For the month of May, PAPERMAG is celebrating the wide, wonderful, strange world of social media. We'll be highlighting a few of our favorite, follow-worthy folk, from celebrities to artists to comedians to musicians, and reveling in some of the gloriously odd Internet trends that crop up on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and more. Join us and discover the accounts you need to be following now.
Alan Palomo, better known in the blogosphere as producer Neon Indian, is a self-proclaimed "social media Goro," with hundreds of thousands of followers across multiple social media platforms and a treasure trove of good content™ to back up his case. Taking a breather back in Brooklyn after the release of last year's insanely danceable Vega Intl. Night School, we figured now was as good a time as any to grill him on all aspects of his online life -- from social media stalkers to dating app success to what Drake memes are currently en vogue. Read our Q&A below to find out why Palomo thinks the 'personal brand' is complete bull, the reason he posts Alien stills and about the only time he's ever made an IRL French Exit.
Let's start with your quote-unquote personal brand, or do you think that whole online branding thing is complete bullshit?
Definitely bullshit. It's really bizarre that we've undergone this transition into these little avatars that are meant to be idealized representations of ourselves, and it happens on every level from something as large as a company to something as individualized as, well, an individual. I look at Tinder, for example, and what is Tinder if not these little, nitpicked, isolated moments of you at your most ideal? Or you at your most intrinsically you? But also, in some way, it's intended to sell people on you, which is fucking weird because it has to be breeding this new culture of narcissism. I'm not gonna lie—if I look great in a photo, the impulse would be, "Oh, you should put this up." For the invisible panel of judges evaluating this decision you just made for your personal brand… But at the same time, I do it only because I have a band. And it's funny because you have all these things intertwining. I want to get rid of my Facebook, but Tinder won't work without it. There are so many things you can't use if you're not signing in with your Instagram, and they've basically found a way to enslave you into having to operate in this paradigm because it just makes your Internet life so convenient. But the balance between that and IRL is slowly tipping.
Without Facebook you can't do anything. Speaking of which, you mentioned Tinder, but are you on any other dating apps? Like Raya?
I'm not going to lie. I am a musician in Brooklyn, and I'm definitely on Raya.
How is it? Worth the hassle?
Is any app worth the hassle? But yeah, I've had some very positive experiences going on dates as a result of Raya -- it just seems like a different dating pool than Tinder where the only criteria is literally mileage in terms of distance. But I can image a future where you go to the bank and they say, "You can't access your account unless you have Candy Crush." The interconnectivity of things is getting ridiculous, especially when things like toasters are starting to have Bluetooth in them. But at that point, if everything is interconnected, that's just another way that you can be monitored. But I also imagine that episode of The Twilight Zone where that dude's house tries to kill him...I was also reading this article the other day about the future of surveillance and how there's been controversy between the CIA or FBI when they were trying to access this laptop. It raised this debate about whether Apple should be building products that have these intrinsic back doors built into them for the purpose of police investigation. But really, at that point, the issue that it raises is how you can have the key to anything. That's almost a conversation that's five years too late.
That is crazy. But kind of reminds me of this conspiracy theory that [rapper B.o.B] has about how Snapchat is just building a facial recognition database of everyone.
I mean, that sounds more like a Tila Tequila-type conspiracy theory than anything. But the facial recognition part of it is kind of hilarious. I don't totally get Snapchat. Initially I was just like, "Hey guys, I have a Snapchat," and after that I've maybe Snapchatted once -- and it was something really banal and stupid like this Blade Runner movie poster in a green room where I was just kind of wasting time. But I get sent Snapchats from fans because, well, that's what it's for, right? To have some additional degree of rapport between you and the people who are following you. You sort of think of your days intermittently being interrupted by these weird little micro gestures that people are sending you, but it never goes beyond just someone making a face. Sometimes they're not even making a face; sometimes they just send me their face. Or a weird stationary video selfie where some girl is just standing in her living room, or someone will send me a Snapchat of an ant crawling across a table, which is where I get to the point where I'm just like, "Do we need that platform?" When I think [about it, I wonder] why did that twenty minutes of something randomly make people think of me? Is just this desire to be acknowledged, and not even for anything in particular? In some ways, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook is aggregating stuff that you're up to at that moment, so there's a reason to warrant the acknowledgement like "Oh, we've got this song coming out," or "Oh, we've got this show here," or "You should know that this festival is cancelled." But with Snapchat, it mostly never goes beyond "Hey, remember that I still existed? Guess what, I still exist." It's really weird.
I'm glad people obviously associate you with an ant crawling across the table.
If you piece it all together, it looks like the video tape from that movie The Ring.
I hate that so much. But yeah, I don't know why some people just send thirst selfies of themselves to other people. Speaking of thirst, I'm kind of curious, do you have a Tinder nightmare story?
I would say the worst one I had was when we met up at this bar in Greenpoint, and she showed up wasted. I sat down at the bar stool, and she sat down next to me just wobbling back and forth. Then at some point, she falls back on her chair, and thankfully someone happened to be next to her and caught her. But I was kind of finding a polite way to be like, "This is not even a hangout in any capacity. You're perhaps not even entirely aware of the bar that you're at."
"I cannot be further responsible for you puking."
Nobody wants to hold someone's hair while they vomit on a first date. I kind of just humored her in small chat for a little bit, and it turns out that a mutual friend of ours happened to be at the bar. So I went to go have a cigarette with this person, and I kind of just took a French exit and was like, "You know what, she found a friend, I am going to leave immediately." I totally just walked away from that one. But that's pretty much the only bad one. I feel like Tinder is typically, at its worst, you have a couple of drinks and maybe she's interested in the next hang, and maybe she's not. But that was the only one where I was like… what is going on?
Who was your first Facebook friend?
My first Facebook friend…Is there a way to check that?
Who was the first person you remember befriending on the platform? It's probably someone you went to school with, right?
Yeah. I feel like it was probably someone really boring like my brother. I remember I was on Myspace for a few years, and what's amazing about Myspace is that back then that was really the only Internet platform I had to connect with people, especially since texting wasn't entirely a thing. Or at least hadn't become something that completely replaced phone calls. I remember I had a cell phone, but it was super basic, and you couldn't really do much with it. Definitely didn't have an iPhone then. So I would check my Myspace, and that would be the way that I would communicate -- you know -- when I got a car and could finally go to shows, and communicate with people who didn't go to my school. It was huge for that. Even then, you would start adding people just based on their top friends, and that was the beginning of social networking, right?
Right. Were you a scene kid?
I wouldn't say I was a scene kid...I never dyed my hair a primary color. I was not a fan of having star tattoos and a tribal tattoo on my tricep or something. I never had that phase. I was not into music, and then suddenly, I was really into music. Like many people, Radiohead was the sort of gateway band that made me buy a shitty acoustic guitar and do shitty covers of Radiohead at open mic nights. But I do remember a couple years ago that I went back and logged into my account, and I could read my old correspondence. I had never sat down and just done that, but it was literally like reading a book because it was already a few years down the line and so far removed from where I was then to where I am now. I kind of didn't remember all these little stories or times when I would put up a bulletin saying, "Parents are out of town…let's go party??" It's like, do you remember that weekend? What the fuck was that? But it was amazing because it was also me reading all these messages from accounts that had been deactivated, so I kind of had to guess who it was from. It was just this long narrative arc in which I would read a message and realize, "Oh, that's right! I didn't realize that when I met her, she was on shrooms." And then reading the next message and being like, "Oh, dude, you're about to lose your virginity, and you don't even know it!"
Do you not use Facebook "On This Day" feature?
I don't really use my Facebook… I mean, I have it. I'm in a couple Facebook groups that are just like total time-eaters...just stuff where you realize that you're just wasting time. Thirty minutes have gone by, and you realize that you're just looking at goofy memes. I guess I started using Facebook pretty heavily in the earlier days, but then just kind of stopped. I got to New York, and most of my twenties has been slowly trying to steer myself off of social media because I realized that the little dopamine thrill you get from the novelty of a new notification is so bizarre. We're all like these little Pavlovian dogs getting super excited about our friend agreeing with us about some Upworthy article. It's really strange.
Yeah. You gotta love those push notifications.
I think the push notifications are pretty intrusive. In the first days of social media, half of the appeal was that you would leave the account for a couple days, then you would come back and there would be a new batch of activity. But it can be a bit invasive when you're trying to go about your daily life. Obviously as a musician, I kind of have odd hours and work on my own, and much of the challenge is being like, "Alright, I'm gonna go in the Terminal application and block social media from my work computer," because you just have no business checking Facebook when you're trying to write a song. But I can't imagine working a 9-to-5 where you're constantly getting these updates all day. Even if you're not at your computer, your social media is still perpetually and algorithmically moving forward with your social life on your behalf. I tend to turn off the push notifications.
I'm sure you get a shitton too. I can't even deal with the thousand Twitter followers I have.
Twitter is strange. I've developed a better rapport with it. In the early days, I would write things where, two hours later, it would be like, "What was I even talking about?" But now I use it pretty sparingly. Instagram is pretty fun, though. I do like Instagram.
Really? Instagram is hard for me, and I don't know why. It's all photos of food or selfies or weed. What do you post on Instagram?
I'm trying to look at recent photos. Sometimes it will be in relation to things I'm up to, like, announcements with the band. Sometimes it's just a goofy photo from the set of Alien or something. Just things where I'm like, "This is interesting."
Are you a meme sharer?
I only heard that term a couple days ago because I did this Pitchfork Over / Under interview where they asked me about Guy Fieri, and I brought up the fact that I've seen many of his memes. But I wouldn't consider myself that. I definitely don't collect memes, but the groups that I'm in will occasionally post some dumb memes that also wind up on my Instagram account. But Instagram is a weird one because, to some extent, it's less about the information that you're forwarding to other people. It's just like what is interesting to you in terms of what you look at or what you were up to that day. You're cataloging all these little salient moments, but also at the same time, showcasing yourself in those moments. Sometimes it's photos of things you like, and then sometimes it's a photo of you that you like. But I try not to revel in that morbid self-attention.
So what is your favorite meme -- even though you don't really pay attention to them?
Favorite meme… Oh, as of late, it's been the "Don't talk to me or my son even again" ones.
Those are so annoying, because it's a really good one for crossover memes, so people have been combining it with the Drake cover and shit, which is just expanding the meme lifespan and it's everywhere and ugh.
I think one issue with modern memes is that people really love to beat a dead horse. It's one thing for the original meme to appear, but it's another thing to start playing with the context and reiterate it. When everybody started doing their own version of the Drake "If you're reading this, it's too late" cover, it just went too far and too extracted to the point where it's just not funny.
Watching Jersey Boys just made me realize theres gonna be a Drake broadway show in 20 years.
— Neon Indian (@NeonIndian) March 25, 2016
I don't know why Drake is the meme king. It's always him or his album cover.
Yeah. It's funny. I forgot that he's one of the biggest stars in the world and that people are constantly talking about him, whether you consider yourself as being into independent or mainstream music. It kind of doesn't matter. There are certain pop stars that everybody's always paying attention to, and it's partly because of that meme quality. Not only is that [his art is the thing] everybody needs to be commentating on in terms of how they feel about it or how it compares in relation to his other work, but also how he finds himself in these perpetually funny situations just by being eccentric. You know, lint rolling his pants at a basketball game or giving you the option to make his artwork a meme generator, which is kind of what he did with that last one. I don't know. His dancing was pretty funny in ["Hotline Bling"] too, I guess.
Yeah, I was just reading this thing where it was like, "VIEWS isn't a good record because there's nothing memeable about it besides the cover, and that's already been done." And it's weird, I feel like there is a little truth in that in terms of why the Internet just isn't jiving with it.
But it's also kind of sad to think that that is what our takeaway from the modern pop star—just the ability to casually entertain us partly through parody, which is also a weird one, too. This idea that people seem to love Drake, but also want to sort of ham it up and kind of make fun of him, too. It's a very unusual dynamic. I actually haven't heard VIEWS yet, so I wouldn't be the right person to weigh in.
Moving on though, do you have any social media stalkers or really ardent fans that have slid into your DMs?
All the time. I don't answer. In fact, I don't even like to look at the message requests. A lot of the time, it really is just very sincere and nice—not aggressive encouragement, just encouragement. And that's always very touching to read, especially if someone messages the Facebook and if they have very sweet things to say about my music and its correlation to their personal lives. But yeah, there are definitely people who just send you messages nonstop about nothing. I've sort of just learned to create a little bit of distance in that regard, just because I'm also very awkward when it comes to interacting in that capacity. If it was ten years ago, there wouldn't be the additional job description component of being in a band and having a social media presence. You could just be a band, and the only time that anyone is getting any updates from you is when you take the opportunity to do some press. I feel like it's an interesting thing to navigate. Some people are really great at it and have amazing Instagrams. I noticed that Ezra from Vampire Weekend is really great at just responding to everyone who asks him something on Twitter. I also don't know when he has the time of day because he's doing it every five minutes. But it seems like he's really sharp about that and knows how to stay on top of it.
Penning Beyoncé lyrics at the same time too!
Yeah, now that's a social media Goro. That's someone with four arms just going buckwild. The only real stalker I've ever had was weirdly in the really early days of Neon Indian, back when the project was still somewhat anonymous. Before I even put together an identiy around the band. There was speculation as to who was in it and if it was a side project of some other band. Some people had thrown around MGMT. One girl really ran with that idea and started messaging the Myspace thinking that it was Andrew VanWyngarden.
She would always just be like, "Hey Andrew, remember me?" It went on for a really long time, and eventually I just started messaging back and being like, "Yeah, I'm not this person, and you've gotta let go of that idea." Once I put out the record and was touring it, I would be like, "Listen, look at the touring schedules of MGMT and Neon Indian. We're on two different continents. How does that even happen?! You know it can't be me." She was convinced that I was an impersonator who had been hired to pretend I wasn't Andrew VanWyngarden, and that the songs were clearly about her.
Then [one day after some equipment had been stolen], I put my phone number on my Myspace just being like, "If anyone has any information, we're going to be in town for the rest of today…whatever you got, just please let us know because we're trying to get this equipment back as soon as possible." So, I had my number up there and my tour manager had his number up there. And I remember we were driving back to LA, and I was just taking a nap in the car and was half awake, hearing my tour manager talk to someone and being like, "Hello, who is this? No, it's not an MGMT side project." The moment I heard that, I was like, "Oh, fuck." She has my phone number now. And then the next morning at 7 or 8, I got a phone call in LA, and I answered the phone and said, "Hello, who's this?" And then it was just complete silence -- just hear a long sigh -- and the person hangs up.
I am screaming.
Kinda weird, kinda spooky. And then I just got texts for a couple years until they eventually stopped. Eventually it teetered out, but it was always kind of creepy getting a message at 4 in the morning like, "Hey Andrew." You know?
But you never had any stalkers of your own? I don't understand.
That's the irony! I'm totally un-stalkworthy. The only time I've been stalked is when someone was trying to get ahold of a much larger band.
Well, there's always time. What's the weirdest thing someone has @'d you, though?
There's someone who messages me all the time in different anonymous masks.
So you do have a stalker!
No, because this person is so weird and abstract. I get a message every couple of weeks in another weird Slipknot kind of mask of them standing in their backyard or in their bathroom or something. It will always be these really abstract, cryptic, Reddit-style nonsense things where they'll just refer to me in old Grecian names like Kronos or something and just start talking about some fictional historic event called the Blood Reign. It's always a little goth, but also very silly at the same time. I'm not so much threatened by that as much as it just sounds like someone who has a lot of time on their hands and probably distributes these messages as a means of perpetuating this Internet identity. Which people are really into! That's why things like Creepypasta and Slenderman exist. It's part of Internet folklore. But I guess it's flattering when it's directed at you in that way.