Neon Indian will play the first day of III Points.
Neon Indian will play the first day of III Points.
Luke Lauter

A Stolen Laptop Was the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to Neon Indian

Alan Palomo's new album as Neon Indian, Vega Intl. Night School, came close to never happening.

In 2011, the Texan synth-pop producer's laptop was stolen on the mean streets of NYC after a late night of debauchery during his Era Extraña album tour. "It's pretty much the most VH1 Behind the Music thing that's ever happened to me," Palomo laughs. "Somewhere in the drunken haze of what was essentially the final hurrah of the tour, I nodded off on my stoop and woke up four hours later with the laptop missing."

That laptop contained the only existing demo copies of his near-complete third LP. But given a record producer's worst nightmare, Palomo certainly managed to make lemonade, rolling up his sleeves and starting again from scratch. "I had to do quite the mental exercise of accepting that stuff was gone and I wasn't gonna get it back," he says. "But that being said, it became the primer of a new record."

He even concedes that losing the album's original demo material brought him some much-needed perspective at that juncture in his artistic career.

"I realized that even if I had used the material I had started with, I didn't necessarily have the skill set to execute that record as of yet," he explains. "The record was a big growing experience. A lot of the stuff took a while to write, 'cause I would hit walls in terms of what I was capable of and would have to problem-solve or bring in friends with specialized skills to shred over a certain part where I had the idea, but not necessarily the means of performing it myself."

Among several guest musicians on Vega Intl. Night School are Nick Millhiser from Holy Ghost! and Morgan Wiley from Midnight Magic, both mainstays of iconic NYC indie-dance label DFA.

"A lot of people from DFA are friends I've had since I moved to New York," Palomo says. "The first initial studio sessions I did were at DFA's studio, so we kind of just grew from that. Obviously, wanting to make dance music, it's only fitting that it would be, in part, through these friends who make nothing but that."

Sure enough, the new album is Neon Indian's most dance-oriented work yet, which is not to say it's prescribed to any cookie-cutter EDM formula. In fact, Palomo considers the record a significant leap in his progression as a songwriter.

"[Vega Intl. Night School] is definitely an amalgam of everything I've done thus far, and that's just a question of time," he says. "The amount of time that was put into it required a lot of different ideas. The more I was trying to solve this sort of collage-like aesthetic, the more I realized I had to reach into my bag of tricks and pull out as much of it as possible to have that range throughout the record.

"I think in general, the longer you do things, the more you have a grasp on them," he adds. "I used to always rely on happy accidents and sort of prided myself on the fact that I didn't know what I was doing. But I realized that novelty soon wears thin and you have to find other things to make music compelling to you. For me, the biggest part of that was just really trying to write songs."

Of course, for all of its dance-floor flavor, Neon Indian is still a live act capable of captivating stage performances, as Miami will be privy to when Palomo and company play Wynwood's III Points — a timely opportunity to preview the new songs from Vega Intl. Night School before the album drops October 16.

"Live, I think it's the best iteration of Neon Indian we've had thus far," Palomo says. "We're mostly playing the new record, which I realize is not out yet, but I kinda wanted to do it Grateful Dead-style, where we familiarize people with the material before they get to hear it on the record. At all the shows so far, the reception has been great."

Neon Indian During III Points, with Nicolas Jaar, Panda Bear, Surfer Blood, and others. 5 p.m. Friday, October 9, at Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami; 305-573-0371; manawynwood.com. Tickets cost $55 to $110 plus fees via squadup.com.

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