Friday Nights at NGV: Interview with Neon Indian

We interviewed Neon Indian, who will be headlining Friday Nights at NGV on 18 December 2015.

Describe your sound in 5 words or less?
Too Close 2 The Work

If your music was an artwork what would it look like?
Probably a blend of the movies of Ralph Bakshi, the zolo pattern work of Stotsass, and a cruddy old issue of Fangoria. Although to be totally honest, my good friend Robert Beatty, who did all the illustrative artwork for the singles and album, kinda hit the nail on the head as far as putting those concepts in the blender.

Do you have a favourite artist/artwork?
Well in the past few years I’ve been very into Makoto Aida. Some years back I had the pleasure of checking out an exhibition of his at Ropongi Tower in Tokyo. On the floors leading up to it you’d see various Disney Christmas decorum, as I guess they owned much of the building, and then suddenly your struck with a massive collage of school girls committing hara kiri. That guy’s work is unreal. Traverses both high and low brows often in the same piece. Classical Japanese art with cheap hentai aesthetics. Another great exhibit I saw in recent years would be Paul McCarthy at the Armory. He constructed a shotgun shack house in the middle of a performance space and let you peer through its windows. Inside was the tableaux aftermath of a complete f***ing nightmare party involving Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. On massive screens all around the space were various points in the night you could observe to contextualize the elaborate mess of food, fluids, and inanimate dummies inside. It was both moving and disgusting.

What inspires/influences your music the most?
Probably film. It was certainly the case with this album. Once I’ve decided to check out of my social life to finish a work, my only real breathers become watching movies. Typically some theme that seems in step with the lyrical MO of the record. During psychic Chasms, I remember watching Agnes Varda’s Vagabond, Herzog’s Strozek, My Own Private Idaho. Basically movies about lovable f*** ups. It’s just where I felt I was in my life flunking out of college from lack of upkeep and stranded to the 10 blocks of walking distance around me from a lack of vehicle. This record wasn’t nearly that bleak. I was very interested in how certain directors reimagine New York. Abel Ferrara, Martin Scorsese, Whit Stillman. They all mythologize New York in their own particular way. I wanted VEGA INTL. to feel like my years in New York through a fun house mirrored lens. A gross and cartoonish reimagining.

What song do you wish you wrote?
The Blue Nile – I Love This Life

What part of making music excites you the most?
I think life is a gradient of good and bad experiences. There’s no perfect, perpetual state of satisfaction unless you’re prescribed it or you’re some kind of zen master. But the cool thing is that the good stuff that happens to you is completely contextualized and enhanced by all that bullshit. The gold standard for unfettered bliss in my life is when I’m in some kind of creative fervour. In the middle of an idea.  Meaning… I’m happiest when I’m working on something.

Tell us about the last song or album you created?
The last song I wrote for the record was probably “C’est La Vie”. I just have always wanted to write some kind of power pop tune like Nick Lowe’s “Roller Show” or Phil Seymour “Let her dance”. I have a real soft spot for hammy power chords and chugging tempos. It’s mostly about some fictional band called Creep Show and their number one fan.

What is your favourite part of being involved in Friday Nights at NGV?
The fact that it’s my first gallery gig in Australia! Something I’ve only ever gotten to do once or twice before where I live.

A large portion of the works included in the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition include political or social commentary. Have you been inspired to do this through your music?
My music is intentionally non-politicized. Not out of some attempt at escapism but because it’s just not something I feel I have any authority to preach about through song.

Andy Warhol famously said: ‘Art is what you can get away with.’ How would you respond?
I would wonder how he feels about seeing cute posters in department stores with that very statement written across them.

Ai Weiwei once said: ‘A small act is worth a million thoughts.’ How would you respond?
I think it’s definitely a truism. The smaller the act, the more universally applicable. Definitely could spawn a million angles full of their own context and fecundity.

What else are you working on now? Or where are you next touring?
I’m about to have my first month off since July. It’s quite exciting! Then an equally exciting prospect is to tour the rest of 2016!