NEON INDIAN + TACO JOINT.
Tunes N' Spoons : 10 :
Neon Indian, a talented indie electronic band from Denton quickly gained national notoriety with their smooth synth cuts. We met up with them at our favorite taco joint before their headlining performance at the Second Annual Homegrown Music Festival in Downtown. The place? ...Taco Joint
Winters are pretty brutal up in New York, aren't they?
Jason: Yeah, I spend most of the winter in Texas or Los Angeles. I can't handle it up there.
How long have you been [doing music?]
Jason: 4 and a half years.
Do you feel there's a "Denton bubble"? A lot of great acts, so many talented musicians you have at UNT; all of that can be found there. In Denton, people may know of these groups but once you get outside the city limits, no one seems to really know about them.
Jason: The thing is, Denton has a comfort zone where they have a venue for every kind of music, and there's a built in crowd. Everyone wants to go out, everyone wants to go get drunk and go hear a band, and there are venues for every style and everyone. So it's really easy to just sit there, hang out, and get your beer money from playing shows. A lot of people like to stick around there, and then a few bands eventually start to branch out.
So, even now, it's not a situation where you can get to those major markets through the Internet, through sales of a CD, or an EP via the Internet?
Jason: You're not gonna make money off the internet. You gotta play shows, you gotta have people come to your shows, and you gotta sell merch. We make all our money on the road; we don't make money any other time. When we were off tour, no money. You can ask any band that. You have to be touring all the time.
So kinda like Girl Talk, where Gregg releases all his stuff online, but then goes on tour.
Jason: That guy has got it down right. DJ's get paid so much, it's just one dude, and they're paid so much. It's like, damn them!
Alan Palomo [Neon Indian] (pictured)
Alan: Let me tell you, if you're one of those long DJ's for life kind of deal, the trade off is that most DJ's have some sort of a shelf-life unless they're continuously putting content out. But if you become some sort of Girl Talk or something like that, you're in it. And those are the guys who are the best anyways, like Diplo. He'll be DJ'ing for couple of decades.
So, going back to the rut-deal we were talking about, how does a band get out of that rut?
Alan: I think, well, obviously the Internet plays a huge role in getting your music out to other states. Before you had to create a scene that was entirely local, where you would have a fan-base all centered around groups of friends and people you hang out with, other local bands. These days, genres seem to manifest themselves on the Internet and are spread out across the world. You can have artists who are doing the same thing but don't even speak the same language. I dunno, I'd say a way is to just broaden that scope instead of just staying local. I mean, I also do find every now and again you get a Texas band that is so very representative of their scene, but doesn't have any national exposure or publicity. You see a lot of stuff like Polyphonic Spree, or St. Vincent. These bands do come out of there, but there's still something about them that has an air of a Texan.
Are you contacted often by Dallas bands or by aspiring bands?
Alan: It's not so much about being contacted by Dallas bands, as so much as we just know a lot of Dallas bands. But we work together. At SXSW, I curated a showcase that was all Texas electronic artists, and eventually the idea is to start and [print] these 7" singles for them. 'Cause a lot of them are absolutely fantastic, to me they're on par with anything I see in Brooklyn. It's just in Texas there are not even the resources to like... It's interesting. Starting a band in a place like Texas is almost ideal. I dunno how people start bands in New York, because you have to buy a place just to jam.
You got a higher cost of living up there too.
Jason: Mhm. And you have to work so hard to live there too. You have to find a balance. Everyone in the band has to have a job, pay for the practice space, for their rooming, and live in New York, and still have time to practice.
Alan: Taco Joint. The food is awesome man.
How challenging is it to find good Mexican food up in New York? Do you find it ridiculous?
Alan: There's only like, two places, and they're all really spread out.
I mean, I feel like you go up there, the easiest thing to find is Chipotle, and that's ridiculous.
Jason: Yeah. As soon as I flew in my mom was like "what do you want to eat?" and I was like "Mexican food".
Between Mexican food and Whataburger, being two things from Texas...
Jason: And I'm gonna put in a Sonic, not gonna lie. I like their drinks.
And there are great burger places in New York. I mean, fantastic burger places.
Alan: Don't get me wrong, there's amazing food up there. The fact that they're so competitive makes it so that everyone wants to make amazing food. But Mexican food is a little rare. There's a place in Williamsburg called La Superior, I think it's a family owned restaurant from Mexico City. They had very regional-based Mexican food from that area and it's all fantastic. For the most part, you're liable to go to a bodega to get a burrito and have broccoli in it and stuff that doesn't make sense.
So, are we talking about a lot more real, authentic Mexican food, or are we verging on something like Tex-Mex?
Alan: In general, it might be bordering on authentic because for the most part it's a little bit bland for some reason. But for Tex-Mex, there's not that many places in New York.
[asks the rest of the Neon Indian crew] You guys know of any Tex-Mex places in New York?
Alan: Taco Chulo. It's amazing. It even beats out Tex-Mex food here. So good.
What's your favorite restaurant, going around I guess, on tour or back at home, or both?
Jason: Whole Foods?
The rest: [laughs]
Alan: It's pretty good. You eventually develop a system where you get to a city and all you want to do is go to a Whole Foods and stock up on something. Once you get to the Midwest, out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but Subway and McDonalds for miles, it gets pretty taxing.
What do you get a Whole Foods? Anything in particular?
Alan: There's a Hot Doug's in Chicago.
Jason: Oh, Hot Doug's! So good! It's a small little hot dog joint that goes around the corner of the place.
Jason: Oh! Um, Guu. It's "G U U". It's in Vancouver. It's amazing, we gotta go there.
Alan: It's good "guuu-d"!
Jason: Haha yeah...that's true, we gotta go back there.
Danny: I've had the single best Mexican food I've ever had in my life in San Francisco, like a month ago. Not even kidding.
Do you remember the place?
Danny: Yeah. I don't remember the name, but I know where it was. It was on Mission... and 26th or 27th.
Alan: Oh, we had those burritos at that hole-in-the-wall place.
Danny: Literally the best I've ever had in my life. I've eaten Mexican food my whole life haha.
Jason: Sushi's big in Vancouver is amazing too.
I've heard that the Chinese food, the dim-sum in Vancouver is the best outside of China.
Jason: Really? Wow.
How do you guys like the food?
Alan: It's funny, this morning I told Jason "Do you know of these places that can deliver a potato and egg taco, like right now"?. He had to think about it.
Jason: I was like, "uhhh...".
Alan: It's just amazing. For whatever weird reason, New York has not discovered breakfast tacos. I feel that that city would run on breakfast tacos. I mean it sucks.
They don't take long to make.
Danny: If you'd just open a breakfast taco truck, you would make so much off of it.
And also, if you know how to eat tacos one-handed, you can be doing whatever with the other hand on your Blackberry on the subway.
Jason: Well, in New York, the Blackberry is actually a part of your hand.
Alan: You know the Bump App? You just give someone the knucks.
Danny: You can have your phone in your pocket, or your hand in your pocket...
Alan: I always wonder since now it's like, robotic limbs are starting to become a real possibility you'll starting having models where you can have your phone in your arm, or a nice cigarette case or something.
Or have your iPhone in your wrists or something like that.
Alan: I know that something like that isn't far off. I know that the Nintendo 3DS is something that kinda freaks me out in a really creepy way. I feel like I'm watching Minority Report every time I see it, it's terrifying.
It's like the ultimate stoner product that's ever been invented. It's like, "All I've ever wanted to do in life is play Street Fighter in 3D!" and It's really in 3D, it freaks me out.
Where in Brooklyn are you guys from?
We're all from Bushwick, Queens, and Greenpoint
Did you feel weird considering "I'm going to live in Queens" ?
Leanne: I live in suburbia!
Leanne Macomber of Neon Indian (pictured)
How long did it take for you to realize you were living in Queens?
Leanne: About a month! It's true! I just make sure that I don't tell any car service I'm taking that I live in Queens, or else they'll charge me more money to go there.
Yeah, work the system.
Alan: They already call it East Williamsburg, so why not just call it North of East Williamsburg instead of Queens. I was born in Monterrey [Mexico], then I guess I lived in San Antonio for most of my life. Then I met these guys in Denton.
And Danny, you're from Southlake?
Were you guys all at UNT or did you guys have bands that just go there?
Jason: Nah, it was just cheap to live there, and also I was playing with a lot of bands. I went to the Art Institute for a semester, and I thought it was bullshit, and I was wasting a lot of money. I was already getting paid for graphic design, so I was like "Why am I... why am I spending hundreds of dollars a day to go to class when I already know about it?"
Alan: That should be the endorsement, for the Art Institute haha.
Jason: I felt like I was wasting my parents' money.
Alan: Same here. I was studying film, and for the first 2 years you don't even get to touch a camera? So that's kinda how the music happened, out of the boredom of doing 2 years of film theory and doing nothing. But I guessed it paned out.
Psychic Chasms, beautiful album. How was it like working with Wayne Coyne?
Alan: It was interesting because it happened very organically. They came to a show we did out in Portland, and Wayne was like "You guys are cool! We should do something sometime!", and that was that. Then a week later I get an email that was like, "Hey! Play this Dallas show! It'll be cool!". We just kinda kept in touch, and at some point I was mixing with Dave Fridmann, who does all the Flaming Lips stuff. And it was Wayne's idea to, because we had some overlapping studio days, to just come up there early and just mess around. And then that ended up being a brilliant, insane, and surreal three days just hanging out with the Flaming Lips.
Do you feel like Dallas, or Texas, has a particular sound? You mentioned electronic music earlier. Are there areas in Texas that have a certain feel to them?
Alan: It's interesting because there was this mix of this guy Tommy Boy Band, he's from Austin, that was an hour long compilation of a bunch of Texas electronic groups, 90% of which I never heard of. So it was really amazing to have this seminal collection of songs that included people from Waco to people in Austin, to people in Dallas, to people in San Antonio. It's not that there's a specific sound but there's this weird kinda DYI approach to it, in the sense that you have all these guys scrounging up pawn-shops looking for some old Casio's or some monophonic synths, and their recording onto some 4-track player. I guess that inherently makes it all sound similar. But if anything I'm pretty surprised at its diversity. I would almost say that the city adds a certain sound. There's an industrial stuff that comes out of Houston, and in Austin you have a lot of these epic zombie movies soundtracks that are really badass. They must all have their group of friends that enact the same kind of influence they have on each other.
You guys do a lot of touring in the U.S. I mean, you're about to start a tour that starts in Canada, goes through the U.S., and ends in Canada. Do you guys go overseas?
Jason: Yeah. We've done Australia. We did a festival in Iceland. We did a festival in Europe. Australia, Mexico. We've had offers to play in Russia, China, South America, but we were so exhausted because we've been touring for a year and a half. It's weird because you never think you'd ever have the chance to go to half of these places. We did so many last year!
Are there certain places you love going to where there's an unusual amount of hype that you never expected when playing there? Like Mexico?
Jason: When we went to Mexico City, we didn't think that anybody was going to show up, but the whole place was packed and it was really good.
You also do Monterrey, since you [Alan] were born there?
Jason: We actually did some DJ'ing there.
Alan: Yeah, we did a show for a music festival there, MTMY.
Incredible. I appreciate you guys taking the time to do this. We really enjoy it. We'll be sticking around for your show. Oh yeah, Homegrown, anyone you guys want to see?
Jason: I have friends in The Burning Hotels, This Will Destroy You, Ishi... it'll be cool for me 'cause I don't get to see them that often. I'll be there all day to see my friends play.
Migas Plate (pictured)
House of Plates:
What makes Taco Joint so great is not only how good everything tastes, but generous amount of food you get at very affordable prices - very few were able to finish their plates. Taco Joint also offers three great sauces, including their most popular, a jalapeno ranch sauce (a la Chuy's) that would make cardboard taste like the best thing you've ever eaten, and a roja and BBQ sauce. Furthermore, they use no lard or trans-fat in their cooking, which already puts them miles ahead of many of their more authentic counterparts. And on top of this is the wonderful collection of owners that greet you every time and seem to remember you regardless of whether it's been days or months since your last visit. Fair warning, Taco Joint is only open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, from 6:30 - 2pm (8am Saturdays) and the lines can still be daunting, even though they move quick.
Fajita Breakfast Tacos (pictured)
Alan knew he always wanted to go to Brooklyn and finally made it happen a few years ago. Denton drummer, Jason Faries, actually credits the move with helping with their more national commercial success. Interestingly enough, Palomo recalls a sort of limbo period in his life, living in Austin, waiting to transfer to UT, while not truly appreciating the music scene in Austin at that time.
3 Item Breakfast Taco and Tortilla Soup (pictured)
It was only after leaving Austin that he realized and appreciated the great music scene and the large electronic boom occurring there. When asked about the music scene in Texas, Alan cited a sort of a unique boom happening in each of the Texas cities - Industrial out of Houston, epic Zombie movie soundtracks ala John Carpenter coming out of Austin. He also described his recent collaboration with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips as organic and surreal. All in all, a great time was had with Neon Indian at Taco Joint. We look forward to future releases and to future breakfast tacos.
A special thanks to Neon Indian, Dan Carissimi, and Corey McCauley of Taco Joint
Neon Indian is:
Alan Palomo - lead vocals, synth
Leanne Macomber - vocals, keyboard
Jason Faries - drums
Lars Larsen - visuals