Disco and the dubby smokescreen of ’80s goth-pop—all while Palomo’s songwriting takes center stage. It’s the result of a lengthy hiatus in which he tinkered with a purposeful aesthetic re-invention, one that he likens more to the work of an auteur director rather than a studio musician.

“Even though there are echoes of places that I’ve explored previously with Neon Indian, because I can’t help being me,” says Palomo of the new record, “it is its own cohesive statement that is meant to be this weird little movie of the misadventures of a musician in New York—which has been my life for the past five to six years. To me it’s kind of like Scorsese’s After Hours meets Airplane. A screwball comedy about night time in the city.”

In this transformation Palomo made another stylistic left-turn by retiring his dance floor side-project Vega and folding it into the universe of Neon Indian, a move that makes perfect sense in the realm of Night School, where Daft Punk vamping goes hand in hand with Palomo’s psychedelic leanings. He’s even put aside the analog veneer of his recent past, preferring to hunt the ends of the earth to find the sound that fits his vision for this particular journey.

“There was a very untamed quality to the home-built instruments that I’ve used before and they just didn’t fit here,” says Palomo. “It was more about playing with genre as an instrument and wanting to attain very specific pieces in order to play around with time and place. Instead of building my own stuff, it was waiting very patiently to come across very specific synthesizers and use them in very specific spots on the record. I wanted to tap into sounds that were from the very beginning, long before electronic music really was its own platform.”

Indeed Palomo’s very eloquent and detailed descriptions of his process match the grand scope of Night School. It’s something he knows is tough to pull off on stage and something Neon Indian has struggled with since inception, but for this tour, Palomo and his dedicated crew have worked extra hard to achieve.

“It’s a blessing and a curse when you write studio records that are difficult to recreate live,” concludes Palomo. “When I was making Night School I didn’t even think about that until I turned in the album and then I thought ‘Oh shit! How am I going to do this?’ But what’s always been fun is when I put together a band, I’m looking for a group of people who are smarter and more capable of interpreting this than I am, and eventually we become this big amalgam that is just super fun to go see live. I think that really worked out well this time.”

Neon Indian brings VEGA INTL. Night School to the A&R Bar on
October 22. For more information, visit neonindian.com.

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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Arts & Culture

(614) Music Club: Sarob

Julian Foglietti

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Every week (614) Music Club teams up with your favorite local artists to build a playlist of what they’re listening to, and what’s inspiring them. This week’s playlist is brought to you by the R&B artist Sarob.


Photo by: Wyze

Tell me about some of the songs you’ve selected.

"The first one is Sobeautiful by Musiq Soulchild. So every week with my vocal coach, I have to learn a song. And I've been trying to figure out how to do vocal gliding. Which is not a strong point for me, and I remember hearing that song and being like, OK, this is it. The song is just beautifully written and composed, so when you add the technique to it, it’s just great. The other song was Workin On It by Dwele, who is one of my favorite artists of all time. Workin On It uses this J Dilla beat that just feels really timeless."

Have the past few months changed the direction or mood of the music you're creating. 

"So I have been making stuff here and there, and then I'll go into something creative for like two days. I'll just be making like a bunch of songs and then I'll stop for two weeks, not even want to look at a microphone or anything. I mean, it's a lot more inward, so I’m learning how to better communicate the things I'm experiencing, and set the scenes for people and talk about what is going on. Also not having my band has been a challenge. I’m more of a thinker, I play the keyboard, and I can build a song, but I’m not the most gifted musician so having to build a lot of it on my own is tricky."

Do you have any plans or releases coming up? 

"Yeah, so I had a song Pleasures U Like that was made for my last album, but it didn’t quite fit the story of the album. So I just forgot about it until recently and I finished the vocals just before the lockdown, and now I’m releasing it on Bandcamp as part of a fundraiser for The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. All of the proceeds from the song are going to go to support their Pandemic Emergency Fund, and it just felt like a good way to do something that would impact everything going on."

Sarob's Playlist

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Coronavirus

Breakaway Music Festival will not take place in 2020; to return in 2021

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Those in the music festival community have continued to rally their broken spirits behind live streams and classic archival sets in lieu of the live event industry being put on indefinite hold. 

With each passing day, though, hopes for any large concert gathering happening in 2020 seem incredibly bleak and unrealistic.

News from Midwest college market concert and music festival promoter Prime Social Group on Thursday further confirmed the modern hippie’s greatest fear: a summer void of camping out in otherworldy open fields and following their favorite musicians across the country. 

PSG operates a network of festivals under the Breakaway Music handle that take place annually in Columbus; Charlotte, North Carolina; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Washington D.C.; Nashville; and San Diego. The promotion company made the difficult decision to cancel all six of its 2020 editions of the EDM and pop-focused Breakaway Music Festival with a fully-committed plan to return in 2021. The decision was made due to health and safety concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Tickets to the event can be carried over for the 2021 edition of BMF. For those who choose this option, you’ll receive an extra ticket and merch bundle. PSG will also provide refunds if transferring tickets for 2021 is not an option.

Columbus has been making its claim as a music festival destination over the past few years. Breakaway, along with events like Sonic Temple, Wonderbus, and Buckeye Country Superfest, has been bringing quality acts to Columbus consistently. The festival’s presence will be greatly missed this upcoming August.

“Now more than ever, we could use that special sense of unity achieved through live events and music festivals,” said Prime Social managing partner Zach Ruben. “We cannot wait to Leave it All Behind and make memories with all of you again. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and be kind to one another.”

In the meantime, Breakaway plans to release exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from past editions, new digital content, and various live streams. Visit breakawaymusicfestival.com to keep up to date with what PSG has in store.

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